The book behind the Firefly Lane series is rooted in real-life events and inspiration from the author’s life that ground the story in reality.
Is Netflix’s Firefly Lane based on a true story or is it merely fantasy and fiction? Though not technically based on a true story, the coming-of-age series includes autobiographical details and historical influences that ground the show in reality. Set in the Pacific Northwest and spanning three decades, the story follows Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey over the course of their long friendship and is based on real life events.
In Netflix’s Firefly Lane, showrunner Maggie Friedman changes the linear timeline of the novel in favor of a plot that allows the show to jump around in time. But like the novel, the series covers Tully and Kate’s friendship throughout the ’70s, ‘80s, and into the ‘00s. Each time-period is vividly expressed through the locations, fashion trends, and pop culture references included in the costume design and detailed sets. From the present-day scenes in the early 2000s, Firefly Lane carries viewers back and forth between the decades, as Tully and Kate grow up, go to college, and land their first jobs in Seattle.
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The novel behind the series is rooted in real-life events and inspiration from author Kristin Hannah’s life. According to an interview with UW Magazine, the scene where Tully and Cloud move from Washington to California in a VW van is taken directly from Hannah’s childhood. She has talked about the many ways her past inspired the story, from growing up outside of Seattle, to her college years at the University of Washington. On her website, Hannah states that what she loved about writing the story was the memories it evoked:
“I was able to return to my youth, the disco era…tease my hair and dance to Madonna…Not only does the story follow the friendship between two women, it also tracks the ever changing face of the Pacific Northwest.”
Overall, the people and places that appear throughout the series establish the setting as it evolves along with Tully and Kate. In the ‘70s, Kate and her mom discuss going to see John Denver, one of the most popular, best-selling acoustic artists of the decade. In the ‘80s, Kate jokes about naming her child Madonna. At the TV station where Tully and Kate work, they produce a news segment promoting the Jane Fonda at-home-workout routine (complete with neon-colored leotards and tights) that became popular during the decade. In another scene, Kate’s brother Sean talks about meeting someone at Pike’s Place, Seattle’s famous fish market, and home to the original Seattle’s Best Coffee shop that eventually became Starbucks. Back in the present day, Tully craves Krispy Kreme donuts. The brand, which had been around since the ‘30s, gained popularity after the company went public at the beginning of the new millennium.
In addition to the cultural references, set design and wardrobe are essential to Firefly Lane’s realism. In the ‘70s, pastel pink countertops and kitchen appliances, flower-power wallpaper, and tie-dyed blankets recreate the decade. This, combined with a wardrobe of bell-bottom jeans, folk-embroidered blouses, and floral patterns paired with jewelry made of beads and stone encapsulate the era. Inspired by Farah Fawcett’s feathered look that first became popular in the ‘70s, Kate’s hairstyle spans both decades. In the ‘80s, Tully and Kate’s wardrobe staples include glittered sweaters, shoulder pads, and clunky jewelry. At Sean’s wedding, Mutt films the event with a VHS camcorder, and Kate, in her taffeta dress with puffy sleeves, is the epitome of the ’80s bridesmaid. These details add to the story’s authenticity. Through the show’s thoughtful art direction and production design, along with its timely real-life references, Firefly Lane captures the history behind the narrative’s setting, bringing the story inspired by Hannah’s past to life.
Next: What To Expect From Firefly Lane Season 2
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