Is Yellowjackets Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Paul Sarkis/ Showtime

‘Yellowjackets’ is a survival drama that follows a team of gifted female high school soccer players that get stranded after their plane crashes. Forced to survive with no shelter, the group soon devolves into violent clans that fight to survive. A parallel narrative focuses on their lives in the present — nearly 25 years later — as they grapple with the lingering effects of their time surviving in the wilderness.

The show blends multiple genres, with the earlier timeline of the girls in the wilderness leaning towards a survival narrative while the present-day timeline is darkly psychological. There is a lot of moral gray area that the story traverses and is not one that forcefully tries to paint its characters in the best light possible. This gives the show a deep (and disturbing) sense of authenticity, but the events depicted (to say nothing of cannibalistic high schoolers) seem almost too remarkable to be true. So, just how much of ‘Yellowjackets’ is based on reality? Let’s find out.

Is Yellowjackets Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Yellowjackets’ is not based on a true story. The show, co-created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, is largely inspired by the 1954 novel ‘Lord of the Flies’ by the Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding. In fact, the show was initially imagined as a gender-swapped retelling of the novel. However, the idea was allegedly met with skepticism by people who couldn’t imagine a group of girls resorting to the same level of brutal savagery as the young boys in ‘Lord of the Flies.’ The idea (and the skepticism surrounding it) caught writer-producer Ashley Lyle’s attention, and the story of ‘Yellowjackets’ began to take shape.

Image Credit: Kailey Schwerman/ SHOWTIME

Through multiple discussions (reportedly over hikes, meals, and dog-walks) with her husband the show co-creator Bart Nickerson, the show’s story was conceived. It follows many of the same themes as Golding’s novel, including questions of morality vs. immorality and how a group of (relatively) ordinary youngsters can devolve into violent individuals when left to fend for themselves. However, the storyline of the show also benefits from additional layers, most notably its foray into depicting the darker side of teenage girls and female characters in general. Lyle has also said about ‘Yellowjackets’ that she “wanted to tell what felt like a very real story about teenage girls.”

Interestingly enough, the show also draws from some horrific real-life events, specifically the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash of 1972, in which some of the survivors had to resort to cannibalism. Combined with the deeply layered characters that feel all-too-authentic in their morally-gray actions, the show weaves a darkly psychological tale that feels disturbingly authentic to real life. However, it is also balanced by slightly exaggerated characters in the present-day timeline, which depicts delightfully twisted grown-up versions of the girls.

In talking about potentially supernatural themes, Lyle has revealed that the show attempts to walk the line between actual supernatural phenomena and the blurred reality that stems from “some sort of madness that takes hold.” In the same vein, one of the series directors, Karyn Kusama, has explained how they are attempting to ask the overarching question, “What are humans capable of?”

Hence, despite being based on a fictional story, the show uses deeply layered characters to depict the boundaries of human behavior. It smartly draws from a real-life incident (the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash) to set up the premise and then delves into a complex (fictional) plot that explores the darker side of the human condition.

Read More: Where is Yellowjackets Filmed?