Arts & Entertainment

‘In Taylor Sheridan’s America, the Cowboy Is Colonized Too’

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Ever since Yellowstone premiered in 2018, it has been referred to in the media as a red-state show. Its creator, Taylor Sheridan, takes issue with that label. “The show’s talking about the displacement of Native Americans,” he told The Atlantic. “That’s a red-state show?” In this excellent critical essay, which goes in-depth on Yellowstone‘s politics, New York’s Andrea Long Chu takes Sheridan at his word. In fact, she argues, the whole moral vision of Yellowstone rests on its depiction of its Native American characters — because they become the lens through which we see the oppression of the cowboy. “If the show’s white characters fear replacement, this is because they are closely identified with the very people they first replaced,” she writes. This is Sheridan’s sleight of hand: In his universe, the colonizer becomes the colonized. As a Native American character bluntly puts it to a white one on the show, “When this land belonged to my people 150 years ago, children were stolen, men were killed, families herded away like cattle. And nothing’s changed except you’re the Indian now.”

—Gazelle Emami, culture editor, New York

How the Cowboy Was Colonized Yellowstone is known for being a red-state show. But its political ideology is lifted from the left.

Photo: Hugo Yu

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