Taylor Sheridan is making good TV. I watched the series, The Mayor of Kingstown and loved its gritty, dystopian tone. Then I watched two of his other filmsYellowstone and the prequel 1883. I loved Yellowstone and I hate it when prequels are lame. So it took me a minute to garner the courage to watch 1883.
It was better than Yellowstone.
But the thing is, I’m not supposed to like it. The “sensitive new age guy” (SNAG) in me — you know, who communicates non-violently, is spiritually awakened, embraces progressive values, and always get my pronouns right—should have been offended.
But I wasn’t.
The New York Times has written scathing reviews of Taylor Sheridan’s works. Universities have courses dedicated to its deconstruction and dismissal — you know, why educated people shouldn’t like it. The east coast liberal intelligentsia are mystified by the popularity of his stories. They give it twos and three stars out of ten, but actual, real life humans consistently give it nines and tens.
Somebody is out of touch.
The liberal elite have this same attitude about Trump. He just shouldn’t be as popular as he is. Two states have already banned him from the ballot. And when he swept the Iowa primaries recently mainstream media refused to air his victory speech. They don’t seem to realize that they are implicitly disenfranchising half the citizens who voted for Trump. Not really viable for a functional democracy.
This is the stuff of banana republics, communist and fascist regimes. The democratic party is so outraged by Trump’s success that a vast censorship partnership between the State and private NGO’s (funded by the Democrats) has been constructed. (Virtually everybody connected to this Censorship Industrial Complex is a Democrat). Trump been charged with being a Russian collaborator (false); a Nazi (false); a Fascist (false); an insurrectionist (the jury is out) but it stretches the imagination to confuse a riot at the White House, with a coup attempt. (A coup involves an army, seizure of the media, and the actual removal of the leadership of the country); and a tax evader (probably true, but then practically every Democratic congress person has a team of accountants helping them to dodge the tax man and insider trading seems to be the norm for these people).
Personally, I’m glad that I’m not faced with having to choose between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. These two are the frontrunners in the election for the most powerful nation on Earth?! It signals to me that the U.S. is going the way of the Roman Empire.
It’s clear to anybody paying attention that it’s the Democrats who are acting like fascists, not the Republicans. Rather than simply dismiss him as “populist” why not ask why, and what are we not addressing that he is, and why?
That all might seem like a digression from my two thumbs up for 1883. So, here’s the connection: I bet that the majority of the folks giving 1883 a ten out of ten are Trump-supporting Republicans.
Which would put me in strange company. I don’t identify with any political party at the moment. But as a lifelong lefty I admit my disappointment in the authoritarian turn and tactics of the left. If you can’t persuade others to adopt your value system, then coerce them by cancelling, shaming, and censoring their views.
So, I’m back to trying to figure out my attraction to 1883. It boils down to it just feeling like good old fashioned story-telling, minus an ideological agenda. The writing is raw. The vulnerability of the human condition shines through. Death is so close that the preciousness of life shines through. The men are everything that we educated liberal men learned was wrong. They fight. They use violence if need be to protect their families. They are the strong, silent type who’ve seen a thing or two, and maybe they’ve been broken by life, but they don’t complain; right or wrong, they stand by their decisions, and apologize to nobody. They are not soft. They hunt and teach their sons to gut the animals after giving thanks to their spirit. They aren’t spiritual or religious but they have their own God, who they keep private. .
They don’t justify themselves to anybody, including their wives. But they love them openly and would die for them and their children without thinking if need be. They do what needs to be done, and somehow they are living close enough to reality that they know what needs to be done. Yes, gender roles are clearly defined. But then again, in 1883 the protagonist’s daughter is respected by the crew in 1883 as one of the best cowboys in the outfit. And in Yellowstone, the daughter of the protagonist is a badass, and one of the toughest cowhands is female. The lead women characters are tough, alive, passionate, sexy. They don’t back down from a fight, when fighting is what is called for and they can hold their own with any man including their husbands. In the subsequent series, 1923, he exposes, in a very graphic way, the extermination policy of the U.S. toward indigenous people. To boot, the series opens with the grizzled lead man weeping for this wife and daughter who died with smallpox.
Making it frustratingly hard, I bet, for the liberal intelligentsia dismiss it all as “sexist”. The left wing critics are baffled. The people who dole out television awards have snubbed it. Tyler Austin Harper addresses this in this piece for Slate. He nails what the attraction of this series was for me: the characters are never confused about their values and what needs to be done. They are unambiguously committed to tribe, family, and the land. And god help anybody, including the State, who gets in the way of these values and rights. It’s a reflection on the freedom to be left alone to pursue one’s life. This absence of confusion is compelling in a world awash with post-modernist philosophical deification of context and perspective, leading to no solid ground to stand on anywhere and no truth.
I’ve cried during every episode of 1883. Not that the writing is sentimental. The dialogue seems to flow directly from the land into the throats of the characters and what comes out rings true. It’s like this Taylor Sheridan guy is on a perpetual ayahuasca journey. You just have a sense that he lives up close and personal with life and death.
So much of Netflix programming these days is making “a point”. They are shoving the principles du jour of equality, diversity and inclusivity down our throats. It makes me want to puke. I mean I’m all for those values, but when it hardens into dogma and becomes a religion I’m out.
Take the recent dog’s breakfast of a movie by the Obama’s, Leave the World Behind. It’s Black Lives Matter meets radical feminism meets apocalyptic fear porn meets pathetic, apologetic white man. Or the equally disastrous Don’t Look Up, where A list Hollywood actors lined for their chance to shame those recalcitrant right wingers who just refuse to see that we’re on the verge of an apocalypse. (It has been the go-to tactic of the elite throughout history to scare the shit out of the masses when you are trying to control them).
The dialogue is contrived. The story feels like it was written by a committee of ideologues. The characters are caricatured cardboard cutouts who are being used to make The Point. It doesn’t come from the land or the heart. The script is humourless. It’s just a bunch of postmodern, bullshit, left wing propaganda. Why the Obamas would let their names be attached to such a mess is an interesting question.
The public is tired of it. Netflix is getting the message apparently, shifting programming away from the woke agenda to good old fashioned storytelling. Let’s hope.
The liberal elite had better start listening instead of censoring and crowing and scratching their heads over how these red-necks can live with themselves. Those “red-necks” hold some values related to the sovereignty and dignity of the individual that provide a much needed balance to the communitarian focus of the left. Instead of polarizing, maybe we could all, left, right and middle be courageous enough to admit we need each other. Because there are forces that are happy for us to be at each other’s throats, while all the money and power flows out of our hands into theirs.
I’m grateful to Taylor Sheridan for addressing that imbalance.