The Unsettling True Story That May Have Inspired "Yellowjackets"

Showtime's electrifying thriller series "Yellowjackets" is back for more murder and mayhem in its second season. The show follows a high school girl's soccer team — the titular Yellowjackets — destined for the national championship when all hell breaks loose. On the way to the championship, their private plane crashes in the woods and the group is forced to do whatever it takes to survive. Meanwhile, in the present day, the surviving Yellowjackets, now adults, are dealing with the repercussions of what they had to do to survive and go to extremes to keep the secrets of their time in the woods hidden.

Fans might wonder if "Yellowjackets" is based in reality. While it's not a completely true story, it does have real-life inspirations. Here's what we know.

Is "Yellowjackets" Based on a True Story?

The show isn't entirely based on a true story, but it does resemble the real-life Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 disaster. On Oct. 13, 1972, the flight was bound for Santiago, Chile, from Montevideo, Uruguay, when poor weather conditions caused the plane to crash into the Andes Mountains. Flight 571 carried 45 total passengers, 19 of whom were members of the Old Christians Club rugby union team, but upon impact, only 34 survived. Unfortunately, the frigid temperatures of the mountains, along with a lack of supplies and severe injuries, caused several more fatalities, leaving the remainder of the survivors stranded. For 72 days, the survivors took whatever measures necessary to survive, even resorting to cannibalism.

"Yellowjackets" seems to draw inspiration from the tragic disaster, as the group of sports players, the plane crash, the cold climate, and violent, cannibalistic actions are all paralleled in the series. One major difference that ratchets up the drama, however, is that in "Yellowjackets" the soccer team is stranded for even longer than the real survivors were: 19 months.

What Inspired "Yellowjackets"?

Show creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson have noted that "Yellowjackets" is influenced by William Golding's 1954 novel "Lord of the Flies," which is about a group of boys stranded on an island. Lyle elaborated on this on The Hollywood Reporter's "TV's Top Five" podcast in November 2021, saying, "'Lord of the Flies' is about how socialization falls away and how society is a facade. We thought, who is more socialized than women? As girls, you learn early on how to make people like you and what the social hierarchies are."

Furthermore, Lyle highlighted how the series explores gender roles and performance in even the most extreme of situations, noting, "It's a more interesting way of having things fall away. The mask is even thicker. It's a more layered amount of preconceived notions of how to behave and act."

In a November 2021 interview with the New York Times, Lyle added that she wanted to counter the ideas that girls can't be savage and will always work together. "There was a girl in my high school who poisoned another girl's food for fun," she said. "Only showing girls getting along is not painting a full picture." At the same time, she wanted to honor the importance of relationships between girls, calling some of her high school relationships "probably the most important in my life."

In a March 2023 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lyle revealed another source of inspiration for "Yellowjackets": iconic fictional mobster Tony Soprano. "Tony Soprano is an absolute monster — but, because he's so well drawn, you understand him," she explained. "That's what we're aiming for. We have conversations about what could be too far, but it's less about likability for the characters and more about the type of story. We never want to be shocking and salacious for the sheer joy of it."

"Yellowjackets" season two started streaming on March 24 and airs on Showtime on Sundays, returning with a new episode on May 7.