Yellowjackets is Breaking the Mold for Television Drama

Image courtesy of GQ España

By Noelia Veras

Donned “TV’s buzziest new drama,” Showtime’s Yellowjackets is rapidly gaining popularity in the film and TV industry. The show has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and it is breaking new ground and subverting the expectation that high-caliber shows must come from the big streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO, Apple TV, Disney+, Hulu, or Prime.

The show follows a group of high school girls in 1996 from New Jersey whose plane crashes while traveling to their national qualifying game for soccer. The girls and their coach are left to fend for themselves in the wilderness for 19 months. Yellowjackets toggles between the present, at this point 2021, and the past as it explores how this trauma affected the girls well into their adulthood. Many of the girls resort to extreme measures to ensure their own survival, while many others die. 

It is safe to say that this show is absolutely not for all audiences, as it capitalizes off of body horror and the grotesque in order to classify itself as a psychological horror television show. Yellowjackets does have a sort of duality as it very clearly belongs to the psychological horror genre, while also clearly belonging to the coming-of-age drama genre. 

Akin to the “crazy girl” archetype seen in movies like Jennifer’s Body and Gone Girl, the show highlights the descent into madness that all of these young girls experienced in the woods. What starts out as a story of survival quickly becomes a convoluted story about power, control, and innate human depravity. 

One of the more captivating parts of the show is the portrayal of the human psyche in despair. While these girls experience the most extreme form of trauma and abandonment, they maintain a sort of class structure among themselves. There are characters which hold certain roles in their “mini” society: some are the hunters, others gatherers, and one in particular becomes the medic or healer. 

Misty is the medic of the group due to her strange yet impressive knowledge of survival skills. She is perhaps the most interesting character of the show as Misty is not a player on the team; rather, she is the equipment manager. Additionally, in school she experiences bullying and is first introduced as a side character. However, as the show goes on the girls rely more and more on Misty for her knowledge and expertise. This fuels Misty’s ego and she ends up covertly ruining their chances of escape in the very first episode. 

The main character of the show, especially during the parts of the series that take place in the present is Shauna. Shauna is best friends with the supposedly perfect girl-next-door team captain, Jackie. During most of the season, we see Shauna trying to hide a secret from Jackie that would jeopardize their entire friendship. This part of the plot grounds the show in its identity as a coming-of-age story as it deals with typical high school drama and childish betrayal. 

Taissa is another captivating character as her arc points more toward the show’s elements of mystery and horror. We are introduced to Taissa in high school as she focuses on winning nationals so much and so singularly that she side tackles a teammate she believes will bring the team down. As a result of Taissa’s aggressive move during practice, the other girl breaks her leg. This scene is the first real moment where the show presents a graphic and gory image as we are able to see the young girl’s bone sticking out as she profusely bleeds on the field and screams at the top of her lungs. Present day Taissa is running for New Jersey State Senate with similar dedication and seriousness. When the girls are in the wilderness, young Taissa is constantly telling people what to do, judging those who are not participating in ensuring their survival, and having strange sleepwalking episodes. Taissa’s character throughout the season shows us a disquieting and creepy side of herself whenever she is sleepwalking. 
Overall, the show is an interesting case study for how entertainment can become popularized by word of mouth, rather than by the recommendation section of major streaming sites. Yellowjackets has been renewed for a season two though it is currently still in the pre-production phase. Many fans and critics are anticipating this new season so that they can get answers to season one’s craziest cliff hangers.

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