1.Yellowstone

‘Yellowstone’s Dutton Women Are the Real Power Behind the Ranch

Who runs the world?

The Dutton women have played a crucial role in the survival and success of the Yellowstone Ranch, often doing as much (if not more) work than the men with little recognition.
Elsa Dutton, the founder of the Yellowstone, showed incredible tenacity and hope in the face of tragedy, forging relationships with indigenous tribes that led to the founding of the ranch.
Cara, a key figure in the next generation, demonstrates intelligence and level-headedness, recognizing the need for the ranch to evolve and using all available resources to ensure its survival.
Taylor Sheridan‘s neo-Western TV drama Yellowstone continues to dominate TV, finding even more success since making its network debut on CBS. Yellowstone‘s sequel series 1883 and 1923 have expanded the Dutton lineage, and by now, we have seen three full generations of Duttons and their struggle to preserve their ancestral land by any means necessary. We have seen their endless grit and determination when it comes to protecting their own from outside forces, but who are the real brains behind the operation?

Across three successful shows, the Yellowstone has been shepherded by the reigning patriarch of the generation: John (Kevin Costner), James (Tim McGraw), and Jacob (Harrison Ford). The franchise has shown us the similarities between these men as they embody the archetype of the salt of the earth rancher: quiet, brooding, and wise, always doing the honorable thing, despite their dealings in moral gray areas. However, are these men the real reason that the Yellowstone Ranch has managed to stay afloat over the centuries? While they are certainly all powerful characters, next to each Dutton man is a woman doing as much work (if not more) with little to no credit. Over nearly 150 years, several strong Dutton women have done what is necessary to protect their families and preserve their way of life.

‘1883’s Elsa Is One of the Strongest Duttons

The earliest incarnation of the Dutton family takes place in 1883, as Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) leads her family on a trek across America and finds herself in the Wild West. When we first meet Elsa, she is a stubborn child, berated by her mother and aunt for not being civilized enough. When she meets her father, a Civil War veteran hoping for a new life, it is clear that she takes after him in classic Dutton fashion. As she travels across the country with a caravan of covered wagons, she experiences new dangers and passion along the way. Rebelling against her mother and the gender norms of the period, she trades her dress for a pair of pants and joins the cowboys in rounding up cattle and protecting the caravan. While she finds more autonomy and freedom in the west, she also loses her innocence as she fights to protect the ones she loves, killing the man who shot her fiancé and witnessing countless deaths on her journey.

Instead of letting tragedy jade her like many others in the series, she instead finds new love and a passion for other ways of life, falling in love with an indigenous man and vowing to live with him after she escorts her family to Oregon safely. Even when she sees her caravan slaughtered and is shot by an arrow that would eventually kill her, she never loses her faith in a brighter future. The relationships she forges with the native tribes along her way are the reason the Duttons are able to found the ranch, as the leader of the Crow nation gifts the land to James Dutton as a place to bury Elsa and start a new life. In the end, her tenacity and hope for a better life are what led her family to Paradise Valley, and she should be remembered as the founder of the Yellowstone.

‘1923’s Cara Is a Smart, Logical Mentor

1923 introduced us to the next generation of Duttons as they face the challenges of a modernizing world along with enemies from outside and within. In Episode 3 of 1923, the family suffers a devastating attack that leaves Jacob at death’s door. In the wake of this tragedy, the burden falls on Cara (Helen Mirren) to close ranks and prepare for the upcoming battle while still having to care for everyone around her. As tension builds on all fronts, she cares for Jacob, mentors Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph), and begins to gather forces in the form of livestock officers.

As tempers flare between the men that surround her, she always keeps a level head and uses her intelligence, not her pride, to plot the best way forward for the ranch. While Jacob abhors the modern world, Cara understands that if they do not evolve with the rest of society, they will be left behind. She acknowledges that some change is necessary for the survival of the ranch, but she is also aware of the value of using all the resources available to her. By helping to turn Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) into the sheriff for his attack on their family, she is abandoning the macho, egotistical way that the surrounding men operate “on honor” or outside the law. We know that the Duttons will win the battle, but it could not be done without her careful planning and logical decision-making.

Beth Is the Reason the Duttons Still Have the Yellowstone Ranch

The current generation of Duttons is facing larger threats than ever, as the Yellowstone has become more and more covetable over the generations. Luckily, they have the most ruthless Dutton yet, Beth (Kelly Reilly). Whether you love her or hate her, you have to admit the ranch would have been taken long ago without her unyielding commitment to preserving her father’s legacy. Her business savvy and intelligence set her apart from the rest of her family as she exhibits different traits than her siblings. While those who came before her operate on honor and their love for the land, Beth sees another reality of life on the ranch. Understanding the financial implications of every decision the Duttons make is crucial to surviving the calculated attacks they face from modern enemies, and no one but Beth has the knowledge and skills to make the tough decisions without letting emotion get in the way.

While Beth’s tactics often verge on cruel, she has also been more affected by tragedy than most of her relatives. Blamed for her mother’s death, medically sterilized at the direction of her brother Jamie (Wes Bentley), nearly beaten to death and badly burned by an explosion, Beth has survived more than almost any Dutton before her. With all of this, she still has a sliver of compassion within her, loving her husband Rip (Cole Hauser) and Carter (Finn Little), the orphaned boy she took under her wing. While she may cross the thin line the Duttons walk, there is no denying that the ranch would not be standing without her.

In a genre that is often dominated by masculine ideas of morality, strength, and honor, it’s important to take a look at the women that helped build the West in Yellowstone, both onscreen and off. While the Yellowstone ranch is rife with fierce and tenacious characters of all genders, it’s time to acknowledge that the Dutton women are the real driving force behind the longevity of the ranch and the legacy of the family in the franchise.

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