Why is Beth Dutton so mean? The question has perplexed “Yellowstone” viewers since the hit show began. In Season 5, the series finally started discussing the topic openly. Beth’s sister-in-law Monica even began to question why Beth had to be so mean all the time. The answer is a complicated one trapped in years of trauma and complex family relationships, and it is time to explain it.
In “Yellowstone” Season 5, Beth tells Monica she has always been mean. Perhaps, that is what Beth has had to say to herself because there is evidence that contradicts it. When viewers glimpse Beth in flashbacks during Season 1, it is obvious that Beth was not born with her claws out. What changed?
Like Mother, Not Like Daughter
When “Yellowstone” explains how the Duttons were shaped by their matriarch, Evelyn Dutton, it takes viewers back to the past. There, they meet a young Beth Dutton, who is uncertain of herself, sensitive, and a bit lost. While Evelyn comforts Beth after she “becomes a woman,” she also gives a harsh speech about what it means to be a woman in the world.
Evelyn’s monologue arguably sets in Beth’s mind that it is her against the world. Beth has accordingly exhibited her mother’s knack for unvarnished “truths.” Before their conversation, Beth’s behavior is timid and a far cry from the tough-as-nails, grown-up “mean girl” she is today. The biggest change to Beth’s personality is revealed earlier in “Yellowstone” when it shows how Evelyn Dutton died.
The Death of Evelyn Dutton
Evelyn Dutton died after getting crushed by her horse after the horse got frightened and both fell over. Instead of comforting or reassuring Beth, Evelyn immediately blames Beth for spooking her horse due to Beth’s handling (or lack thereof) of her horse. She has Beth go for help to “undo what she did.” From this moment forward, the die is cast for the mean Beth Dutton that “Yellowstone” fans have all come to know, some to love and others to loathe.
Beth’s final moments with her mother were not filled with forgiveness or comfort. Her mother clearly blames Beth for her impending death and makes no bones about it. How could that not turn a switch off in Beth? As “Yellowstone” has moved forward, it has distanced itself from this part of Beth’s backstory. Conversely, opting to make it all about the other reason Beth is so mean.
Beth’s Big Secret
After her mother’s death, Beth is desperate for the warmth of a human soul. For all of Beth’s worship of her father, John Dutton is not (nor has he ever been) known for Danny Tanner-level heart-to-hearts. Cue the only other living soul as lost, hurt, and lonely as Beth – her soulmate, Rip Wheeler.
A nascent romance between Beth and Rip eventually begets a pregnancy that a distraught Beth looks to end with the help of her older brother, Jamie. Important to note is that in Season 5, “Yellowstone” subtly reveals that Jamie is five years older than Beth. This timeline puts Jamie around 20 to 21 when Beth came to him for his discretion and aid with procuring an abortion.
Jamie, Jamie, Jamie
Beth’s big brother drives her to the nearby Native American Reservation for Beth to get an abortion. Jamie’s goal in this scenario is two-fold. He has to keep John from finding out that Beth is pregnant and keep John from killing Rip if that truth were to surface.
Jamie does not realize until he is signing Beth up for the procedure that for her to get an abortion there, she must also get sterilized. Jamie is not gleeful at the prospect, far from it. However, he uses his Machiavellian mind to push past it and rationalize signing Beth up for the abortion and the subsequent sterilization. The latter is without Beth’s knowledge and consent.
The Mean Aftermath
It is unclear when or how Beth eventually learned the truth about her condition. It is known that Beth keeps her sterility from everyone, and it remains the seething secret that understandably destroys her and Jamie’s relationship forever. In “Yellowstone” Season 3, John finally learns the truth amid Beth and Jamie’s ever-escalating feud.
The truth does little to free Beth from her hatred for Jamie or her mean-spiritedness. In “Yellowstone” Season 5, Beth wears her meanness as less of a badge than in the past. She continues to wrestle with “what ifs,” self-loathing, guilt, and the weight of keeping her biggest truth from Rip.
One Other Issue
There is one issue that “Yellowstone” refuses to touch, and that is how Beth being sterilized physiologically changed her. Despite having a chance to clarify that Beth’s sterility is due to tubal ligation, it seems to have doubled down on the implausible take that Beth had a full hysterectomy. This has huge implications.
First off, it is impossible to fathom Beth being able to keep that she underwent a hysterectomy a secret from her father. There is no way to recover from that massive of a procedure privately. Now that we have addressed that, there is another plot point “Yellowstone” has ignored. How did a teenage Beth manage the hormonal changes of a hysterectomy? There is no reason to believe that Beth underwent hormone replacement therapy.
Why That Matters
Beth had to deal with a sudden and enormous change in her physiology. She had to grapple with the emotional and physical impact of losing a huge part of herself, and Beth endured that alone. “Yellowstone” has not even allowed Beth to express how she felt beyond her righteous anger over being infertile. The show has told us that she pushed Rip away and engaged in every endeavor to do that.
Back then and now, Beth continues to self-medicate with abundant alcohol and cigarette use. Her family treats this as “Beth being Beth” instead of trying to help her or seek deeper answers as to why she is seeking to self-medicate. No one other than Monica has dared to dig deeper. So, what have we learned about why Beth is so mean?
Beth is mean due to a mixture of many tragic layers, further amplified by her ongoing fury regarding her most unquenched desire. She has yet to realize her revenge against Jamie, a brother she once loved and trusted and for whom her hatred now burns hotter than a thousand infernos.
As much as “Yellowstone” Season 5 sees Beth wrestle with her demons, it also deals Beth her harshest blow. Jamie may be more estranged than ever from the Duttons, but he has something Beth never can – a biological child. Beth is horrified and stung by life’s strange reward for Jamie, and Season 5 sees her stew in it with more sadness than anger most of the time.
However, it is Jamie’s latest betrayal of their father that gives Beth the green light to potentially realize her darkest dream. Beth is mean, but is she mean enough to actually go through with killing Jamie? The rest of “Yellowstone” Season 5 could have the answer to that and if Beth can soften her mean streak. “Yellowstone” is available to stream on Philo and Peacock.