Nostalgia, they say, comes in waves that break piece by piece as a new generation learns how their parents lived. In the 1990s, the narrator of Radiohead’s song ‘The Bends’ exclaimed, albeit sardonically, ‘I wish it were the ’60s. Over the years, pop culture has been awash with a longing for the ’80s—an era that perhaps reached its final pinnacle with the debut of Weird stuff in 2016. Now, in 2022, it seems like many people – or at least those who make movies and TV – long for that time when Radiohead itself first dominated the airwaves.
This churn, the phenomenon of people reviving the culture of the past every few years, is at best described as a cycle of nostalgia. The problem is that there is no real measure of the frequency with which these revolutions occur. The aughts, thanks to shows like crazy men, for example, also had an air of 1960s sentimentality. Adam Gopnik, to write for The New Yorker, called this the “Golden 40-Year Rule,” but sometimes the culture strikes much faster than that. All it takes is a few kids on TikTok Reviving Twilight to bring back the 2000s. Or, in the case of Showtime’s mystery/horror/coming-of-age drama yellow jacketsa deeply wistful appreciation for those flannel-clad days before social media and smartphones took over teens’ lives.
Let’s be clear: yellow jackets is not a fuzzy pink view of youth. It’s about a New Jersey girls’ soccer team stranded in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash on their way to a national championship in 1996. Some of them—the show is purposefully vague about how many—make it back to civilization. But there are indications, many of them, that very bad things have happened in those forests, down to some sick ritualistic lord of the flies shenanigans and maybe-probably cannibalism. Like Lost, it jumps in time — it cuts between the girls’ childhood and the present, spreading Reddit thread-worthy unsolved mysteries everywhere. But not like Lostfeels its appeal rooted in a desire to return to those halcyon days before the internet — while also serving as a reminder that they weren’t so halcyon at all.
It is hard to indicate exactly when, but at a certain time in the past weeks, yellow jackets went from being a restrained phenomenon to a cultural force. Example: there is now a BuzzFeed Quiz designed to tell you which member of the soccer team you are. Much of the show’s popularity can be attributed to great reviewsexcellent word of mouth and the fact that viewers had extra time to catch up during the holiday season—plus Omicron has kept many at home and watched.
But there’s something else, something even lower in its appeal: it’s a mystery filled with the kinds of symbolism, clues, and Easter eggs that the Internet likes to devour and hypothesize. There are reddit threads (a lot), news Articleand more Twitter chatter than you can shake a Antler Queen at, and in this deep winter COVID-19 peak moment, it’s hard not to go down an online rabbit hole to decode everything. Last night’s Season 1 finale just gave fans more cannibal catastrophe content to chew on.
This is all a bit ironic because one of the things that is attractive about yellow jackets is that it’s so lo-fi. American teens barely had AOL in 1996, and none of them had smartphones. They listened to Snow’s “Informer” because it was on the radio and watched While you were sleeping on VHS because there was none Netflix† This is not to say that everyone who watches yellow jackets wants to go back to a more primitive, pre-Internet age, but there’s something appealing about living in that world—for Gen Xers and millennials who grew up in it and for younger generations curious about its contours.