Why 1883’s Most Hated History Error Couldn’t Be Avoided

1883, the prequel spinoff series to the neo-Western Yellowstone, has been lauded for its historical elements – save for one detail that bothers fans.

1883’s portrayal of the lives and struggles of pioneering American settlers from the late 19th century has been celebrated for its authenticity and historical accuracy – although one detail stands out to irk the most hardcore of period drama fans. While the Yellowstone prequel’s tale of the old wild west is entirely fictional, true stories inspired the characters in 1883, who are based on actual people and the social realities of the era. However, as fans point out certain details that have prevented their full immersion into the period drama, online forums are once again ablaze with discussions of how historical accuracy affects entertainment media.

Historical accuracy is doubtless one of the main strengths of 1883. Set in the late 19th century, within the lands claimed by the U.S. government through the Louisiana Purchase, 1883 reveals the roots of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch empire in Montana. This includes the struggles of Margaret (Faith Hill) and James Dutton (Tim McGraw) – the ancestors of Yellowstone’s John Dutton (Kevin Costner) – as they leave Tennessee in search of greener pastures in the frontier. There’s also Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) and Shea Brennan (Sam Elliot), former Union soldiers leading a group of German and Romani settlers searching for the same. 1883’s depiction of diseases like smallpox and cholera further adds to the authentically bleak and grim picture that Taylor Sheridan paints in the spinoff. 1883 also dives deep into how the pioneers both survived and died while attempting dangerous river crossings, fending off bandits, and leaving their precious material possessions behind for a lighter journey. While 1883 shares many key elements with Yellowstone, unlike the original series, 1883 is a period drama that’s thematically closer to traditional Westerns.

1883 viewers, however, have pointed out the fact that all of 1883’s characters have nice teeth, which was very uncommon in the late 19th century. Although dentistry in the U.S. started developing in the mid-1600s, there weren’t that many dentists in the late 1800s yet, especially in frontier towns. Even in the cities and economic centers wherein dentists were much more common, their services were too expensive or painful for most. This is why it’s strange that the entire cast of characters in 1883 have either regular or perfect teeth. That being said, this historical accuracy doesn’t necessarily prevent full immersion into 1883’s world. As some fans argue, the makeup and/or CGI costs of historically accurate dental work would siphon time and resources from the show’s other more prominent visual elements, all of which are essential to depicting the wild west in a convincingly authentic manner.

Indeed, even though 1883’s strength lies in historical accuracy and authenticity, it’s also not a documentary. Rather, 1883 is a prequel spinoff series to one of the most entertaining and fast-paced neo-Western dramas of all time. It only makes sense for showrunners to focus their resources and efforts on elements that contribute more to establishing 1883’s overall atmosphere. While there’s truth to the opinion that crooked teeth is a glaring contradiction to 1883’s compellingly authentic account of life in the late 19th century, 1883’s numbers on streaming platforms like Paramount+ and Peacock speak for themselves.

1883 is a fairly realistic depiction of the socio-political realities and harsh material conditions faced by American pioneers. It also offers crucial insights on the roots of not just the modern ranching industry, but also of the deep divides between white and Native Americans. Whatever one’s misgivings might be concerning the historically inaccurate details in 1883, it remains to be a fresh and highly compelling take on the played-out narrative of surviving in the wild west.

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