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Yellowstone: The Hidden Propaganda in Television and Movies

Yellowstone: The Hidden Propaganda in Television and Movies

At the end of a long day, many of us unwind by kicking back to an entertaining television show or movie. However, because much of this media today is overt propaganda, choosing a show or movie to watch has become quite the challenge. Anything that isn’t obnoxiously propagandistic has become a welcome alternative. But this type of media can put our guard down and make it easier to accidentally uncritically accept the narrative being pushed, simply because it’s presented in a more palatable package.

One example of this that many right of center viewers are watching is Paramount’s Yellowstone. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote in The New York Times that the series is “the most red-state show on television.” At first glance, one can see why. The show features Kevin Costner, who plays the stoic John Dutton, a patriarch focused on defending the family ranch against Indians, business rivals, and government agencies. It’s a show about salt-of-the-earth country folk just trying to get by. So surely it’s conservative, right?

Not quite.

Twitter user Future Moldovan Citizen recently brought attention to the not-so-subtle woke themes in Yellowstone. “I’d seen this clip before on TikTok but I didn’t realize it was from ‘Yellowstone,’” he tweeted. “This is what most normie conservatives consider their favorite show?”

In the clip, John Dutton’s Native American daughter-in-law, Monica, humiliates one of her college students—a politically incorrect white male. After making a crude remark, the student is informed that he is powerless and that Monica has the ability to remove him from the class if she sees fit.

The exchange is highly symbolic. A defining tenet of wokeness is that white men, having been such horrible oppressors throughout history, are to step aside to allow previously marginalized groups—namely, sexual and racial minorities—to steer the ship.

Monica then proceeds to denounce the “European mentality stemming from the oppressive political and religious structures of the Renaissance” and links these allegedly bigoted structures to the conquest of the Native Americans.

That’s where the Twitter clip ends. But having seen a few seasons of the show—I checked out early into season three—I know that the student later expresses his guilt to Monica, from whom he learns to be a better (read: more woke) person.

And this is just one clip. At one point, the audience is told that John Dutton had instructed Kayce, his son, to have Kayce and Monica’s unborn child aborted. The relationship between Kayce and John is at times entirely negative. John’s daughter, Beth, is maniacal, alcoholic, and sexually deviant—but in her daddy’s eyes she can do no wrong. A racist shop owner calls the police on Monica because she’s a minority. The list goes on.

After Future Moldovan Citizen’s clip went viral—it has to date amassed 1.5 million views—conservative Twitter users proceeded to post memes of the show. Using an image of John Dutton sitting thoughtfully in his truck, users began sarcastically adding liberal platitudes as captions. The combination of conservative aesthetics with liberal values, taken to comical extremes, successfully revealed the silliness of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone—despite its conservative trappings—is not a conservative show, insofar as conservative shows are those that promote conservative values. The picture Yellowstone paints of the dysfunction of modern life—from the breakdown of the family to substance abuse to personal depravity—might be accurate, given the state of American decline.

But this is perhaps better viewed as a critique of red America. We all know that’s one of Hollywood’s favorite things to do. The Duttons are portrayed as materially successful yet morally bankrupt. That framing is a common one the left applies to white conservatives; in fact, it’s one of the only woke-approved ways to portray white conservatives on TV.

Yellowstone’s creator, Taylor Sheridan, has explicitly stated that the show is not conservative. “They refer to it as ‘the conservative show’ or ‘the Republican show’ or ‘the red-state Game of Thrones,’” said Sheridan before the show’s season five premiere. “And I just sit back laughing. I’m like, ‘Really?’”

Then what is the show about? According to Sheridan, “The show’s talking about the displacement of Native Americans and the way Native American women were treated and about corporate greed and the gentrification of the West, and land-grabbing.”

Anyone who watches Yellowstone with an intentional critical eye would arrive at that conclusion as well. I certainly did, which is why, along with the show’s tediously melodramatic mood, I only made it through two seasons.

But the problem is that many people do not watch television with a focused critical eye. For many of us, television and movies are a respite from the stresses of daily life, not an opportunity to methodically examine popular culture. In the case of Yellowstone, even intelligent conservatives could watch the show, identify with the characters, and wind up unconsciously absorbing woke ideas. “Well, if John Dutton lets his adult daughter live like a tramp, maybe I’m being too overbearing on mine!”

Consuming this escapist media without much critical awareness, or overly consuming it, thus makes it easy to adopt the ideas that Hollywood is promoting. Rather than thoughtfully forming our own opinions, we end up accidently outsourcing our thinking to our entertainment.

That’s the nature of successful propaganda. It affects the viewer subconsciously. We aren’t supposed to be aware it’s happening. Edward Bernays wrote in his seminal work Propaganda, “Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions.” We need only look to the conservative embrace of Yellowstone—a fundamentally and subversively anti-conservative show—to see the truth in this statement.

Image credit: Yellowstone Wiki-Thackerboy, CC BY-SA 3.0

ITO

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45 Comments

  • Avatar
    Farmer Chuck
    February 24, 2023, 2:56 am

    Perhaps you think too much of media. I’m conservative, which has little to nothing to do with current “republican” politics, and I recognize Yellowstone as television. It is not reality, but could be analyzed as a comment on reality. And if over-analyzed, the analyzer starts believing they are smart and the rest of us are duped. Sorry – if its a series on tv it is very likely entertainment, not reality. Nobody I’ve ever spoken with thinks that because a tv actor’s tv actor daughter is a slut that it is just fine for their real daughter to have the same . characteristics. The masses may not watch tv with a critical eye, but at least we know it isn’t reality. And by the way, neither is Tucker.

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    • Avatar
      GFrech@Farmer Chuck
      February 25, 2023, 3:56 pm

      agreed

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    • Avatar
      Bill@Farmer Chuck
      February 25, 2023, 10:27 pm

      So tucker bad and not reality. Fake woke hollywood bs according to conservative farmer chuck is good. Sure…

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    • Avatar
      jim@Farmer Chuck
      February 26, 2023, 1:12 am

      Farmer chuck,….you aren't conservative, what are you conserving?
      saying nothing is tacit approval….you are a Democrat by omission.
      Saying Tucker isn't? huh? that's a farcical statement and we all wonder about you after hearing it.

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    • Avatar
      JoeD@Farmer Chuck
      March 2, 2023, 1:12 pm

      If you think the media doesn't influence people's thoughts, attitudes, and actions then you're not the sharpest of the bunch.

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    • Avatar
      ZJ@Farmer Chuck
      February 24, 2024, 2:21 pm

      i have to agree with you. i'll add that i DO think someone making a vulgar remark to a teacher needs to be 'called out' for it in the setting described. i DO believe there were gross injustices done to America's indigenous peoples. and i AM a conservative: i filter everything that enters my mind and heart through a moral code to which i hold–not necessarily to a 'Republican' code.

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  • Avatar
    David Bugbee
    February 24, 2023, 3:02 am

    My objection to the show is the blatant in-your-face sexual immorality. It shows up out of nowhere and is difficult to escape. I finally stopped watching it. The points made in the article are well taken. But the sexual immorality was the deal-breaker for me. It was so unnecessary. It could have been a fine show without it. But I cannot watch it any longer in good conscience.

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  • Avatar
    Joyce
    February 24, 2023, 3:16 am

    “A defining tenet of wokeness is that white men, having been such horrible oppressors throughout history, are to step aside to allow previously marginalized groups—namely, sexual and racial minorities—to steer the ship.”

    When I hear that desperate attempt to manipulate a power grab, I always point out that all the countries on the planet, regardless of the skin color of their people, are selfish and violent. And women are just as selfish and negative as men. But, instead of punching someone, they’re more apt to duplicitously destroy their reputation and livelihood.

    It’s sad to see this insanity destroying one of the last good products America has left by churning out dour, divisive, tedious propaganda instead of fun, high quality entertainment.

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  • Avatar
    Rebeccaq
    February 24, 2023, 7:59 am

    I watched the show for the beauty of the land, but didn’t get through season one due to it’s mostly predictable or too over the top plots. Too much violence, sex and power fighting without deeper understandings of character and motivation. I never even saw the scene mentioned in the article. I’m not surprised EVER to find Hollywood propaganda in any media.

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  • Avatar
    Dan
    February 24, 2023, 1:26 pm

    John Dutton is a horrible person. He’s morally bankrupt (as is most the family), he treats his adopted son Jamie like shit and turns all blame around on him, and his entire existence is based on a foundation of lies & secrets. I can see how one might think this is a Conservative program, but I disagree. It’s drama, it’s entertainment….What will happen next?! The real propaganda is claiming it to be a right-wing show just because it has mountains, fresh air and horsies.

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    • Avatar
      David Grenier@Dan
      February 25, 2023, 5:35 pm

      My GF watches it, so that means I watch it too. It's entertaining, in a train-wreck sort of way, but it is not engaging. Nearly none of the characters are likable or relatable. Most are horrible people, even when they're superficially endowed with what appears to be good character. Case in point: Rip. Rip is devoted, hard-working, fearless. He's also a murderer.
      No, it is not a "conservative" show, unless insofar as it may be a liberal's view of conservatives.
      The only character I like is Jimmy. He was a ne'er do well who was given a break and made something of himself. He's personable, earnest, humble, hard-working, and has an appreciation for what people have done for him that has allowed him to become a better person. I hope they don't ruin his character.
      As for Kayce's wife. That's your example of "woke"? It seems anti-woke to me, because it presents a Native American as a caricature, spouting woke, politically-correct platitudes, who uses identity politics to create her own system of oppression over others. This was unflattering, and hardly shows a Native character in a good light (although the woke themselves would probably view those same scenes and say "You go, girl," I thought they were an embarrassment to the character, and could have accomplished some of the same purpose – enlightening the white student – without resorting to clichés/bad writing).

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      • Avatar
        David Grenier@David Grenier
        February 25, 2023, 5:37 pm

        I should have indicated that I was referring to the article's author when I wrote "That's your example of 'woke'? Not meaning that to apply to Dan.

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      • Avatar
        JohnJake@David Grenier
        February 26, 2023, 2:50 pm

        The term "Native American" is a woke term.

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      • Avatar
        JoeD@David Grenier
        March 2, 2023, 1:14 pm

        Native Americans ARE caricatures. Theyve done that to themselves by living in a past that they refuse to move on from. But this is how the Left likes it and what they portray.

        REPLY

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