The Last of US Part II is a game I liked a HELL of a lot more than I thought I ever would. In fact, I downright loved it.. much more than the original. I loved the original but it wasn’t my favorite kind of game. It was unforgiving, brutal and tragic. I play games to ESCAPE reality. I’m an activist and bleeding-heart humanitarian in my heart and the world breaks it every goddamn day. A big part of me just hates and I mean HATES people and I’m very open about my struggle with that.
So with that being said, The Last of Us is obviously a series about seeing humans at their worst (and glimmers of their best in the midst of all that) so with Part 2, I was expecting a game that was not for me. When I saw how brutal the gameplay trailer for Part 2 was, I had pretty decided I wasn’t going to buy it. It looked so much more gruesome than the first game.
Then.. something just told me to buy it anyways after it came out. I had to see where the story was going.
I cannot even begin to explain HOW a game like TLoU P2 got me to fall in love it with. But..somehow, it did. Something that never happened to me with the first game for the very reasons why I thought I was going to hate Part 2.. But something about.. its complete and total honestly about human nature.. and how extreme it was in EVERY character.. pushed me passed way the point of getting too morally invested with any character and their plight.
EVERYone was so fatally flawed, no one was spared.. everyone was equally scarred, traumatized and morally frail. Especially Ellie and her adversary Abby. Because of that, I was able to not get personally invested with everyone and take a back seat to watch human nature in its purest and visceral nature unfold.
The Last of Us has NEVER been about heroism, or ANYthing as simple as “revenge is bad”, “love your enemy”, “love and support gay/trans people” etc. The Last of Us is about the last of what makes us HUMAN, when so very little love, mercy and human goodness remains in a society devastated by a virus (also imagine playing Part 2 in the middle of a global epidemic.)
To me, this was most evident in how that “one” character dies in the way that he did. It was to remind us that NO ONE is safe, no one is the hero and no one can escape their own past sins and he was just as guilty as anyone in this messy unforgiving world. By killing him, they also taught us what LOSS felt like in this world. By killing him, they took away someone that we came to love and got attached to in the first game.
Just like Ellie. They tested us in the same way the events of Ellie’s life were going to test her. …And judging by the reaction across the internet to his death… most of us failed that same test and showed Naughty Dog just how vengeful, spiteful and vindictive most of us actually are if we experienced the same kind of loss as Ellie did.
In my opinion, Ellie didn’t stop herself from killing Abby because she forgave her or wasn’t willing to kill her. She realized what the whole journey had done to her, how much she lost because of this obsession, how consuming and endless all that hate was but MOST importantly, how in the end, it would NEVER bring him back. For some reason, in that final moment of drowning Abby, her memories caused her to fall into a small “gap” in the vail of her own hate and fell into a crippling moment of pure sorrow, grief and mourning. Killing Abby was empty. It was never about Abby. It was about a love she never got to fully express to Joel. All hate is a defensive response to sadness and fear: a lashing back at the world for depriving them of something they loved by someone else’s actions; and nothing is more “The Last of Us” than that.
So when certain spoilers got around (in the most uncontextual way possible: a leak) people were understandably (but unfairly) furious. So overnight, Ellie went from being the beloved darling of the first game to being the character in the “stupid lesbian game” that shoves “butch muscle-women and trans boys down your throat.” (This game of course also came out at the advent of the “anti-woke” counter-culture online.)
Gamers who were outraged by the previous bombshell leak had a target.. something else they only had a CONDITIONAL tolerance for. This “gay girl” who they spitefully mocked as the character who was “supposed teach how revenge is wrong.” And how on top of all they that, they were supposed to “sympathize with this muscle-woman?”
They did NOT want to accept the dark reality about the leak, especially out of context. So they did not want to suddenly and conveniently accept this “lesbian” in THEIR game. They did not ESPECIALLY want to accept this “muscle-woman” for obvious reasons.
The homophobia, the sexism and the transphobia suddenly came flying in, arms swinging now that their one “condition” was no longer upheld: They weren’t given a story/event that THEY wanted.. and they went straight to blaming it on “the lesbian girl” and “the butch woman.” Finally, a reason to hate on gay, trans and butch characters without making their hidden discomfort obvious. They had a scapegoat: “The story was too depressing”, “it doesn’t follow traditional conflict-arc storytelling” or “it’s a stupid game trying to teach me about how revenge is bad.”
In a way, what the The Last of Us Part 2 tried to do in my opinion succeeded SO WELL, it succeeded TOO WELL. It turned so many gamers against it because it dared to test the waters and give gamers something other than a “I’m the hero/I’m in the right/Nothing bad can happen to me” power-thrill player-pleaser story like we’ve been so used in gaming for decades. And what’s most surprisingly, it never suddenly decided to change its vision; that intent was always there since the original game in its final moments wrestled away our ability to tell Ellie the truth about why Joel took her from the hospital. It set up for moral imperfection and the consequences of that human fault.
What the Last of Us Part 2 gave us was a grueling tragedy; a classic genre in literature. And it found out how many “Ellies” there are out there who will NOT at the last-minute find out how consuming hate is… because, ironically.. too many of them are too hateful. Hateful out of spite, hateful towards those who defy the gender norms of beauty, love members of the same sex or express their authentic gender in a way they’ll never understand.
It reminded me of movies like Edward Scissor-hands where so many viewers didn’t “GET” it because it was too intellectually and emotionally complex for audiences at the time. It reminded me of Pixar’s LIGHTYEAR where just because it didn’t succeed in a way it necessarily expected, people then found a “woke” aspect of it to take down WITH their so-called “sole” dislike of the movie’s “bland story.”
The Last of Us Part 2 is once again ahead of its time like I thought Part 1 was. It told a story we were even LESS ready for than the first game. And in that way, I really love it. Like many of us I’d imagine here, it dared to be itself when the world was not “ready” for it and there’s nothing more “queer” than that.
Written by Courage
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