‘Yellowjackets’ Shauna Shipman: What Turned Her Into A Savage?


In recent times, there has been a broad range of cinematic experimentation around the idea of cannibalism. The metaphorical usage of the desire for consumption takes us beyond body horror. “Yellowjackets” focuses on finding the meaning of survival, but the first act of mutilating and devouring a human body was not merely a response to hunger. Shauna Shipman’s first act of cannibalism was layered with the desire for dominance and control. In this article, we concentrate on the development of Shauna from a teenage sidekick to an adult masking her passion.

Shauna Shipman fancied stepping out of the acceptable and indulging in the forbidden. Jackie’s company validated her existence, but she constantly desired to be more than just the stereotypically ignored best friend. She was visibly disappointed upon finding out that Jeff and Jackie were back together. Shauna, in a way, felt cheated. By agreeing to sleep with him, she believed she had become irreplaceable, but clearly, Jackie was unbeatable. Her interest in Jeff stemmed from extreme envy. Shauna wanted to live the life that Jackie had. By taking Jeff away from Jackie, she hoped to achieve a sense of victory. Her relationship with Jeff was an act of rebellion. It was unacceptable and therefore satisfying for Shauna. She wanted Jackie to take note of her. She was tired of Jackie’s lack of interest in her life. After the crash, Shauna started to grow out of Jackie’s shadow. Jackie’s popularity and, therefore, her validation were only significant in the world they previously belonged to, but in the wilderness, Jackie barely had any skills to survive.

Shauna became her own person and developed a friendship with Taissa that was rooted in compassion. Unlike Jackie, Taissa was not controlled by her moral compass. She was flawed, and Shauna Shipman could completely relate to her. Jackie lost her trust in Shauna once she found out the entire truth through Shauna’s journals. Instead of a confrontation, Jackie internalized the betrayal and shock she experienced and decided to alter her personality. She was convinced that she must let go of all the values she abided by and detach herself from emotional engagements. Jackie’s decision to build a sexual relationship with Travis was not approved by the group. While the influence of drugs surely had a role to play, the group’s hostility towards Jackie was not unthinkable. Logically, Natalie was far more important to the group than Jackie, and they decided they must protect her from emotional damage. While Shauna had betrayed her best friend in the past, she, too, participated in teaching Jackie a lesson.

Jackie was subjected to the envy and frustration of the entire team. When Shauna Shipman was handed the dagger to spill blood, she was ready to engage in the act. The expression of savagery and primitive desire took precedence for the first time. The object of lust turned into the object of consumption, followed by a chase where the predators hooted and screamed at their prey, and finally, the prey submitted. While Shauna could not go through with the blood spill, she did not suffer from guilt the next morning. When Jackie shamed the group for their primitive behavior, they were infuriated. Shauna refused to bow down and displayed her newfound courage by standing up to Jackie. It seemed that all her life, Shauna repressed her fantasies, believing that they were too peculiar and erratic to ever be expressed. Now that she had witnessed the idiosyncrasies of her teammates, she experienced a sense of belonging. In their world, a woman such as Jackie was unwanted and therefore deserved to be punished.

Jackie’s sudden death can be explained through the lens of Darwin’s natural selection. She was holding the group back from expressing themselves, and she lacked the skills to survive in the wild. The sudden absence of Jackie massively affected Shauna. Even though she was envious of Jackie, she had never imagined her life without her best friend. For two months, Shauna regularly spent time with the corpse. Shauna had learned to negate her guilt by finding the flaws in Jackie, but now that she was gone, she was forced to think over her actions. It became challenging for her to accept that she had acted out of jealousy. She expressed her frustration with the corpse and was devastated to find Jackie’s ear lying on the ground. The reality came into focus as she held onto the ear. Jackie was long gone, and all that remained of her was falling apart. She realized that it was Jackie’s existence that resulted in the guilt that she carried. By consuming the body part, she chose to erase Jackie’s existence from her life. The act can also be interpreted as Shauna’s ultimate dominance over Jackie; she chose to take in what she was once envious of. Shauna had no reason to fear her thoughts and her desires anymore. The voice that once dictated to her is now silent.

After twenty-five years of unleashing her repressed desire, Shauna Shipman had not changed. She continued to explore taboo pleasures and did not shy away from lying on her daughter’s bed and staring at her boyfriend’s picture while she sexually stimulated herself. She was not interested in the stranger she accidentally met, but the moment she realized that Jeff was cheating on her, she allowed herself to go beyond what was acceptable. Shauna was a stay-at-home mother, and her life was quite mundane. With Jeff’s affair, she could allow her imagination to run wild, and she enjoyed every minute of it. Shauna had always been emotionally distant, and her affair with Adam made it all the more evident. She stabbed him the moment she realized that he was a threat to her and her friends. Even with barely any physical evidence, she convinced herself that he must be killed. Her lack of guilt and remorse after killing her boyfriend explains how far she was ready to go if her past was ever threatened to be exposed. Shauna is capable of enjoying a tub of popcorn while watching the news about Adam’s disappearance. Jeff was sympathetic to Shauna’s past and never passed judgment on it. But he was overwhelmed when she discussed how the thought of him being with another woman excited her sexually. While he got carried away at the moment and made passionate love to Shauna, he was later horrified thinking about the entire scenario. His wife had murdered her lover, and they engaged in a moment of passion at his art studio, with paintings of Shauna all around.

Shauna Shipman suffered from guilt after devouring Jackie’s ear. She had no explanation for her actions, and she was scared of her dark side. The distinction between the right and the wrong (the moral and the immoral) was slowly blurring for Shauna. She never wanted to part with Jackie’s body, yet her hunger and wild instincts encouraged her to cut a slice off her hands. She was repulsed by her thoughts, but in the end, she gave in to them. When the group’s effort to cremate Jackie’s body failed, Shauna declared that Jackie wanted them to eat her. The entire group blissfully forgot how Jackie had called them out for their savage behavior when they attacked Travis. While the first bite (the ear) was layered with guilt, envy, love, and hunger, the final feast was pure hunger. They were driven by the most basic instinct that exists in every life form: if you are hungry, you must eat. Moral consciousness is what distinguishes modern humans from animals, but what happens when we negate that? With every episode, we explore the duality of Shauna Shipman. She is a soft-spoken woman who is a loving mother and a bored housewife but is capable of burning down a place and mutilating bodies if anyone dared to threaten her existence.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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