The Return of the Western
For decades, the Western film genre laid dormant in Hollywood. Once a staple of the industry, Westerns fell out of favor with audiences and studios in the 1970s and 1980s. But in 2018, actor and director Kevin Costner revived the Western in a big way with his television series Yellowstone.
Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone
Costner stars in and co-created the smash hit show Yellowstone, which airs on the Paramount Network. He plays the lead role of John Dutton, the patriarch of a powerful ranching family in Montana that controls the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S.
The show mixes family drama with Western themes and aesthetics. It features sweeping Montana vistas, cowboy hats and boots, horseback riding, and gunfights. While offering a modern take, Yellowstone evokes the look and feel of classic Westerns.
Why Westerns Went Out of Style
So why did Westerns fall out of favor in the first place? Some factors that contributed to the decline of the Western include:
- Viewer fatigue. At their peak, 30% of films were Westerns. Audiences eventually grew tired of the genre.
- The Vietnam War made tales of heroes in the American West seem outdated.
- Rising production costs made Westerns prohibitively expensive.
- Westerns came to be seen as non-inclusive, focusing heavily on white male characters.
The Yellowstone Effect
But Yellowstone demonstrated that there was still a huge audience eager for a well-made, high-budget Western. The show became the most-watched series on cable TV, proving the genre still has legs.
Critics praised Yellowstone for elevated production values, an intriguing plot, and outstanding performances. Costner, an icon of Western films like Dances with Wolves, was perfectly cast.
The Ripple Effect
Yellowstone opened the floodgates for other new Westerns to ride again. Since its debut, networks have greenlit multiple Western series, including:
- 1883, the Yellowstone prequel series on Paramount+
- That Dirty Black Bag on AMC
- The English on Amazon Prime
Kevin Costner and Yellowstone brought back the Western in a big way. With gorgeous visuals and themes of frontier life that resonate, Westerns have galloped back onto the small screen. The genre that once defined Hollywood is back thanks to an A-list star and must-see drama.