Flicks With Nicki – Yellowjackets v. Lord of the FliesNicki Salcedo. Photo by Fox Gradin.
I played a little soccer in high school, but not enough to be competitive. In those days, sports were easy. You played because of the nice weather and your friends. I don’t remember playing to win.
I read many books in high school. Literature allowed me to ponder life and death situations, dystopian futures, and social constructs. We read “Heart of Darkness,” “A Brave New World,” and “Lord of the Flies.” These worlds were wholly male, white, and fragile. I found the stories fascinating, though distant. They always begged the question. “What if?”
What if this story included women? What if this story included me? Would I be seen? Would I survive? Would I become the worst version of myself? Or could I remain the hero?
The Showtime series “Yellowjackets” is a very loose retelling of “Lord of the Flies.” In 2021, we see the lives of four survivors. Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) is a seemingly sweet-faced housewife and mother. Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is a ruthless politician with a watchful wife and son, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) lives on the edge of madness and addiction, and Misty (Christina Ricci) continues to be awkward and capable in her adulthood.
In 1996, we meet a competitive soccer team the “Yellowjackets” navigating power, sex, and alliances. They are on their way to a national competition when their plane crashes in the wilderness. Young Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) is sleeping with her best friend Jackie’s boyfriend. Young Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is willing to sabotage a weaker teammate with a move on the field that breaks the other girl’s leg. We see a compound fracture, blood and bone, but the girls barely flinch. Young Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) is the angry rebel. Young Misty (Sammi Hanratty) mesmerizes us as the team manager who watches the team from the outside, but comes alive in the wilderness.
The problem with “Yellowjackets” is that it is not nearly as sinister and macabre as the initial scene suggests. The first image we see is a lost girl running through a snowy forest in bare feet. We hear her breath, sense her panic, and worry about what is chasing her. She quickly falls into a pit, skewered by stakes in the ground, and becomes food for the gathering of survivors. Their faces are obscured, they wear animal skins, and they are hungry.
We flash to 2021 and want glimpses of this same savagery. Shauna’s house is adorned with bunny knickknacks. When she spies a rabbit in her garden, she quickly butchers it, skins it, and serves it to her unknowing family. Taissa sees ghosts. Natalie carries a shotgun. Misty bullies her patients. They are repressed versions of their savage selves.
Back in the wilderness, Misty rises from the shadows. She is willing to amputate and cauterize. Shauna lies. Taissa seduces. Natalie hunts. None of these things are awful. The future suggests that they will do worse. We watch to find out what it is. I wanted “Game of Thrones” meets “90210.”
Unfortunately, the story meanders between past and present without much tension. People will die in the wilderness. These women will kill as adults. We want to know how far they will go to keep their secrets.
Their total time away from civilization is 19 months. That’s a long time. The 25 years between the stories is also a long time. Mostly, I wanted to know what the secret is. Cannibalism is not good. Is that it? Is there more? Hopefully, we will find out in Season 2. By the end of Season 1, the girls are still lost and some of them, like Misty, don’t want to be found.
What I liked best about “Yellowjackets” were the actors. Lynskey is the perfect face of Shauna and so is Nélisse. Rarely is a show so able to capture the essence of a single character through two people. Cypress echoes Savoy Brown’s Taissa or is it the other way around? Misty is Ricci. Misty is Hanratty. Both embody Misty. We see the strange and perky. We see the ominous and earnest nature of this character. I am happy to see Lewis on the screen as Natalie, and then we meet her doppelganger Thatcher. The story was shaky, but the acting was solid.
These women are me. I was a teen in the 1990’s. I am a variation of that child now. We don’t have to be lost in the wilderness to be tested by time. We’ve witnessed things. Life is love. Life is horror. For “Yellowjackets,” the enemy is not the loss of civilization, but of ourselves. That can happen anywhere.
I’d recommend the series “Yellowjackets.” I didn’t love the story, but I loved the actors. I loved that it gave me a chance to reflect on “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. When I was a kid, my heart ached for Ralph, Simon, and Piggy. Civilization was supposed to be security. “Yellowjackets” showed me that we can be beasts in the wild and at home. With our husbands, children, and friends. “Yellowjackets” is a different kind of cautionary tale. I enjoyed getting lost in it. Grade C+
A few weeks ago, the Decatur High School soccer team had a chance to play Calhoun in the first round of the playoffs. We made the trek from Atlanta to see the game. Imagine my surprise when I noticed the mascot of the opposing team. The Yellowjackets. For a moment, I freaked out. Fresh on my mind was the Showtime series. I thought it would be like “Lord of the Flies.” I thought about Misty, Taissa, Natalie, and Shauna. I thought about Jackie. I wondered what would happen to my kids if they were lost in the woods. What would happen to me? I have a wild imagination.
The Calhoun Yellowjackets were a nice team. The school graciously hosted us. The players were good. The parents wished us luck for the next round. It was a great game against normal people. Not beasts. Not animals. They were kind to us. The worst part of the human spirit is anticipating adversity when there is none. On and off the field.
Good luck to the Decatur High School Women’s Soccer Team for making it to the 2022 Final Four in the state championships for the Class 5A Region title. Go Bulldogs!
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.
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