There was an interesting article in the August 14, 2022 edition of The New York Times. The topic of the piece, which ran in the Opinion pages, is about the division among TV viewers who are separated along political lines. According to its author, Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and affiliate of the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at UNC, liberal TV viewers tend to have more open minds and will watch programs favored by conservatives, while folks on the right shun shows that liberals like to watch.

Cottom used Yellowstone, the Paramount cable network western drama, as an example. “While liberal audiences mostly ignore it,” it is “gobbling up audience share” among conservatives, she wrote.

This, however, contradicts the basic premise of her opinion piece, since she first said that liberals will watch shows favored by conservatives, but not the opposite.

In addition, she makes use of a study by two sociologists, Clayton Childress of the University of Toronto, and Craig Rawlings of Duke University, called: “When Tastes Are Ideological.”

Cottom quotes Childress: “Liberals aren’t watching Yellowstone for cultural reasons, and conservatives love it for ideological ones.”

This statement brings another dimension to the “taste division,” which is that liberals shun Yellowstone purely on the basis of its setting (the series portrays life on a Montana farm, and stars Kevin Costner, who Cottom describes as a conservative favorite), while conservatives appreciate its simple setting and the problems the characters have both with California elites and the federal government). Plus, conservatives like the predicament of climate-change activists, and the plight of minorities, like Native Americans. According to Cottom, “people on social media hate [Native Americans] for many reasons, but [the] college degree [of one of the Native American characters] does not help.”

Then she concluded: “When John Dutton [the character played by Costner] can’t win, he starts shooting,” implying that that’s another draw for conservatives.

However, said Cottom, Taylor Sheridan, the show’s creator, told The New York Times in 2019 that “the people who are calling it a red-state show have probably never watched it.”

Photo courtesy of Paramount Network

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