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Day 11: A Brand of Family - Yellowstone

Speaking of soul-postures...what kind of soul growth enables someone to see flawed, fragile, lovable human beings in characters that are also irreparably monstrous? Is it soulful to see so? Or is it complicit, deplorable, flawed...?

I don't watch a whole lot of TV, but every once in a while, a series will catch Brian's and my attentions. We've been on a Star Trek Discovery binge this season, revelling in the final episode of the season with a stunning cameo performance. The President of United Earth was returning to Star Fleet Headquarters to rejoin the Federation of Planets. Grand finale, lots of pomp and circumstance. STACEY ABRAMS played the Presidential role. I almost cried with delight.

So imagine my shock and embarrassment that our next tv show is a Red State family-empire drama I'd never heard of: YELLOWSTONE. The "chattering classes" of most media we otherwise frequent--NYTimes, Washington Post, etc.--have had almost nothing to say about it. Its cultural popularity 'out here', between the Coasts, is stunning. Hmmm....

Starring Kevin Costner, it's a family-drama set in Montana, not unlike the Sopranos in New Jersey, or Succession in the corporate media world(s). It's similarly despicable to those shows, with violent sibling rivalries and painful plots reminiscent of so much of our country's woundedness that so many of us refuse to see: decimation of indigenous cultures, peoples, land; militant protectionism of a white-cowboy "way of life," owning the land; tribal loyalties of family pitted against other families and then villains. You know it's bad when your husband looks at you after an episode, commenting, "No body count in that one." Maybe 3 or 4 of the episodes, in 3.5 seasons? I can't tell if I'm enjoying the episodes or horribly fascinated with the train-wrecks from which I cannot seem to look away...

But here's the thing that fascinates... There is something so primal, recognizable...and necessary, revealing. Most every character is monstrous, or acts monstrously...and yet...the wounds of our country's history are speaking through every one of them. It's not pretty. I don't even recommend the show. But it is dramatizing the ugliness within each of us, when wounds dominate. It shows an utter violence wounding everyone...while somehow pointing to these unseen wounds, for all to see.

It's pretty easy to bring a liberalized critique to it--gender issues, display of the familiar trope of white-man's family pride, blah blah blah. But I'm coming away with less judgment in me, if a bit more horror and embarrassment with all I recognize, within me and all around us today. If one soul can see the woundedness speaking, I am counting on it being soulful to see so. And curious how monstrous human beings become lovable, even if just on the first.

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