‘Yellowjackets’ Brilliantly Captures the Brutal Side of Teenage Girlhood
After too many years of pop-culture narratives that portrayed teenage girls as one-note love interests for teenage boys, we’re living through a moment replete with depictions of young women that actually ring true. There’s Hulu’s Pen15 and Netflix’s Big Mouth, both of which delve deep into the hormonal, horny morass of middle school from a decidedly female perspective; on the more literary side of things, memoirs like Melissa Febos’s Girlhood and T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls unpack the specific feeling of coming into an awareness of yourself as a sex object years before you’re actually ready to claim your own sexuality.
Into that crowded arena comes Yellowjackets, a brand-new Showtime drama from Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson that stars Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci, and Juliette Lewis (among others) and is—more or less—a late-’90s answer to Lord of the Flies, if the marooned boys were actually members of a nationally ranked girls’ soccer team. The show jumps back and forth between 1996, when the team’s plane to a tournament in Seattle crashes in the Canadian wilderness, and 2021, when the survivors are attempting to move forward with their lives despite the 25-year-old nightmare that still haunts them.
“It’s true, violence is never the answer, but that doesn’t mean the anger you’re feeling isn’t useful,” a therapist at Natalie (Lewis)’s rehab instructs her and a group of other recovering addicts, and the show’s portrayal of female anger is undoubtedly one of its most exciting elements. While Lewis, Lynskey, and Ricci in particular are standouts, Yellowjackets is arguably at its best when exploring their characters’ lives as teenagers. The situation of being stranded in the wilderness for 19 months isn’t one viewers will likely relate to, but unfortunately, most women can probably find some understanding for the predicament of being asked to subsume their trauma and smile bravely for the world, no matter what kind of inner demons they’re wrestling on the inside. (After all, one in four women experiences sexual assault on campus, meaning that approximately 25% of female graduates leave college with an unasked-for extra degree in how to live with the PTSD common to many rape victims.)
But it’s not just the trauma at the core of Yellowjackets that’s likely to resonate with viewers. In flashbacks to their high-school lives before the crash, the girls are seen experiencing so many of the hallmarks that define American teenage life, both good and bad. They submit to sex that doesn’t actually do anything for them, get harassed by guys from passing cars, paint each other’s faces and lip-sync to the radio before pep rallies, and—crucially—take their aggression out on each other, often brutally, on the soccer field. There’s plenty of gore in the show, both once the plane goes down and before that, and if the close-up shots of bleeding limbs and screaming agony aren’t for the faint of heart, it’s almost refreshing to see the camera trained on such unflinching moments of violence between women. (After all, women can and do hurt other people, and always have; to pretend otherwise is to wallpaper over reality with long-outdated gender norms.)
Published at Mon, 22 Nov 2021 19:10:47 +0000