If you allow me, I’d love to regale y’all with a story.
One time, my dad got into a fist fight with our neighbor Eddie, because Eddie snuck onto our property and killed a turkey. Growing up, we owned about seven acres in East Tennessee, and we’d been trying to make them more amenable to wildlife, so we’d take salt blocks and bags of corn up into the forest behind our house so that turkey and deer would visit. Eddie showed up one night when I was about 9, dropped a dead turkey on our porch, and said, “I just couldn’t help myself.” Then my dad dove, spearing the guy off our porch and wailing on him. I watched for about 30 seconds as they wrestled in the gravel before my mom made me go inside. Police were called, etc.
I do not like fighting. I think it’s a tell that you don’t have proper control over your emotions and/or your vocabulary. But that interaction was doctoral-level discourse in comparison to the 10-minute fistacuff clash that happened on Yellowstone this week.
To set the scene for Season 5 Episode 5, there are two women named Beth (Kelly Reilly) and Summer (Coyote Ugly’s Piper Perabo). They don’t like each other for a number of reasons, but in this case in particular, it’s because Summer is sleeping with Beth’s father, John (Kevin Costner). The fight kicks off when Summer criticizes the all-meat dinner laid before her. Beth jabs back, saying they should just bring Summer grass (because that’s all vegans eat, as we all know). Then they go outside and brawl, just beat the living shit out of each other. And this goes on for literally 10 minutes.
I love Yellowstone, in part for its absurdity. But I am also able to love it because it has poignant moments that challenge our preconceptions about political issues, race, and people we disagree with. I put my name behind that defense, and then five episodes into the season, we get a Jerry Springer segment that ends with two women pounding the sweet bejesus out of one another over, what? Roasted dove! Venison steak! To what end!
I dove into writing about Yellowstone because I thought the series had some merit—very thoughtful moments about the power of women, their rights, and the nuance of living in a “man’s world.” I love that for Yellowstone, which is why I am also here saying that watching two women brawling on one of the nation’s most popular shows is just silly.
Maybe it’s because I have a symmetrical face—a natural beauty that not everyone is so privileged to have. Or maybe it’s because I’m not a barbarian who chugs Monster energy drinks before slamming my fist through drywall for effect. Either way, my aversion to fighting isn’t the point. The reason I bring up the story about my dad going to town on our neighbor’s temple isn’t because I want to double down on fighting. If I did, I would have told you about the time my dad once fought a man in a Domino’s parking lot because he cut us off and caused me to drop my cheesy bread. I’ll save that for later cultural commentary.
The reason I bring it up is because, as misguided as it was, my dad had a point he was trying to make, a point that I think is salient in the world of Yellowstone. My dad has always had trouble corralling his emotions, and in this case, it was for the sake of these animals we were trying to populate on our land. It was in the amateur pursuit of building up an ecosystem. Fair enough.
But for all the points that Yellowstone tries to make about land conservation and indigenous rights and every other complicated issue it (usually) worthily tackles, this was just two women going full Donkey Kong on each other for the sake of, I suppose, veganism? For what it’s worth, Summer (the vegan in question), then goes inside and dives into some mashed potatoes that notably have butter in them. None of it makes any sense, nor does it have any purpose.
Summer and Beth have been fighting for the better part of a season now, and from what I can tell, it’s mostly because Beth doesn’t like outsiders. But Beth doesn’t like anyone, really. In the interest of nuanced storytelling, there are so many other ways she could have “gone to the mat” without being forced through some Euphoria-style bout with a woman who disapproves of wild game. So it makes my job, coming here and writing something substantial about Yellowstone, all the more difficult, because two women we’d like to respect got all Joe Rogan in the UFC ring of Montana.
I suppose at the core, my thesis is what Shakira says at the beginning of the 2005 megajam “Hips Don’t Lie.” No fighting. But beyond that, I think what I’m trying to convey is that in a world where we have a lot of stupid fighting for arbitrary or misguided reasons, I don’t want to see that same storyline charted out on television. There are some people who believe that a good round of fisticuffs can lead to an answer, and frankly, to them I say: You’re a fucking idiot. Dead turkeys and vegans included. We’re better than that, and honestly, when it comes to Yellowstone’s reputation, the last thing it needs is the argument that all that its primary women characters have time to do is duke it out over deer meat.
Justin Kirkland is a Brooklyn-based writer who covers culture, food, and the South. His work has appeared in NYLON, Esquire, and USA Today.