Jimmy: We’re with the Yellowstone. Nobody’s gonna mess with us.
The Paramount Network is raking in the ratings for its signature series Yellowstone. Season four premiered with an astounding eight million viewers. Television critics hail its stunning cinematography, excellent script, and cast, but perhaps they have missed the real reason for the Yellowstone boom: It just might be the program’s politics that are fueling the popularity of the series.
Bawdy & Bold Beth
Taylor Sheridan’s contemporary western masterpiece starring Kevin Costner is a deep dive into the Dutton family’s efforts to save their ranch and way of life from the mighty forces of big business and even bigger government. When Costner’s daughter Beth, brilliantly played by Kelly Reilly, is asked what is killing her father, she answers with “… the 21st Century.” That about sums it up.
John: It’s the one constant in life. You build something worth having, someone’s gonna try to take it.
But the Duttons prove to be a stubborn lot and will cross every line imaginable to save their beloved Montana ranch. Murder and mayhem envelop the clan each season. Still, they somehow always manage to live to fight another day in a made-for-TV series that is oddly out of step with the politically correct narratives constantly shoved down the throats of American viewers.
John: No one has a right. You have to take a right. Or stop it from being taken from you.
A rugged portrait of the indomitable American spirit shines through each family member. Emotionally damaged daughter Beth’s raison d’être is to offend, and in this respect she excels. Costner as patriarch John Dutton has been tagged as a 21st Century King Lear, wielding his land and power much like his Shakespearean counterpart. Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) is the loyal but broken, PTSD-recovering Navy Seal who hates himself for what he has to do. Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) is the adopted son and rising attorney who exemplifies the suffering human spirit in his love-hate relationship with the Duttons. Finally, there is the ranch foreman, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), who has been grandfathered in as a member of the Dutton family because of his fierce loyalty to Yellowstone. Rip is rough and tough, as if he invented the genre, and is doubtless one of the most popular characters in the show.
It may sound like a motley crew, but within each character lies the heart of the American spirit. These people will not bend, suffer fools, acquiesce to government mandates, or pay homage to the forces of commerce. It is a narrative Americans are eating up like Halloween candy.
Jamie: Think hard about what you’re saying, Beth. You’re threatening a state official!
Beth: I am threatening the whole f—ing state.
Yellowstone even goes so far as to portray Native Americans in a realistic light. Some are poor and bedraggled, but others are duplicitous and wildly wealthy, casino-grubbing men who would sell their people on the “rez” down the river should the need arise.
Rainwater: We need to know who’s trying to take his land, because they’re coming for ours next.
The producers have convinced the viewer that the Duttons are more likely to spit on a mask than wear one. They will defend their land against all enemies – foreign or domestic. They are patriots with “Don’t Tread on Me” written on their foreheads. But above all, they are Americans in bold relief, and viewers hope and imagine that somewhere deep down, at least a part of them is Dutton-worthy.
Writing for The Federalist, Michael Jerzy captured a crucial element of the series, saying, “… it’s not just a story about an American family steeped in American history — it’s an expression of America itself.” Yellowstone has become a touchstone for the type of America that progressives despise. The Duttons are everything they hate, which may be why viewers can’t wait until the next episode.
Dan: I have every right to be here. Every right. I have a right. This is America.
~ Read more from Leesa K. Donner.