The internet’s latest favorite anti-internet show is Yellowjackets. Its plot begins in the idyllic days before smartphones engulfed the lives of teenagers. Everyone on social media, of course, is obsessed.
They say nostalgia comes in waves, with each one smashing when a new generation learns about their parents’ lives. By the aughts, pop culture was immersed in nostalgia for the 1980s—an epoch that, with the premiere of Stranger Things in 2016, may have reached its pinnacle. Now, in the year 2022, it appears that many people—at least those who make movies and television—wish for the days when Radiohead ruled the airwaves.
This churn, or the phenomenon of people reviving the previous culture every few years, can best be described as a nostalgia cycle. The problem is that there is no meaningful indicator for how frequently these revolutions occur. To bring the 2000s back, all it takes is a few teens on TikTok infusing new life into Twilight. Or, in the case of Yellowjackets, a truly wistful admiration of those flannel-clad days before social media and cellphones took over kids’ lives.
Yellowjackets isn’t a romanticized version of adolescence. It’s about a 1996 plane tragedy that leaves a New Jersey high school girls’ soccer team trapped in the Canadian wilderness on their way to a national championship. Some of them make it back to civilization (the show is deliberately ambiguous about how many). However, there are numerous signs that “something very bad” happened out in those woods.
It time-jumps like Lost, jumping between the sisters’ childhoods and the current day, strewn with Reddit-thread-worthy unresolved riddles. But, unlike Lost, its popularity seems to be built in a longing to return to those halcyon days before the internet—while also serving as a reminder that they weren’t exactly halcyon.
It’s difficult to say exactly when, but Yellowjackets went from a minor phenomenon to a cultural force in the last few weeks. The show’s success can be credited in part to positive reviews, positive word-of-mouth, and the fact that viewers had additional time to catch up throughout the holiday season.
But there’s something else about it that appeals more: It’s a puzzle with all the symbolism, clues, and Easter eggs that the internet loves to devour and speculate about. There are more Reddit discussions than you can imagine, news articles, and Twitter buzz. It’s hard not to go down an online rabbit hole trying to decipher it all.
Not only does half of the show take place in a wilderness with little to no technology, but it also features heroines who mainly avoid it. All of this occurs just when nostalgia for the 1990s is reaching a pinnacle point (hello, flared pants might be back soon!).
Watch Season 1 now on Showtime. In other entertainment news, Across the Spider-Verse producer hints at MCU crossover, Futurama is making a comeback on Hulu and Dakota Johnson has been cast for a Madame Web spin-off series.
Photo via Showtime