Yellowstone is a Very Popular TV Show

Why do you think that is?

Jan Blount

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Yellowstone is one of the most watched dramatic shows on cable today. I have a theory about why it’s so popular, and I may be wrong, but I have a suspicion that my theory does not agree with the reasons why a lot of people would say it’s as popular as it is.

I think most people would look at the show (I’ve only been able to get through two entire episodes so far) and come away with the idea that it’s a classic story that extols American strength and honor- about a man who rules a modern western cattle empire, defending it and his family and his way of life against all the enemies who try to tear him, and all that he stands for down. I think they’d say it’s about American royalty. An epic story about a flawed, but still great conqueror/king — told against the backdrop of the sweeping panoramic vista of the modern wild west. Swoons and goosebumps.

I don’t think so. I think it’s about the fears and fragility of the American white man.

There’s one scene in the very first episode that I think accidentally gives away what this tv series is about, and not in a way that the showrunners and fans of the show would like. The show takes place mostly on the obscenely large ranch of John Dutton — played by Kevin Costner. (I think Costner likes roles that cast him as sort of the exemplary, archetypically heroic white guy. Like John Dutton, the rich cattle baron who “gets it” about preserving the heritage of white America. Or like John Dunbar — the central white guy in the movie Dances with Wolves who “gets it” about the plight of Native Americans.) Anyway… in the scene in question, Thomas Rainwater, the leader of the local Indian Reservation is having a heated exchange with Dutton about some cattle that wandered off of Dutton’s ranch, and onto the reservation. When Dutton accuses Rainwater of thievery, Rainwater’s response is something like, “You own a ranch roughly the size of Rhode Island. How are you gonna accuse someone else of theft?”

John Dunbar (Dances with Wolves)
John Dutton (Yellowstone)

The faithful watchers who have made this show so popular probably see that scene and identify with the Kevin Costner character…

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Jan Blount

Educated, but averse to sophistry. I write about what I know, what angers me and what moves me. I ponder about race, politics, and whether true love exists.