I read Lord of the Flies as a high school freshman and loved it. It was a fascinating portrait of human nature. Fast forward to January of 2022- my roommates tell me about a new show they described as “if the boys in Lord of the Flies were replaced by an all-female soccer team in the 1990s”. I was so excited to see what the show had to offer. One season later, and the show completely exceeded my expectations. Not only is it just as fascinating as the original novel, but it explores the diversity that is female emotion and experience. In this piece I hope to explain why “Yellowjackets” is a breath of fresh air in the surge of female-centric media we have seen as of late.
The plot of the show is so incredibly interesting and has so many twists and turns that I will attempt to leave almost all of it out of this article. Instead, I will simply analyze a few of the general aspects of the show that set it apart from other popular media right now.
I was immediately astonished by the show’s predominantly female cast. Fourteen of the characters are female, compared to only 7 recurring male characters. As a result, the show more than passes the Bechdel Test. That’s not to say that the characters in the show don’t experience romance or attraction- they absolutely do. However, when they do engage in this behavior, it is on their own terms. This running aspect of the show was one of the most refreshing aspects of it to me- every character had complete control over her sexual agency.
The most outstanding aspect of this show, however, is its unapologetic use of horror motifs. Too often in media do we see the infantilization of teenage girls in an attempt to preserve the overall image of feminine innocence and purity. This show immediately does the exact opposite- portraying the girls and their struggle against the forces of nature in a graphic and gritty light. It’s realistic, and serves to better represent the girls’ traumatic experiences in the wilderness. Far too often are women in horror movies and shows reduced to sexual objects. Movies like the “Saw” series and the “Scream” series portray their female characters in highly graphic, brutalized positions while also reducing their characters to promiscuous, attractive eye candy for the more developed male characters. Even movies that center around female main characters such as “Carrie” and “Jennifer’s Body” retain a focus on female sexuality while also portraying the characters’ womanhood as the reason for their villainy. Yellowjackets, on the other hand, allows each woman to exist in a horror context without objectifying them or unnecessarily villainizing them. Each woman reacts to her situation in a different way, mostly due to previous experiences or trauma that is well explained through dialogue and flashbacks. Furthermore, in the moments in the show that flash forward to the girls as adults, their trauma is still quite well represented. Each woman displays their own coping mechanisms- some healthy, some less so- which is a detailed and accurate picture of how people can respond to the same trauma in wildly different ways.
Again, for the sake of not spoiling anything, I didn’t want to go into much detail about the show, but with the news of a second season being in the works, I didn’t want to let the incredible work that the actors, writers, and producers have done so far go unrecognized. If you haven’t watched “Yellowjackets” yet, I highly suggest you do. It is, in my opinion, one of the most raw, honest portrayals of young adult women in television in recent years.