Bass Reeves: Untangling History from Fiction in ‘Lawmen’ – An Exclusive Narrative
America’s historical figures often remain in the shadows, but one particularly influential character is finally stepping into the spotlight with the forthcoming series “Lawmen: Bass Reeves.” It’s a relief to note that this project has severed ties with the Yellowstone franchise, as it initially began as a spinoff from the popular series. Taylor Sheridan’s cinematic universe, which started with the highly successful flagship series in 2018, has grown into an entertainment juggernaut. Under the guidance of Paramount and Sheridan, this television empire has attracted top-tier Hollywood talent, including Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and soon, Matthew McConaughey. The core of the narrative revolves around the tumultuous lives of the Dutton family.
While Taylor Sheridan has dedicated himself to expanding the Yellowstone universe, he is a prolific creator involved in numerous other projects, such as “Tulsa King,” “Special Ops: Lioness,” and more. In September 2021, MTV and ViacomCBS made an exciting announcement: Taylor Sheridan would be producing a limited series centered on the historical Western legend, Bass Reeves, with the accomplished actor David Oyelowo in the lead role. The prospect of exploring Reeves’ remarkable journey from start to finish was enthralling.
However, in May 2022, MTV Entertainment dropped a surprising twist by revealing that the series would be reconfigured as a spinoff/continuation of Yellowstone’s 1883 prequel. This move raised questions about the necessity of linking Reeves’ story with the Yellowstone universe. Fortunately, Paramount and Sheridan have wisely opted to separate Bass Reeves’ narrative from the Yellowstone realm. “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” is now set to be the inaugural installment of an anthology series, with subsequent seasons dedicated to other renowned lawmen from history. This direction respects the significance of historical figures like Bass Reeves and ensures that their stories are not overshadowed by the fictional escapades of the Dutton family.
Who Is Bass Reeves?
First and foremost, let’s delve into the intriguing life of Bass Reeves and why it is essential to distinguish his narrative from the fictional family drama depicted in the Yellowstone universe. To truly appreciate the significance of Reeves as a historical figure, take a moment to reflect on your beloved hero from the world of Western tales. Whether it’s The Lone Ranger, Shane, or Arthur Morgan, it’s highly probable that the real-life exploits of Bass Reeves played a substantial role in inspiring these characters and countless others.
Born in 1838, Bass Reeves emerged into a world where millions of Black individuals were born into the shackles of slavery prior to the Civil War. As the conflict erupted, Reeves found himself among the many enslaved people who were coerced into serving the Confederacy during the bloodiest chapter in American history. Unwilling to become another statistic in that historic body count, Reeves seized an opportunity to break free and sought refuge in the Native American territory of Oklahoma. For years, he immersed himself in the culture and ways of the Native population, and it was here that he continued his journey until the end of the war and the passage of the 13th Amendment.
Bass Reeves Had a Long, Successful Career
The aftermath of the Civil War marked the aggressive expansion of the Wild West, a region rife with crime and lawlessness. This was especially true in the area where Bass Reeves had sought refuge during the conflict. Thanks to Reeves’ intimate knowledge of the territory, combat experience, and his deep understanding of Native American customs, Marshal James Fagan appointed him as a deputy, a historic move that established Reeves as the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.
Bass Reeves’ life story reads like a tale plucked from a classic John Ford Western. Over his extensive 30-year career as a U.S. Marshal, Reeves managed to apprehend more than 3,000 individuals, securing the record for the highest number of arrests in the history of the U.S. Marshals. Among those he brought to justice was an unexpected figure – one of his own eleven children, Bennie Reeves. When Bennie was accused of murdering his wife, Bass took it upon himself to personally apprehend him. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the daring exploits of Bass Reeves. His adventures also included assuming various disguises to track down wanted criminals.
Regrettably, despite Bass Reeves’ remarkable service to his country, his story concludes in a disheartening manner. The Wild West, once teeming with violence, had been tamed, but institutionalized racism persisted. As a result, Reeves was unjustly denied the opportunity to continue serving as a U.S. Marshal after Oklahoma achieved statehood, a decision solely based on the color of his skin. Nevertheless, this did not deter the enduring legacy of Bass Reeves, which continued to be celebrated and recounted long after his passing in 1910.
Bass Reeves Is Interesting Enough Without ‘Yellowstone’
Bass Reeves, often credited as the inspiration for The Lone Ranger, boasts a remarkable life story that merits a thorough retelling. Escaping the shackles of slavery, immersing himself in the ways of Native American cultures, and ultimately becoming the most prolific law enforcement marshal in American history is a narrative of historical significance. Thus far, no movie or television series has been able to do justice to this captivating tale with both engaging storytelling and historical accuracy. “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” holds the potential to fill this void and become a truly exceptional project.
Bass Reeves’ life is replete with captivating material, making it ripe for adaptation. Therefore, any association with the popular series “Yellowstone” would be more of a drawback than an asset. To begin with, it raises a certain degree of irony to link a prominent black historical figure to a fictional white family. Utilizing the legacy and influence of a legendary non-fiction figure like Bass Reeves for a fictional narrative involving fictional characters raises ethical concerns. This is not to say that incorporating historical figures into fictional tales is inherently impossible; indeed, HBO’s “Watchmen” series masterfully alluded to Bass Reeves as an early precursor to the superhero archetype, demonstrating that it can be done with sensitivity and respect.
Moreover, Bass Reeves’ life story is already intriguing enough without the need for fictional elements. While some adjustments may be necessary for storytelling purposes, these modifications should be kept to a minimum. With a lifetime spanning three decades, there is a wealth of material to explore without delving into the lineage of characters like Costner’s John Dutton.
Lawmen: Bass Reeves will be available to stream on Paramount+ in the U.S.
- Separation from Yellowstone: The article discusses the separation of Bass Reeves’ historical narrative from the Yellowstone franchise, highlighting the decision to move “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” away from its initial spinoff status.
- Bass Reeves: A Remarkable Figure: It delves into the fascinating life of Bass Reeves, a historical legend who escaped slavery, immersed himself in Native American culture, and became the most prolific U.S. Marshal in history.
- Narrative Integrity: The article emphasizes the importance of preserving the historical accuracy and significance of Bass Reeves’ story in “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” without overshadowing it with fictional elements or characters from the Yellowstone series.
Micajah McGregor, Editor in Chief of FanFest.com and renowned entertainment journalist, graduated from USC with a focus on Journalism and Film Studies. With an MBA from The Wharton School, he began his career at “PopCulture Pulse” and has been instrumental in shaping FanFest into a prime entertainment news source. Known for his financial analysis of celebrity net worths, Micajah received the ‘Digital Editor of the Year’ award in 2018. He’s also an active blogger, sharing his passion for superhero films and ’90s TV. Contact him at [email protected] for engaging entertainment insights.