Arts & Media

Now Streaming: Cults, Gays, and The Psychological Consequences Of Being Abandoned In The Wilderness for Nineteen Months

Anna Grez ’27 and Georgia French ’27
Staff Writers

Contains spoilers for Yellowjackets

Showtime’s Yellowjackets is a thriller — and thrill, it indeed does. But just why is it so scary? We watch the characters’ mental decline as they freeze and starve in the inhospitable wilderness. At the same time, we are left wondering if — or what — unexplainable supernatural forces are at work.

The show holds such an obvious resemblance to Lord of the Flies that we assumed it was a loose adaptation. The fundamental differences in dynamics between the novel and Yellowjackets evolve from the distinction between the group’s makeup — the former being prepubescent boys and the latter being high school girls.

For the stranded boys, confidence, physical dominance, and the sense of audacity only a 12-year-old boy could have are essential qualities of the leader. Power is given to the strong and loud rather than the intelligent. In comparison, Lottie’s (Courtney Eaton/Simone Kessel) emerging leadership in Yellowjackets comes not from her brashness or wilderness skills but from her unexplainable skill of soothing the group in distressing times. Her power comes from her ability to de-escalate the danger of a situation.

Despite the less glaring aggression in the Yellowjackets’ dynamic, they eventually fall into a community just as brutal as that of Lord of the Flies. Their psychological calculations and personal vendettas proved to be more destructive. The cause of Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) death — while technically freezing to death overnight — was a brutal fight with Shauna (Sophie Nélisse/Melanie Lynskey), leading her to sleep outside in the snow. Fueled by exceedingly vulnerable personal issues, the argument left Jackie so mentally wounded she opted for the physically dangerous wilderness over the security of the cabin. Jackie’s need for distance from Shauna was greater than her need for literal shelter, making this avoidable death all the more painful.

Lottie’s character was perhaps the most terrifying, and vastly augments the show’s fear factor all on her own. From the beginning, she has a clear connection to the wilderness, eerily referred to as “it” throughout the show. Her leadership inspires the emerging cult in season two, something she mirrors in her “wellness retreat” in the present-day timeline.

The scariness of the show is derived from the ominously unknowable aspects of this force. We are left to rationalize for ourselves: is “it” an outside force trying to control them or, more terrifyingly, a hallucination from their own collective delirium?

One draw to the show for many was the promise of queer representation. While the show certainly includes this, some things were left to be desired. The two main couples in the 1996 timeline, Taissa & Van (Jasmin Savoy Brown/Tawny Cypress & Liv Hewson/Lauren Ambrose) and Natalie & Travis (Sophie Thatcher/Juliette Lewis & Kevin Alves/Andres Soto), are established fairly quickly following the crash. Travis and Natalie grow closer over their daddy issues and their shared role as hunters for the group. Van and Taissa bond quickly and have a stable, though still deeply traumatic, relationship throughout this timeline.

Despite the simultaneous existence of both relationships, Van and Taissa are overshadowed by the utter drama of Natalie and Travis’ on-again, off-again dynamic. Yellowjackets had every opportunity to focus on the former’s relationship, and yet we are forced to fill in the blanks.

Speaking of queer relationships, there is an undeniable vibe between… all my lesbians say it with me … Jackie and Shauna! Although they never admit any feelings for each other, the heavy implication parallels relationships many queer women have prior to realizing their sexuality.

Let’s lay out the pieces: Shauna and Jackie are close — best friends, in fact. But best friends don’t sleep with their best friend’s boyfriend.

Shauna does just this after feeling a lack of attention from Jackie. Her infatuation leads her to seek comfort in the closest thing she can get to Jackie — Jackie’s partner. Jackie is established in the first episode to show little attraction to Jeff (Warren Kole). The only time we see her wanting to be with a man is after she finds out that Shauna slept with Jeff. Who sleeps with a random guy to take revenge against your best friend? Subconsciously or not, Jackie is clearly attempting to make Shauna jealous.

Shauna also finds support in Taissa, one of the only other queer characters, throughout their experience. All of this suggests a — at least heavily coded — queer dynamic between Shauna and Jackie. Disappointingly, Shauna’s sexuality in the present day timeline was never explored, and the plot instead revolved around her heterosexual affair.

Now that season three is officially back on, there is hope for our unanswered questions: Is “it” real or just a symptom of their shared trauma? Will Shauna’s sexuality be explored in its entirety? Which timeline will be focused on next season? And finally, will the third season be filled with the cultish aspects, gay undertones, and occasional murder which make the first two so addicting?

Image Source: Colin Bentley