Yellowjackets is Borrowing From Moon Knight's Worst Sin
Let’s talk about Taissa.
There’s something up with Taissa Turner, that much is clear. But what exactly “that” is has been kept open to interpretation.
Over the past few episodes, we’ve seen her guzzle up soil, bite into her girlfriend’s bottom lip so hard that it bleeds, and rip out the heart of the family dog to offer up to the Wilderness. All signs hint that Taissa has Dissociative Identity Disorder — or at least, that’s what we, the viewers, are made to assume. But like Disney+’s Moon Knight, Showtime’s Yellowjackets provides an imperfect representation of the mental health condition.
“Dissociative identity disorder is a mental disorder that is defined through an altered state of consciousness,” Anthony Tobia, a professor of psychiatry at Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, told Inverse in an interview last spring. Tobia explained that these altered states of consciousness are referred to as “alters,” fractured parts of your consciousness that break off into another personality and, in their most extreme, can essentially act independently from each other.
Both Moon Knight’s Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) and Yellowjackets’ Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown/Tawny Cypress) certainly present with the most common symptoms of DID, as relayed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). These include: memory loss (amnesia); a sense of detachment from yourself and your emotion; distorted and unreal perception of people and things; a blurred sense of identity; significant stress or problems in your relationships, work or other important areas of your life; inability to cope well; and other mental health comorbidities.
Steven and Taissa, like many real-life DID patients, avoid the mirror so as to not be confronted by the perceived appearance of their alters. In the third episode of Yellowjackets Season 2, “Digestif,” Taissa not only sees her alter in the mirror — an angrier, more sinister version of her dominant personality — but she also pleads with her, frustrated by her alter’s interference in her life.
But the mirror gimmick, like a lot of the DID representation in both shows, isn’t entirely accurate. Per Tobia, these interactions between alters are highly unlikely, because Steven (or Taissa) wouldn’t be able to communicate with their alters consciously as they do in the show. “That's overly dramatized and very unlikely,” Tobia told Inverse. “The individual is much more likely to just simply perceive it as a voice and may even present their psychiatrist with auditory hallucinations.”
Sure, one is a superhero and the other is a senator, and perhaps their surface-level similarities end with the potential DID diagnosis they share, but Steven and Taissa have also had comparable (and misrepresentative) experiences on-screen.
What’s bad about “The Bad One”
One of the shows’ worst offenses in its representation of DID is how their respective protagonist’s alter is deemed “the bad one,” giving this persona villainous traits.
In Yellowjackets, Taissa’s son literally refers to her alter as “the bad one,” the woman who looks like his mom but doesn’t act like her. Taissa’s alter stares creepily into her son’s bedroom atop a tree while chowing down dirt; Taissa’s alter beheaded beloved family dog Biscuit and gouged out the googly eyes of a doll; Taissa’s alter doesn’t keep her eye on the road and is about to say something insidious to her wife before they collide with another car. In Moon Knight, Marc is far more capable of violence than Steven, but the end credits of the show revealed that one of their other alters, Jake, is the humble homicidal servant of the Egyptian god, Khonshu, willfully killing at his command. Both Moon Knight and Yellowjackets fashion cartoonish caricatures of alters for the sake of moving the plot forward and adding more elements of mystery and horror, but they do so at the risk of vilifying a disorder that affects about 1.5% of the global population.
Psychiatrist David M. Reiss told Inverse in an interview last spring that these media depictions are often “exaggerated,” overly dramatic,” and often portray “dysfunctional, dangerous and/or sociopathic/psychopathic” characters, which further stigmatizes the condition.
DID and Divine Intervention
Blemishing the shows’ respective DID representation even further is that viewers of both Moon Knight and Yellowjackets can never be entirely sure how to separate the scientific from the spiritual. Both showcase the origins and the triggers of dissociative episodes with significant ambiguity to make space for “the chicken or the egg” problem.
In Yellowjackets, the inception of Taissa’s probable DID is murky. Flashbacks to Taissa’s early childhood in Season 1 suggest that she could already see “The Man Without Eyes,” one of her frequent nighttime hallucinations, below the age of 10. Visual hallucinations, though less common as auditory hallucinations, are a real-life symptom of DID. However, Taissa’s grandmother also saw this same exact presence on her deathbed. While it’s unclear if Taissa had symptoms of DID present before the events of Yellowjackets, Taissa and her grandmother’s ability to sense the “Man Without Eyes’” presence infers that there’s something divine and otherworldly about the figure and that it’s not just a delusion as a side-effect of DID. In Season 2, the “Man Without Eyes” mirage is further tangled by its seemingly inextricable link to what exactly is going on in the wilderness, as it guides Taissa when she’s “sleepwalking” (presumably switched to her alter) to specific locations where trees have the mysterious symbol.
Moreover, her girlfriend and fellow teammate Van (Liv Hewson) is increasingly convinced that Taissa’s DID goes beyond psychiatric definitions and medical conventions. As her faith in Lottie’s (Courtney Eaton) “powers” grows, Van is less able to rationalize Taissa’s condition as anything but a spiritual gift. To her, Taissa’s DID symptoms are bestowed upon her by “the Wilderness,” the deity the girls have begun offering blood sacrifices and praying to following Lottie’s instruction. “The Wilderness,” Van reasons, must be trying to say something using Taissa as its avatar. The series has, thus far, kept the root cause of Taissa’s somnambulism and amnesia vague — is it a latent, mostly textbook case of DID that was triggered by the extreme stress of the plane crash (and later again in adulthood by the campaign and being blackmailed), or does it have a supernatural explanation?
We last see Taissa in the third episode of Yellowjackets Season 2, back in the present and grabbing her aide’s keys to drive somewhere. She calls up the reporter Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma) on her iPhone, evidently unaware at that moment that Jessica was, uh, dealt with by Misty (Christina Ricci).
So, was the Taissa that was making the call ... Taissa Turner, State senator elect of New Jersey, or the “bad” Taissa? Next Sunday’s episode may clue us in. Or not.