‘Yellowstone’ Creator Taylor Sheridan Defends the Series Against ‘Anti-Woke’ Claims

by Caitlin Berard
Photo by Paramount Network

Taylor Sheridan’s Western drama series Yellowstone is beloved by millions of devoted fans across the country. Last year, it grew to new heights, shattering records and becoming the most-watched show in the US, defeating long-running titans of primetime such as Chicago PD and Law & Order: SVU.

Like any creative work, however, Yellowstone isn’t immune to criticism. Tales of the wild West aren’t for everyone, just like any other genre. Now, Taylor Sheridan takes the vast majority of these critiques in stride. One recurring comment, however, received a direct response from the director.

Yellowstone focuses on the Duttons, a family of ranchers in the mountains of Montana contending with the slow and steady changing of the tides of the world around them. It’s been dubbed as “anti-woke” by some critics, a label Sheridan can’t help but find amusing.

“They refer to it as ‘the conservative show,'” Taylor Sheridan told The Atlantic. “Or ‘the Republican show’ or ‘the red-state Game of Thrones’. And I just sit back laughing.”

“I’m like, ‘Really?'” the Yellowstone creator continued. “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. That’s a red-state show?”

Taylor Sheridan Always Aims for Honesty With ‘Yellowstone’

For Taylor Sheridan, the goal of Yellowstone was never to make a political statement. He has a deep passion for Westerns and ranch life, thanks to spending his childhood years on a ranch in Waco, Texas. When it comes to writing Yellowstone, Sheridan’s primary focus is “responsible storytelling.”

Taylor Sheridan explained that one of his main inspirations for Yellowstone was none other than the Man With No Name himself, Clint Eastwood. Specifically, Eastwood’s 1992 classic Unforgiven. For Sheridan, the break from “shining good guy vs despicable bad guy” was a much-needed shot in the arm for the Western genre.

Rather than a clear-cut hero and villain, Eastwood’s characters were more ambiguous and, therefore, more honest. The celebrated director “let the sheriff be a bully and the hero be this drunken, vicious killer,” Sheridan explained fondly.

In doing so, Eastwood “shattered the myth of the American Western,” paving the way for the eventual creation and success of Yellowstone. “So when I stepped into that world, I wanted there to be real consequences,” Sheridan said. “I wanted to never, ever shy away from, this was the price.

As Yellowstone actor Jen Landon explained, it’s this approach to storytelling that resulted in the Western’s immense success. “There was such a need and a hunger for this show,” she said. “A demographic of people who I normally associate with not knowing how to open Netflix managed to find Paramount and watch this show because they needed it. Because they couldn’t relate to anything else.”