In the fourth episode of this season of Yellowjackets, Tai hitchhikes across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, headed towards Oberlin, Ohio. The very last scene shows her finding her old flame Van (Lauren Ambrose), who now runs a video store. In episode five, we get a better look at this nostalgia-fueled cinephile paradise. These Yellowjackets scenes not only ooze the energy of one-time lovers, but the video store itself packs in Easter eggs that reflect Van’s personal connection to these films. Let’s get into everything we see in Van’s video store.
Van’s “While You Were Streaming” Video Store Name and What It Means on Yellowjackets
Van’s quaint store/apartment has a big VHS tape as its front. A rainbow streamer also hangs near its door to signal that it’s a safe LGBTQ+ haven. The cheeky name of the business, “While You Were Streaming,” has multiple meanings. She only rents VHS tapes in the era where most people watch their movies through streaming services. The name indicates that Van is living an overly nostalgic life, yearning for a time before the plane crash.
It’s also a play on the title of the 1995 Sandra Bullock romantic comedy classic While You Were Sleeping. But this isn’t just a cozy throwback. In the film, Sandy’s life goes through a major change. The man she has a crush on is mugged and pushed onto the train tracks, falling into a coma. At the hospital she is mistaken for his fiancée by his family, who take her in. Eventually the weight of living this lie catches up with her. It puts her burgeoning relationship with the man’s brother Jack in danger.
Van also had her life changed irrevocably by a mass transportation accident. In its wake, teenage Van became part of a makeshift family with her fellow survivors. Her relationship with Tai leads her to hide the truth about Tai’s sleepwalking other identity. It’s no wonder Van sees a bit of herself in this film.
The Staff Picks Bulletin Board at Van’s Video Store
Behind Van we see a bulletin board filled with Staff Picks. They represent a mixture of films from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Some titles, like Penelope Spheeris’ iconic comedy Wayne’s World (1992), starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, and Herbert Ross’s Footloose (1984), starring Kevin Bacon, are likely just nostalgic comfort watches for Van.
What Do the Other Featured Movies Mean for Van?
Released early in 1996, it is possible that Van saw Danny Boyle’s very R-rated Trainspotting before the accident. Much like grownup Nat and Travis, the characters in this drama struggle with overcoming their addiction to drugs.
The Wachowski’s debut film, the neo-noir romance Bound (1996) starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, came to theaters late in the year during the team’s wilderness time. But its themes of lesbian sexual empowerment and not judging a woman’s sexuality by her appearance alone would likely speak to Van at any age.
The James Van Der Beek-led teen drama Varsity Blues (1999) follows one tumultuous season for a football team in the fictional town of West Canaan, Texas. As a student athlete whose dreams of glory died with the plane crash, Van probably wishes her varsity days were full of normal drama, rather than survival by any means necessary.
Although the inclusion of Mean Girls (2004), the Tina Fey-scripted teen comedy, speaks to how the normal drama that went down on the mountain had escalated consequences. Especially the conflict between Shauna and Jackie, which ended with Jackie dead. There’s certainly parallels with the friction between Cady Heron and Regina George in the film, which also ends in a bit of violence.
Sean Penn’s Into The Wild (2007) is an adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name. It recounts the story of Christopher McCandless, who under the name Alexander Supertramp left civilization behind to live a nomadic life off the grid. In 1992, while living alone in a bus in the Alaskan wilderness, McCandless starved to death. Considering what have seen with Van in the 1996 Yellowjackets timeline so far, it’s not hard to see how she relates to this particular movie in her video store.
The Posters on the Walls in Van’s Video Store
The walls of Van’s apartment and the video store have a ton of posters, some of which are again nostalgic throwbacks like Flashdance (1983), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and Pretty In Pink (1986). But several may have more complex interpretations.
Although a perennial Christmas classic, Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1947) is actually bleak. The film follows a man who’s at the end of his rope and seriously contemplating taking his own life. In its second half, we see how terrible things in Bedford Falls would be if George Bailey had never been born. On the flip side of this, throughout season two, Coach Ben fantasizes how much better his life would be if he’d come out of the closet, quit his job, and committed to a life with his boyfriend. Perhaps Van has similar thoughts about her own choices concerning her relationship with Tai.
William Castle’s Hollywood Story (1951) is a mystery inspired by the murder of silent movie director William Desmond Taylor, which remains unsolved to this day. Like the mystery at the heart of Yellowjackets, there are many theories about what really happened to Taylor. Only those who were involved know for sure, but they kept mum, much like Van and the rest of the team are doing now.
Targets (1968), the directorial debut of Peter Bogdanovich, follows two narratives. One follows a seemingly wholesome young man who later embarks on an unprompted killing spree. The other follows iconic horror actor Byron Orlok as he contemplates retirement. Like the show, the film explores the horrors of modern life through the lens of a thriller. Both of them show how ordinary people can be capable of anything when pushed to the extreme.
Through most of the season, Shauna is still expecting her first child. So it’s no surprise that Van has a poster for Rosemary’s Baby (1968) hanging prominently in the shop. We still don’t know what the mysterious Yellowjackets symbol means or what the man with no eyes wants, but it’s probably something equally as demonic as the cult that Rosemary battles in the film.
Of course there must be a plane related film somewhere in the shop. But it’s particularly hilarious that Van has the Zucker Brothers’ disaster parody Airplane! (1980) on display. The film apes prestige disaster films like Zero Hour! (1957) or Airport (1970), using surreal humor and slapstick comedy.
Along with the myriad of movie posters, there is a prominent UFO poster behind Van’s cash register. The show hasn’t indicated that anything that happened on the mountain is of extraterrestrial origins… yet. But anything could happen.
The VHS Tapes in Van’s Video Store
The store is chock full of retro VHS tapes, but two titles get a special emphasis.
Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (1991) stars Jeff Bridges as Jack, an ex-Shock Jock DJ. His insensitive on-air antics inspire a man to commit a mass murder before dying by suicide. Now working at his girlfriend Anne’s video store, Jack finds a path to redemption through helping a delusional houseless man named Parry on his quest… for the Holy Grail. As Jack gets to know Parry better, he realizes his careless actions earlier had ramifications far beyond his comprehension. Similarly, we’ve seen how each girl, Van included, has made choices that affected others in unforeseeable ways.
Van likely sees a lot of parallels between the unpopular, but wildly confident Misty and eleven-year-old Dawn Wiener, the protagonist of Todd Solondz’s black comedy Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995). Most people shun the nerdy Dawn; however, she always finds the strength to keep dancing to her own beat.
Videos That Van Rents and Talks About in Yellowjackets
In Yellowjackets episode five, a customer excitedly enters the video store to return her rental of Party Girl, gushing to Van that, “Parker Posey is my dream woman. I would marry her today.” Van then cheekily replies, “Get in line.” The 1995 film, directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer (who also directs many Yellowjackets episodes), stars Posey as the titular party girl. She gets arrested for throwing an underground rave. In order to pay back her grandmother for bailing her out, she begins working in the library with her. And it is there where she accidentally finds her passion. The film has a cult following and Posey herself has become something of a queer icon.
Van then recommends the same customer rent, The Watermelon Woman, which she describes as “landmark queer girl cinema.” The classic of New Queer Cinema—and first feature film directed by a Black lesbian—was directed by and stars Cheryl Dunye as a woman who works in a video store while working on a documentary about an obscure Black actress who appeared in films in the 1930s.
The film, which was listed at number 146 on Sight & Sound’s once-a-decade Greatest Films of All-Time poll and has just been added to the Criterion Collection, explores themes of intersecting identities, representation, and the need to sometimes create your own history. The film likely resonates with Van on a personal level due to her past relationship with Tai. Their romance mirrors the interracial relationship between Dunye’s character and her white lover Diana.
The Twin Peaks Homage in Yellowjackets
As Tai reveals why she’s visiting, Van exclaims, “It’s happening again,’ referring to Tai’s sleepwalking. This is an homage to a season two episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is visited by The Giant (Carel Struycken) while in a dream state. A few episodes later, Cooper uncovers the answer to the question “Who killed Laura Palmer?”
There are many parallels between the two shows, from eerie supernatural happenings in the woods, to the mysterious symbol, to Tai’s other identity. Fans of Twin Peaks are likely used to not having everything explicitly explained to them, especially after the magnificent third season reset everything. So the message here could be to NOT look for any easy answers. Instead, it could be about embracing the surreal, dreamlike logic of it all.
Hopefully, we will see more of Van’s video store in future Yellowjackets episodes.