In honour of pride month, I wrote an article on my Pen Name's blog on the popular drama de jour with Bella Ramsay and Pedro Pascal, The Last Of Us
Enjoy the crosspost, everyone.
That's a click-bait-y title if there ever was one, I do say so myself. And far be it for me to judge the efforts and characters of other writers who write characters as homosexuals in their fiction. I don't write gay characters, for religious reasons mostly, but please understand dear reader, that when I title something like this article with such stunning and brave words in this day and age, I do so with the utmost respect and admiration of the writers in question. I did not say because of how gay it is. I said how it's gay. A subtle but distinct difference. Because, as I will try to define and defend, A heterosexual zombie fiction with the same cast wouldn't be a tragedy. Or at least would be a harder tragedy to write.
That's because "The Last of Us" is one of the best tragedies I have ever watched and played as a video game, in its storytelling. It captures the hopelessness and despair of what humanity would face against a truly unstoppable foe, mixed with its own sins to boot, hauntingly.
But it only does so because the writers decided some of its characters were gay.
Let's start with the best character who really has nothing to do with the main storyline. And we'll do so by dissecting HBO's genius decision to cast Nick Offerman as Bill. I do this to set the stage for the multiple ways the main characters highlight the same issues. Nick just does the best on-screen versions of this display though.
Bill is a closeted homosexual in a picturesque town near Boston. A prepper who had the means to hide himself but tragically, none of his fellow townspeople. This is how the writers let us know that he was ostracised from the picturesque town near Boston. It wasn't just that Bill was gay. The town Bill was in clearly wasn't/ He did not like his neighbors. Or he could have saved them. He killed a similar amount of raiders later on in the episode but not the guards of the poetically put, "New World Order, jackboot, fucks." That line sums up Bill to a T. Maybe not the gay part but the reasons why he chose to be gay and alone over closeted and in a moderately well-armed group of survivors.
Bill's first sin is selfishness, not homosexuality. And it shows in how he built his afterlife by trips to Home Depot and the wine store while his neighbors were being euthanized all around him.
But then as his paradise on Earth is established, Bill meets Frank and the writers try to do something that most Zombie flicks do. Remind us that the real story is about humans trying to be, stay, or find other humans.
Frank is literally dropped from heaven into one of Bill's traps, technically from Baltimore. And Bill is faced with a moral dilemma. He is fine with killing things that used to be people and fine with treating people like things that will get in the way of his survival. Fine with being a social recluse. But Bill is clearly not as fine with disposing of a human face-to-face as his gun collection and inner monologue might suggest. He uncharacteristically spares Frank, feeds him an extravagant meal, and graphically makes love to him for the second time ever in his life as a man.
What a dramatic scene and a dramatic deviation from his superb set-up as a character.
Why would Bill do that? Why would he save a person he just met when he would let those he lived with be carted off to certain death at the hands of fascists? And I know what you're thinking. It's because Frank was Gay! but here's the fun part. Does Frank need to be Gay for the rest of Bill's character development, does he? There's a reason why Frank is instantly recognized as a homosexual by Bill, not just because of the tailored pants and nice sweater he wore in the midst of a global zombie pandemic. It's because the writers needed him to be Gay to make this story arc a tragedy. Because otherwise what Bill would have had to do was save or kill a woman in Frank's stead. The woman might have still been gay, in fact, that would have been the most complete way to gin up the romantic growth that happens between the two characters. But had a straight woman fallen into Bill's trap, the story couldn't have been a tragedy anymore. At least not for them. Because it would have introduced the idea of impossible love in a much deeper way. A way that could lead to children.
The writers want you to believe that Bill's character grows to love Frank, but of course he does, he did at first sight because he was gay too. Bill as a character gets everything he wants. Seclusion, Dominion, and a companion. The literal best of both worlds. They try to make this a point of tension with Frank's bringing of Joel and Tess into the town, but that only highlights how much of a compromise Bill has with his previous life and intentions.
In the end. Bill was always going to be Gay, but Frank could have just as well been Francine in the grand scheme of things. But that changes the kind of story it is. It's no longer a story of a love that finally happens and then ends. It turns into a story of love that would never happen. The love a gay man develops for a woman. That kind of love endures far past the death of one or the other.
But like I said, the thing that makes this story a tragedy is how it's gay.
Next, we move on to the show's main characters. Joel and Ellie.
Joel's character is interesting because he starts off as the failed father who then has to adopt and save Ellie. His heterosexuality is engrained into his character as the father type and through his relationship with Tess. But Ellie is written as a lesbian from the start, or at least appears that way.
Ellie gets her unique immunity from a zombie bite that infected her mother during labor. She is still infected but not adversely and the hereditary nature of this maternal protection is never fully described or explained as far as how it works. And there's a reason for that. Knowing how the hereditary nature of the immunity works, would put value on a woman like Ellie to have kids of her own. Something that in the two games and all related material doesn't happen or get hinted at because, guess what, lesbians don't procreate when they have sex. They just have orgasms.
This isn't just a sexist or homophobic jab at the writing though, there's a reason for Ellie having the power to combat the main cause of conflict in the story in her genes, but never using them. Because the only way the show is a tragedy is through the way that it's gay. A straight Ellie who finds out that her mother was bit while giving birth to her and who later finds out when bit that she is immune, wouldn't just go along while looking for the people to extract the cure from her. But she would also have had something very different happen after being bitten alongside her friend Riley. She would have lost more than her first love. She would have lost her first chance at saving humanity, unknowingly. Sitting together with a male Riley, Ellie would have had all the same means and motive to do what we saw Bill and Frank do, but didn't they did not "be all poetic and shit and lose their minds together", as Riley so beautifully put. One dies and the other watches them die. Tragic but not something that makes the story as hopeless as it needs to be, unless that relationship only had itself to lose. If there was no hope for those humans to find Ellie's cure together by passing on Ellie's immunity to their children. Then all that is lost is one lover not all of humanity along with them.
This is why Riley is a unisex name. Because, and I really do think so, Riley was a boy at one point, this is why it was hard for Ellie to kill the other boy who was about to kill Joel when they get to Kansas. Because he was close to Riley's age and was pleading for help. Ellie didn't get the chance to pass her immunity on with her teenage lover, she can't pass it on with her adoptive father, but the boy who Joel has to kill once she maimed him, she could have.
Riley was made into a lesbian so that the forced tragedy of The Last Of Us could stay true to why it's a tragedy. It needs to not have the simple and frankly human motivations of heterosexuality in play as it comes to Ellie's immunity. This is why the Firefly's want to and are willing to kill her to get it out of her. because otherwise the death-oriented ends of homosexual relationships, where without any heterosexual relationship's help, lead only to a more assured death than that from flesh-eating zombies.
If you make Elllie straight, her children, even just one, give hope to the world by passing on the genes that made her special. And that child's children do the same thing. And then when they get killed like Riley did or like statistically most of us would in an apocalypse, you have a real tragedy. A world with no hope or even hope for hope.
Instead, you have a world that only has no hope because of its sexual orientation.
The show ends with the seemingly tragic death of the doctor who would have killed Ellie to get a cure for everyone but Ellie. Convinced by the modern science he is a part of that solution by adding one more death to a tragic amount of premature deaths. Insisting that it will be the last one. And Joel being the father in need of redemption for failing to keep his own daughter alive, kills him and everyone else who threatens the life of Ellie in their intention of saving others with her immunity a part from her life. It's not stated, But Joel seems to understand that Ellie solves the problem of the mushroom zombies by being Ellie not by being immune. He looks far into the future where they are through the pandemic and the danger, to both of them on a farm raising sheep. Joel understands that it's Ellie's possibility for new life that gives hope to the world.
Which is precisely why he is killed first in the second video game.
Joel shows that a father of a daughter is a good thing. Implying that a mother of a daughter could also be a good thing. That kind of hope is not how tragedies are fueled. They need the kind of wrong only a vengeful daughter who had her own father killed could bring upon a world, that above all else needs new life brought into it.
Abby is Ellie's antithesis. Her tragedy is one of seeking vengeance for her father's death at the cost of her father's work. Ellie was the cure just not the lobotomized cure that her father intended, blinded to that she sought to kill Joel out of vengeance, not seeing that he was ensuring that her father's work would eventually be fulfilled in the life of the girl he planned to kill. The second game was a torturous walk through these themes and a doubling down on how Ellie's homosexuality is in juxtaposition to her potential as the savior of the human race.
That's what makes this tragedy so powerful and so true. In our world today these kinds of characters exist in placid happy ignorance of the very real consequences of the lives they chose to live. Of the kinds of sacrifices demanded of others for them to live as such and to enjoy artificially what others enjoy naturally.
Ellie is the savior of that damned world. Wrapped in homosexual plot armor that keeps her from dying to herself to save the damned world. It's the opposite of the gospel, preached first to Eve. In the garden of Eden before our world came crashing down in pain, toil, and suffering.
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow, thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Genesis 3:15-16, KJV
Let the reader, and player one, understand.