TV hit Yellowjackets is an exciting and chilling story about female survivalism
Few hit TV shows are inspired by the comment section of news articles.
show time yellow jackets was conceived in 2017 when its creator saw that an all-female remake of lord of the flies was widely mocked on the internet, with many doubting that the girls would turn into barbarism like the schoolboy characters in William Golding’s 1954 novel.
The new series – sort of a cross between the aforementioned book and the popular ABC show Lost — tells the story of an all-girls soccer team at a New Jersey high school whose plane crashes en route to their national championships, leaving the survivors stranded in the Ontario wilderness for 19 month.
Their slow descent into madness – which is hinted at in the pilot episode’s gruesome opening scene – shows that not everyone will starve, but many won’t make it out alive. With its ensemble of female stars, yellow jackets offers a refreshing look at what a woman-led society might look like, and it’s probably not the utopia you expected.
For yellow jackets star Sophie Nélisse, who was born in Windsor, Ont., the story’s dark examination of womanhood was part of the appeal. Nélisse plays Shauna, a shy teenager overshadowed by her charming best friend, Jackie.
“I love that it embraces the darker sides and the less pretty sides [of] women,” said Nélisse, who grew up in Montreal. “We’re always meant to be put in this box where we’re pretty and we’re nice and nice, but we can also be kind of assholes, you know – and that is OK, because we are human.”
WATCH | The Canadian Yellowjackets star tells CBC News about his starring role:
The show, which ends its first season on Sunday, overturns stereotypical ideas about what women are capable of, as gender “falls by the wayside” in a society where people must perform equal work in the name of survival, said Roxana Hadadi, a TV reviewer on US pop culture site Vulture.
“I think the show does a really good job of pushing back on this idea of, you know, ‘If all the women got together, then we’d be fine,’ showing us honestly how infantilized that argument can be,” said Hadadi. .
Split timeline shows the 2 sides of femininity
Hadadi partly explained why yellow jackets succeeds in this because it is split into two timelines. In the desert, without the rigid social constructs of modern society, girls are simply human beings trying to survive.
By the time we catch up with them in adulthood, they have fallen into line with conventional ideas of what a woman should be, which they find unfulfilling.
The first timeline, set in 1996, covers the year and a half the girls spent in the desert. Here, the show oscillates between psychological wit and survivalist horror – we don’t know if the wackier elements hint at supernatural forces or are a symptom of the girls’ madness.
The second timeline takes place in 2021, as the 25th anniversary of the crash looms over four known survivors: Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Taissa (Tawny Cypress), Natalie (Juliette Lewis), and Misty (Christina Ricci). Each of them has repressed his dark history and rebuilt his life, with varying degrees of success.
If others made it out alive from the initial ordeal, we have yet to find out.
“We were starved, searched and begged for 19 months” – that’s the official survivor line, for anyone asking. But they soon discover they are being blackmailed by a stranger who threatens to tell the world what really happened in the woods.
The women reluctantly band together again to protect the truth.
Surviving high school hierarchies
The show’s creators have a vision for five seasons, which will presumably end with the rescue of the team.
As brutal as the series has established itself, yellow jackets is also attached to the inner life of its female ensemble, demonstrating how the high school social hierarchy is itself something to survive.
After the crash in the woods, it’s not hard to tell which characters will cling to the hierarchy (queen bee Jackie squeals at the sight of a dead animal, for example) and which will be more than happy to abandon it (certified loner Misty, who is treated like a plague until she breaks out her Girl Scout skills). The fact that the head coach’s teenage son is among the few male survivors also causes problems.
But something must replace the troubled hierarchy, Hadadi said.
“It’s kind of what you see in lord of the flies: if hierarchy is gone, then what new patterns or behaviors are you creating for yourself to restore some kind of order?
Fans of the series are propelled by the suspense of this question and have taken to Reddit, Twitter and TikTok to share their own theories about the story’s trajectory.
The fact that the series aired using a weekly storytelling model — not the binge format — helped generate conversation, Hadadi said.
Q16:58Sophie Nélisse on the success of Yellowjackets — a survival drama set in the Ontario wilderness
What we do know is that many of the yellow jackets the girls have dark sides that are driven out by the hopelessness of their situation, which Nélisse likens to having a second personality.
“The one thing you know you have to face is your true self and your values,” she said.
“I think Shauna is almost afraid of this other person. It’s like she doesn’t like this version of her, but she still has to come out at some point.”