Gorgeous scenery, old-fashioned masculinity: Here’s why we like ‘Yellowstone’ so much

·5 min read
Courtesy: Paramount Network

There is no American dream without the American West.

People still want a piece of that dream, whether in real life or on TV. The Four Sixes Ranch, featured in the hit Paramount Network show “Yellowstone” — and also a real-live working ranch 200 miles from Fort Worth — just sold for almost $200 million. A group led by “Yellowstone” producer Taylor Sheridan purchased the 142,000-acre ranch.

Texans — and, it seems, much of the rest of America — love Yellowstone. Its season four finale drew 9.3 million viewers, which Forbes called “aGame of Thrones’-level figure.” The prequel ‘1883,’ which Paramount is using to draw viewers to its streaming-video platform, has drawn attention to Fort Worth, thanks to the city’s key role in the story and the many scenes shot here.

The show, launched in 2018, follows the drama of the Duttons and their huge Montana ranch as they fight enemies determined to take the land, their demons and even themselves. Here are four reasons why it’s a hit with a huge following:

The scenery is gorgeous — and threatened

The first thing you notice is just how gorgeous it is on the Yellowstone ranch, nestled in a Montana valley (and Utah, where some scenes are also filmed). The breathtaking cinematography will have you googling “Bozeman” and “Park City” and wondering if you should take your next vacation there.

The physical beauty of this part of Montana, along with its real and figurative cost, is at the show’s heart: Yellowstone is an incredible large ranch that’s been in the Dutton family for seven generations, and there’s always someone who wants to build next to it, buy it, trespass on it or take it back.

John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner, can’t bear the idea , and he and his children do literally whatever it takes to keep this from happening.

This premise of the show sounds strangely antiquated, but it draws the audience in time and time again. In an era when renting is king and even a tiny plot of land is hard to come by, most of us don’t know what it’s like to own something so incredible and precious that we’d send our children to quite literally kill for it. This is jaw-dropping and yet sucks us in over and over.

Yellowstone is toxic so you don’t have to be

Any show that draws a massive crowd must have compelling drama and action that just doesn’t take place in real life. Like “Game of Thrones,” “Yellowstone” has intense scenes, many of them brutally violent, that are wildly unrealistic. The characters don’t just engage in gun-slinging; it’s emotional and psychological warfare that would require decades of therapy to resolve.

Beth and her brother Jamie have such a poisoned relationship (for good reason) that she is determined to make his life miserable until he’s either suicidal or she finishes him off for good. The first time I saw them throw actual punches, I couldn’t believe it.

No method is out of bounds for the Dutton family, whether it’s outright murder (hello, “train station”), blackmail, or influencing and buying off law enforcement, judges, and other officials to get what they want or keep what they have.

Physical violence that harks back to the Wild West is there too: From bar brawls with a bull and branding a “Y” on the chests of ranch-hands to slitting throats and shooting a person point blank in the face, the violence in Yellowstone is only one of the many toxic points to this show.

Look at this way: If you can recognize the toxicity of the show, which some viewers could find alluring, you might be able to get rid of it in your life, too (or make sure you don’t become friends with real-life Beth Duttons in the first place).

Yellowstone embraces the Old West in a new way

If the mythology of the Old West is anything, it’s a battle between good versus evil, adventure versus complacency. “Yellowstone” carries these themes through all four seasons with zeal.

Men who embrace old-fashioned masculinity, whether it’s knowing how to shoot a gun or tipping a hat to women, have a romantic appeal that epitomizes how men like Dutton survived and thrived.

“Yellowstone” features elements of this old-fashioned masculinity — John Dutton demonstrates, it but so does his son Kayce and ranch honcho, Rip. Is there a manlier man on television right now than Rip, with his boots, beard, cowboy hat and whip? I think not.

This is so different from the real-life efforts to target “toxic masculinity” that I bet viewers (perhaps even subconsciously) find it appealing.

Yellowstone features complexity in relationships

A surprising and refreshing aspect of the show is how it depicts the complexity of intimate relationships.

For example, the governor, Lynelle Perry, and John Dutton are, shall we say, friends with benefits. Or, in a “situationship,” as the kids say. In one particularly poignant scene, they hold each other as they talk about how much they miss spouses who have both passed away. The moment is bittersweet.

Kayce and Monica are another example. Monica feels torn between her Native American heritage and embracing life with Kayce at the Dutton ranch. What keeps them together is their passion and loyalty, another admirable keys to any solid marriage.

Relationships, like life, are not black and white. Nuance is difficult to grasp, but the sooner you do, the easier it will be.

As John Dutton says: “Learn to be meaner than evil and still love your family and enjoy a sunrise.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting