Well, we have reached the end! Last week we set out to list the 50 worst states in America in an ascending list of their worstness, and that's just what we've done. Come run the victory lap with us, please.
To refresh your memories one more time: We were tasked by the U.S. Department of Social Geography to conduct a very scientific poll of our staff. We asked them to rank the 50 American states on a scale of 1-10, based on whatever criteria they so chose. We then took those scores, used enormous calculators to find the average, and our list was born. These five states you will read about today represent the absolute worst, the nadir of American statehood. It's been a long road, but we've made it.
The Hospitality State is really only hospitable if you're one exact, specific kind of person.
The Good: Well, let's see here. There are certainly attractive parts of the state. It's verdant and lush and full of magnolias. (Or, you know, supposedly it is, I didn't see any when I was there, or maybe I did and just didn't know I was seeing them.) Oxford, where sorority catastrophe Ole Miss is located, is a fairly intellectual sort of place. If tragedy and struggle breeds creativity, there's no greater proof of that than Mississippi, which has, over the years, been home to many great and important writers (Faulkner, Williams, etc.)
The Bad: Good grief. Well, uh, they don't much care for blacks, or gays, or book-learnin'. Everyone there is fat. And did we mention racist? They're pretty racist. It's actually become part of their economy (says a commenter). Sorry, Mississippi.
Final Score: 3.18
4. New Jersey
The Garden State is a garden of both good and evil. But slightly more evil.
The Good: New Jersey is close to things that aren't New Jersey! It's close to New York City and to Philadelphia, so that's very convenient should you want to leave New Jersey. (You will want to leave New Jersey.) There are pretty places in New Jersey like the Pine Barrens and the Kittatinny Mountains and Cape May. Oh, and they have fascinating hill people! Do a reality show on that, MTV. New Jersey also has cultural offerings like the Paper Mill Playhouse and the McCarter Theater. Rutgers has grease trucks where they put mozzarella sticks in the sandwiches. Atlantic City is a haunted version of Las Vegas. Bruce Springsteen.
The Bad: It's not the pollution. It's not Trenton or Camden. It's not Jersey Shore or the Housewives. It's not the accents, the tanning, the jewelry, the hair. It's not the mob. It's not all those things one typically thinks of when "New Jersey sucks!" comes to mind. You know why, at least why I suspect, New Jersey ranked so low on this list? Just go read the comments on this past week's worth of state posts, specifically the ones by people from New Jersey. Have you ever met a person, separate from a Texan, who is more inclined to talk about their state than someone from New Jersey? Holy cow are a lot of Jerseyites completely obsessed with being from New Jersey. And why? It's a small state with no important cities and no major cultural export beyond embarrassing mooks. "Everyone in New York City thinks we suck," they complain. First off that's not really true, but also good grief if you're so upset about New York City, stop constantly defining yourself by New York City! Jerseyites have such a bizarrely inflated ego and defensiveness about their state that it's hard to actually praise it. It's reflexive. You almost need to say something bad about it, just to satisfy these fools' persecution complexes. New Jersey is a fine state with much to offer! But if you keep boostering for it when no one asked you to, everyone else is going to be mean to it. That's all. That's all the problem is here. (It is also polluted and gross and Trenton sucks and ew fake tans, but y'know.)
Final Score: 3.14
The Beehive State is an alien landscape full of wonders and weirdos. It's a good place to get lost, or be found.
The Good: So much natural beauty! From the strange, towering spires of Zion National Park to the sad quiet corners of Bryce Canyon, Utah has some nice rocks. The state also has nice mountains for skiing. Nestled up in those mountains is the town of Park City, where the Sundance Film Festival happens every year. I know it's lame to include that in "The Good," being that it's become corporate and overrun with hangers-on and whatnot, but there's no denying that some good, important filmmaking is showcased and sold amidst all the chichi garbage. We've heard rumors that Salt Lake City can be a decent place, but they've never been verified.
The Bad: Everything that's not national parks and quaint little ski/film towns? Abjectly miserable. Desolate, creepy rock and desert. Utah also has the Mormons. Not that an individual Mormon is a bad person! Of course not, that's silly. But when amassed together, when taking orders from the white guys in suits who live in the magic temple, then they can be pretty scary. They don't much like sex or even the suggestion of sex. They only started liking black people in the late '70s. (Though they might still actually not like them very much.) And they take their dislike for gays and export it to other states. They're jerks, kinda! Even worse, aggressively evangelizing jerks. And the throbbing seat of their power rests in Utah, so that's a knock to you, Utah. But other than the Mormons, Utah is bad for being a barren, lonely place. Whether the deserts are orange or a strange, windswept gray, you kind of get the sense that you don't belong there. (Especially if you're black, gay, or an unmarried woman.)
Final Score: 3.03
The Heart of Dixie is alas a clogged artery of bad ideas and other sad stuff.
The Good: Parts of it are nice to look at. Mobile has some pretty old buildings and stuff. Auburn is a good school. As Two-a-Days showed us, if you want your son to play football and be good at it, move to Alabama. (If you want your daughter to play football and be good at it, move to Northampton, weirdo.) The Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery has national recognition.
The Bad: It's tempting to just copy and paste the Mississippi section. Uh, well, in addition to a long and bloody history of racism, Alabama boasts an insane new immigration law, crazy politicians who make crazy ads, and while things are getting a bit better, Alabama is a horrible place to be gay. Aside from the political stuff, Alabama is rural and empty and miserable in the summer and full of tornadoes.
Final Score: 2.94
The Good: Arizona has lots of natural beauty, from the dizzying Grand Canyon to, well, the areas immediately outside the Grand Canyon (Kaibab represent). That's about it. Well, OK, Flagstaff has its moments.
The Bad: First off, it's the middle of the goddamned desert so why is everyone there? Why is Phoenix? Ecological catastrophes, the twin brown stars of Phoenix and Scottsdale are insanely destructive, places so hot that they have mist sprayers everywhere even though there is no water there. Dreadful! The sheriff of the area is an insane lunatic cowboy wannabe who rules the town like Gene Hackman in the The Quick and the Dead. Alabama's batshit immigration law was inspired by Arizona's own SB 1070, a racist and xenophobic piece of legislation representative of Arizona's roiling immigration crisis that was signed into law by the state's governor Jan Brewer, a perky-eyed psychopath who speaks in tongues. Arizona is swiftly devolving into a dystopic free-for-all of armed mad men patrolling the state with guns, often to disastrous effect. (As witnessed in the Gaby Giffords incident — though, c'mon, you can't blame Arizona for Jared Loughner any more than you can blame Colorado for Columbine.) Arizona is a hissing snakepit of angry old white people (they are angry because they are literally being cooked to death) yelling at the immigrants and other Others whom they fear and loathe, and it is probably going to explode someday soon into a bright ball of orange fire and we will know that either the end times have come for us all or thank god we are finally rid of Arizona.
Final Score: 2.76
Well, that's it! Thanks for playing along, everyone. This has been both an edifying and stupefying journey to take, and I'm sincerely glad that you came along with us. Even if you were screaming the whole time from the backseat about what a jerk the driver is. And what can we conclude? Mostly that, while all 50 states possess good qualities, mostly this is a nation of horrors and there is no reason that any of us should live here. Goodbye!
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 1
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 2
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 3
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 4
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 5
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 6