The Real-Life Inspiration Behind 'Yellowjackets' On Showtime Is Horrifying

- Yellowjackets -
The Real-Life Inspiration Behind 'Yellowjackets' On Showtime Is Horrifying

Showtime's new drama Yellowjackets isn't an easy watch — especially if the mere idea of cannibalism makes your skin crawl. (And if it doesn't...are you okay?) What's even more disturbing than watching the show, however, may be learning that Yellowjackets was heavily inspired by a true, and brutal, story of survival.

Yellowjackets tells the tale of a high school soccer team whose plane crashes on their way to nationals, leaving the team, their coach, and a slew of others on the plane trapped in the middle of a forest with limited food and resources. The show flips back and forth between the present day timeline, where we see certain survivors in adulthood, and the past, shortly after the plane crashed. But we also get glimpses of some time in between, where a teenage girl is murdered and then eaten by masked figures — suggesting that at least some members of the Yellowjackets soccer team turned to consuming human flesh in order to survive.

Exactly what leads the Yellowjackets to resort to cannibalism has yet to be revealed, but this horror has a dark parallel to a real historical event. According to executive producer Ashley Lyle, who created the show alongside her writing partner and husband Bart Nickerson, the series was inspired by the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, in which a rugby team crashed into the Andes mountains and had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive their two months in the harsh conditions. However, the team did not kill anyone in order to consume their bodies — they ate those who had already died.


Survivor Roberto Canessa wrote in his book I Had to Survive about the ordeal, "Each of us came to our own decision in our own time. And once we had done so, it was irreversible."

It seems that the Yellowjackets survivors could relate to that "irreversible" notion, as despite having left the woods, they still haven't quite left their trauma behind.

Yet it's not just the real-life horror story that influenced Yellowjackets; the creators were also inspired by the 1954 novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding — or, rather, the notion that a version of Lord of the Flies with girls at the center, rather than boys, was to be made.

Several years ago, filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Seigel were attached to that version at Warner Bros., leading to a conversation on social media about whether the story of boys who resort to savagery while lost on an island could really be gender-flipped, given the novel's themes. (Toxic masculinity, while not a buzzword at the time of the novel's publication, is certainly central to its story.) Many people joked that girls would not resort to savagery if stranded on an island, but Lyle disagreed, telling The New York Times, "There was a girl in my high school who poisoned another girl’s food for fun. Only showing girls getting along is not painting a full picture."

The show doesn't shy away from showing the Yellowjackets engaging in brutal behavior — and the worst is likely yet to come. While cannibalism of the dead for survival's sake may be real story that inspired Yellowjackets, if things go more the way of the fictional Lord of the Flies — as it seems like it definitely does — this soccer team is in for even more hell on earth.

Join For Free
Sign up for a free account on our new, female-founded site to personalize your feed and get access to our community and conversations.

Discover More