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Crumbling family dynasties are all the rage on TV, from Yellowstone to Succession

  • Paramount Network's Yellowstone, HBO's Succession and The Righteous Gemstones and, most recently, ABC and Hulu's Promised Land are part of TV's trend of dynastic families crumbling, says Ryan Stevens. "Something distinct about waning empires is brewing in the American TV zeitgeist right now, and has been for quite some time," says Stevens. "One could trace this lineage back to the Bush-era lampooning of the 1% in Arrested Development, or even to the soapy exploits of older series like Dallas and Dynasty. But today’s TV about falling families all seem of a piece while still distinctly specific. Families that wield money and power with impunity exist all too prevalently in the real world, and their reflections in our fiction hit on the inescapable notion that the power to influence our world lies in the hands of too many people with the same last names." Stevens adds: "Each of these empires exemplifies some aspect of American excess. The Roys’ all-out conservative blight is the most obvious one, but the Gemstones’ empire of converting faith into dollars is just as insidious (and typically conservative-aligned) as the Waystar-Royco’s media machine. The Dutton Ranch stands for America’s bloody domination of land occupied by Indigenous peoples (which the show often casts as either antagonists opposite the Dutton clan or as outright villains), and its ardent refusal to cede this land back to its original stewards or to even acknowledge the centuries of cruelty and inhumanity that has come with the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Of these four shows, only Promised Land makes any attempt to slightly invert the usual social pyramid and show a marginalized identity that has managed to perform the impossible: the American miracle of Joe Sandoval pulling himself up by his bootstraps. Even so, the success has come at the cost of participating in the same capital system that created every other intractable and tyrannical patriarch, to a further degree than you or I are forced to cooperate in modern society’s endless parade of low-volume inhumanity."

    TOPICS: Yellowstone, Promised Land, The Righteous Gemstones, Succession, Prestige TV