by Travis Mateer
If you think the show Yellowstone is just entertainment, then your mind is already a prisoner of war.
Maybe that’s ok with you. Maybe you LIKE the confines of this prison. If that’s the case, stop reading now. But if you want to break free from Kevin Costner’s narrative tentacles, put on your critical thinking caps and join me.
I feel uniquely qualified to fight this particular narrative battle because, unlike other synchromystic media decoders, I’m on-the-ground here living the fiction/non-ficiton bleed-through.
What do I mean by that, you’re probably asking yourself. Let me explain by putting the new season 4 character, “Summer Higgins”, into a more personalized context.
The name is the place to begin, and this name is rife with local significance. Higgins is the main street running North/South through downtown Missoula, and summer is the season Missoula had a VERY REAL protest that spun out of control. That was the summer of 2000, the same summer I moved to Missoula (for a visceral look at what I’m talking about, watch this video).
Did I forget to mention “Summer Higgins”, played by actress Piper Perabo, is an environmental activist?
Yes, she is, and the scenes where she is introduced were filmed in Missoula. You can tell by spotting the peace sign on the hill in the background. Also, the scene where Summer is supposedly exiting jail after getting bailed out by Costner’s character is Missoula’s municipal building, where our illustrious Mayor has his office. Why is THAT significant?
Well, to answer that you have to understand that our Mayor, John Engen, used to work for the local newspaper, the Missoulian, before becoming Mayor. That newspaper also employed his Communications bulldog, Ginny Merriam, who can claim H.G. Merriam provenance. And the Mayor’s first campaign had John Talbot running it, the “former” CIA man who married into the Lee Enterprises company and was a Missoulian publisher.
See how this works?
What constitutes movie magick (intentional spelling) has many, many layers. Some connections–like other movies an actor or actress has been in–are the types of connections synchromystics are known for making. The significance, for us mystics, is a sort of resonance that accumulates as actors take on different roles.
I found a great example of this as I researched the Summer Higgins character and discovered the actress played a magician’s assistant in the movie The Prestige–an assistant who ultimately dies when a magic trick (intentional spelling) goes terribly wrong.
This movie is VERY significant because it features a fiction/non-fiction bleed-through as part of its narrative arc when the real historical figure, Nikola Tesla, is included (played by David Bowie, don’t get me started), signifying a shift from magic tricks to something more metaphysical. Getting further into the associations, The Prestige is a Christopher Nolan film, and Nolan is widely considered to be the Stanley Kubrick of our time.
Another way this works for me–the on-the-ground aspect of synchromystic detective work–is how I’ve literally run across Yellowstone’s Fire and Ice Productions a handful of times the past few weeks in ways that seem incredibly uncanny. I’ve gone to a coffee shop I don’t ever usually go to, or I’ve taken a route in my car I don’t usually take, then BAM!, I see all the big trucks and signs with the Yellowstone brand directing the crew where to go.
The last time this happened the big trucks spilled over into the parking lot of the church my parents attend, the same church Norman Maclean included in his novel, A River Runs Through It. You might of heard of this story, considering it was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt.
A big part of the myth-making going on here surrounds the idea of the west and the role of men in settling and–more importantly, POSSESSING–the land. What is the role of women in this narrative? Are they like the landscape, just things to be possessed and jealousy held on to? Or has the narrative strategies shifted to more actively include them in the control structure of myth making?
I’m trying to track down a dichotomy here between the contrived actions of fictional characters developed for the screen, and the strategic INACTION of REAL people, like Sheriffs and Mayors (and Pastors), here in the real world.
I think the best example of this can be found in the 4th episode of season 4, titled “Winning Or Learning”, when John Dutton’s daughter, Beth, faces off with the female face of the deceptively innocuous sounding corporate entity, Market Equities.
Here’s a quick recap of the money-shot scene (spoilers ahead) nicely summarizing the core fight spanning all 4 seasons of this Costner conjuring (emphasis mine):
Fans love nothing more than to watch Beth Dutton go up against a formidable foe, and she’s found one in Market Equities CEO Caroline Warner (Jackie Weaver). Clutching a double Titos with three olives, Beth listens calmly as Caroline tells her: “I came up at a time where the corporate ladder was greased to keep women off it. I climbed it anyway, stepping over some little bitch like you on every rung. The big dog is off the porch now, Beth, and I will tear you to fucking pieces.” Yikes!
Caroline gives Beth two options: they can go to war and she’ll launch an SEC investigation into Beth for market manipulation and insider trading or they can find common ground. Beth tells Caroline that she will do anything to protect her father’s land: “His dream is my Alamo and I will die on the fucking wall defending it.” Caroline then makes her an offer: “Come and work for us and I’ll help you defend it. You’re a corporate raider; come and raid for Market Equities.” Caroline wants Beth to help her commodify and commercialize Montana for financial gain. She boldly challenges Beth: “You want to save your ranch? Find me something better. Build me Aspen. Build me Breckenridge. I want a destination town in every valley of Montana.”
The equality that women have long been groomed to accept is perfectly represented here by TWO generations of women ascending to the pinnacles of corporate power. They join the men in being ruthless, merciless wielders of power in an ends justify the means approach that ultimately destroys and subjugates anyone who gets in their way.
This socially-engineered model of feminine power is correlated locally by City Council President, Gwen Jones, who is widely expected to slide into top contender status for the Mayoral position when the time comes. Another aspirational figure for (some) women in the political arena, on the national level, is Hillary Clinton. Or, in the world of criminal justice, Missoula’s County Attorney, Kirsten Pabst, comes to mind.
But here’s the question: what has this power-sharing–from the big screen to the real world–actually produced when it comes to quality of life issues for regular people, especially as it pertains to the criminal justice system?
While I won’t name the progressive Presbyterian church mentioned above in this post, I will mention a man who was recently sentenced for committing AT LEAST two criminal acts against his female patients. Why? Because I don’t trust men, OR the women they share power with, when it comes to keeping the people I care about safe. So here he is.
For some context about WHY James Haldman Armstrong is going to be supervised by the criminal justice system for the next 5 years, here’s an excerpt from the article:
A Missoula doctor who was initially charged with committing sex crimes against patients in Helena was sentenced Thursday to at least five years of state supervision as part of a plea deal.
James Haldeman Armstrong was initially charged with felony sexual intercourse without consent, felony sexual assault and misdemeanor sexual assault, but pleaded down to a lesser charge of felony criminal endangerment and will receive no prison time.
If this was an episode of Yellowstone, Dr. Armstrong would probably experience some violent vigilante justice. Instead, in the REAL world, the criminal justice system is a fucking joke, and the women who have an inkling that putting pieces of shit like James Armstrong would require being raped all over again by the system opt for HELL NO.
The reluctance of Armstrong’s victims to participate in a trial is one of the BIG reasons the judge went along with this plea deal. Here’s more from the article (emphasis mine):
As part of the plea agreement, Armstrong voluntarily terminated his Montana medical license and may not seek or renew a medical license in any state during the time of supervision.
Abbott also barred Armstrong from seeking any job in health care with direct access to patients while on supervision. He is to have no contact with his two victims.
“I’m not going to send you to prison. I think that would likely cause you to withdraw your plea,” Abbot said. “I also need to be respectful of the victims, if it’s not their desire to go forward with a trial.”
Abbott said he was concerned that bringing the case to a trial would cause “great distress” to the victims “for possibly a lesser outcome than agreed to today.”
So, because the brutal criminal justice system could have re-traumatized the victims with no guarantee this POS would see LESS consequences for sexually assaulting women, the plea agreement, if you’re paying attention, leaves the door open for Dr. Armstrong to become a practicing doctor again if he completes the time of his supervision without reoffending.
How fucked up is that?
The reality no myth maker wants to tell you as you passively sit on your ass and consume their entertainment is that real power is just as present in the things that don’t happen as they are in the things that do.
But, if you find ways to upset their narrative control, the way I strive to do on the daily, you’ll see their counter-efforts materialize on their platforms, like this Missoulian story about Yellowstone paying for Missoula cops to stand around keeping the production safe. From the link:
The City of Missoula and the “Yellowstone” show production team, Fire and Ice Productions Inc., entered into a special event police services agreement on April 7, according to city documents.
The contract stipulates Fire and Ice Productions reimburse the city for all salary costs of having officers on sets. “Yellowstone” is covering all the costs.
“The city doesn’t pay one cent for it,” the city’s communications director Ginny Merriam said.
No, the city doesn’t pay one cent for it with any upfront costs, but that doesn’t mean there is NO cost. From what I hear on the streets, I’m not the only Missoula citizen pissed off at the red carpet treatment these big money myth makers are getting.
Maybe to counter the Summer Higgins mockery we need a Winter Front. Front street, after all, was the street where a reveler injured herself 22 years ago, triggering a militarized police response this town might want to remember as global events get increasingly dire and chaotic.
And remember, if you think Yellowstone is entertainment, your mind is already captured.
Thanks for reading!