The Controlling, Conservative Cruelty in the TV Show Yellowstone

Is both fascinating and frightening

Amber Fraley

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Luke Grimes and Kelsey Asbille from the television show Yellowstone. Photo by ColliderVideo, CC BY 3.0

Note: There are a few minor spoilers in this piece, but nothing that should take away from watching the show.

Yellowstone is a hugely popular television show with all of the grit, drama, dynasty and violence of Game of Thrones, except it takes place in the modern American West. It also garners as big an audience as Game of Thrones, but if you haven’t heard of it, that’s because most of Yellowstone’s fans live in small towns in flyover country, and the show is particularly popular among American conservatives.

The show centers around rancher John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner, whose only mission in life is to defend his sprawling ranch in Montana from hostile corporate takeovers, as well as the local Native Americans who’d like their land back. Dutton’s ranch is named Yellowstone and is located right next to the iconic national park.

My husband and I love this show. Once we discovered it, we watched all four seasons in just a few weeks. Like Game of Thrones, sometimes the show is hard to stomach, but for me, it’s not because of the violence, which is plentiful. Rather, it’s because of the physical, mental and emotional abuse the patriarch of the family imposes on everyone around him.

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Amber Fraley

Writing about abortion rights, mental illness, trauma, narcissistic abuse & survival, politics. Journalist, novelist, wife, mom, Kansan, repro rights activist.