Some thoughts on the series 1883 and The Gilded Age
Switching from 1883 on Sunday to The Gilded Age on Monday is a “Tale of Two Countries”! Taylor Sheridan’s new Paramount Plus series 1883 is about the Dutton family of his Yellowstone series. It’s how the Tennessee farmer James Dutton and his family got to Montana in the first place to build their empire. Julian Fellowes’s new HBO series The Gilded Age is about how the scrappy Russell family (with ties to Irish potato farmers) built their fortune in railroads and now are trying to elbow their way into New York City’s snooty old money society. The Texas to Montana series has a lot of grim but determined people in brown/grey homespun clothes bouncing around in rickety wooden wagons bumping along the vast prairies of the West while some taciturn ex Civil War veterans in boots and chaps mosey behind them pushing a herd of cattle. The New York City series has a bunch of prim but equally determined people in rustling silk dresses swishing into carriages in order to parade around a flower filled bustling Central Park while dandy men in jodhpur pants and derby hats trot along beside and nannies push babies instead of cows.
Both stories take place after the terrible U.S. Civil War in the years 1882 and 1883. America is a land of dreams for immigrants from Europe and some choose to work their way up the ladder in the big cities and some decide to literally hitch their wagons up and head to the untamed and open West to stake their claims to the land. Those pioneers must contend with hostile Indians, nasty bandits, big ass storms and sneaky snakes. The New Yorkers must deal with hostile neighbors, nasty gossips, big ass bankers and sneaky snakes.
There’s lots more to be said about both stories, but for now Cowboy Clay and I would like to suggest that you watch both together. One is harrowing and seat of the pants type storytelling that can scare the crap out of you and can have you dissolving into tears in the next scene. It’s a bourbon and branch kind of night.
So, it’s a relief that the story the next night is a more relaxing trip in a smooth-riding carriage while our eyes feast on the sumptuous costumes and scrumptious lobster spread and our ears hear snarls from wicked tongues. It’s a sipping Champagne or a nice IPA kind of night.
Two stories. Two countries. Two Americas. The more we watch the more we see all the contradictions of this vast country; between stinginess and sharing, meanness and caring, cowardliness and daring, hell and heaven. And then there is that freedom thing; the feeling of freedom when you take off that gun belt and strip down to your long johns or when you take that darn corset off and slip into your nightgown or better yet when you slip into some trousers and jump on your horse and take off at a gallop and feel that wind in your hair! Yeehaw, we say, and pass those fish-egg things.