How Yellowjackets Validates the Experiences of Teenage Girls


The TV series Yellowjackets was released last year and was an instant success. It became the second most-watched TV show on Showtime before being beaten by Dexter: New Blood. The finale had over 1.3 million viewers on Sunday alone, doubling the number of viewers from the premiere. The series was renewed for a second season that should be released by the end of this year. The show is gripping from the first episode to the finale, leaving the audience eager to know more about the most famous fictitious high-school soccer team, The Yellowjackets.

The series has an overwhelming majority of a female cast, including well-known names like Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynskey, and Juliette Lewis. The TV show has two timelines: the first one is in 1996, telling the story of a high-school female soccer team traveling to attend nationals when their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. The second timeline in 2021 shows the survivors as adults trying to move on with their lives. As the audience discovers what happened in the 19 months they stayed in the forest, the show depicts how the girls (the ones who survived) are dealing with a ‘normal’ life after such a traumatic event. A spoiler? Not very well.

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Following these two timelines (the crash and nearly 25 years later), there is a refreshing seriousness when showing what the characters felt and experienced when they were teenagers. Not only being about survival and what sacrifices (maybe even literally) they had to make, but how strong feelings (like betrayal and love) and events are taken seriously. Here is how female realities and experiences are explored in the show.

Group Dynamics in Yellowjackets


Showtime

A co-creator of the series, Ashley Lyle, mentioned in an interview that one of the things which instigated her to create the show was that social hierarchies are taught to girls when they are very young. That way, when the characters are ripped from the environment they are used to, the changes are even more drastic. She said that, “It’s a more interesting way of having things fall away. The mask is even thicker. It’s a more layered amount of preconceived notions of how to behave and act. ”

Related: Here’s What to Watch If You Liked Yellowjackets

On top of that, the characters are a part of a soccer team. Soccer is a collaborative sport that heavily relies on people doing what their position on the field requires them to in order to win. Therefore, at first, they relied on the dynamics they were already accustomed to, such as listening to their coach. The team’s captain, Jackie (Ella Purnell, now in Fallout), starts to lose her power and influence due to the unusual circumstances. This leads to an opening for people who usually do not shine, like Misty (Christina Ricci), to have a place to make a stand and make a difference. It’s interesting how these dynamics change and how it creates conflict between them.

Validating Young Women’s Experience


Yellowjackets
Showtime

An unfortunately common thing happens with stories that have young female protagonists: their experiences are seen as unimportant. There is a judgment that comes across the moment something traumatic happens to a teenage girl in a movie or TV show, with it often being treated as something silly that she should get over.

That is not the case with Yellowjackets. All their experiences are validated, not just the traumatic ones. Even when they are older they do not look back with the usual judgment (regarding the normal things, not cannibalism). What they did and, more importantly, who they were, matter to their older selves. Their first love, the betrayal of their best friend, the social pressures to be a certain type of girl everything follows them as they get older. The series shows how these developing years really influence who they are later on. Misty is bullied and excluded by the other girls from the get-go. The feeling of being left out and alone scarred the character deeply enough to make crazy decisions, such as destroying the airplane’s black box when she heard the other girls saying how they would not be able to survive without her. It also makes her extremely defensive and paranoid when she is older.


Teenage Girls’ Brutality


Showtime

A few years ago there were rumors about another movie adaptation of The Lord of The Flies, but with girls instead of boys. This led to mainly sexist comments such as, “What are they going to do? Collaborate to death?”. The project never really happened, but Lyle was impressed by the backlash the idea received. Her response, amongst creating a show that was based on this idea, was, “You were never a teenage girl, sir.”

Related: Melanie Lynskey Says She was Body-Shamed on Yellowjackets Set

One of the most important and compelling aspects of the show is how brutal the characters act and are. A lot of times, teenage girls are shown as sweet and naive. However, as the director of the first episode of the show, Karyn Kusama, said “The plane never even had to crash for things to get quite dark, potentially, between everybody.” Their violent behavior started long before they stepped on the plane.Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown), one of the main characters, purposely injures another player so that she can not go to the nationals because Taissa saw her as a weak link on the team .The girl ends up breaking her leg (in a very graphic scene where you can see the broken bone that tore her skin) and not going.


Later the plane crashes, forcing the girls to do a lot of brutal acts to survive: cutting off the broken leg of their coach, killing animals, and preparing them for being cooked are only the start of it. There are also the scenes from a few months into the wild that are not fully explained yet: a girl is hunted and prepared to be eaten in a ritualistic act. The brutality in the show has only begun, and the mystery surrounding how those teenage girls became a cult in the wilderness is one of the most anticipated parts of this story.

Yellowjackets finished season one with a lot of questions. A clever social commentary on the lives of teenage girls, this story is more than just a horror tale about survival.



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