The Last of Us features a world completely inhibited by the large and over-whelming population of animated dead people. With all these carnivorous, deadly humanoid beings lurking in the shadows of the dark alleys and broken down buildings it’s no surprise that the entire living population has reverted back to survival mode where the militaristic government is scarce at best and no-one is fighting over gun laws or civil rights because every single living person lies awake at night, gun-under-their-pillow wondering if they would be lucky enough to die another day.
This wretched post-apocalyptic world features the two main protagonists Joel, the man on the mission, and Ellie, the young girl assigned a fate worse than death, although for the purposes of this discussion I’m going to focus on Ellie (in the DLC: Left Behind).
Now, Ellie is really young at this point (the events occur before the main game events) and one must keep in mind that this horrible world is the world that she was born into, the only world she’s ever known: no materialism and no internet only weapons, violence, and zombies.
She’s grown up learning how to kill a person but doesn’t know the first thing about how to marathon-watch Netflix.The notion of coming out of the closet in her world doesn’t exist. What does exist are the feelings and emotions coming straight from the heart (or rather brain or hormones or something).
I’m alluding to the part in the DLC where she kisses her friend, Riley.
Creating an environment such as a post-apocalyptic world yields so many possibilities both in writing and in living within (which explains why there are so many creative works surrounding the idea). A person could be transgender or pansexual or both or neither and not be ashamed or confused or frightened of the consequences of identifying a certain way and expressing said identification. The world is completely stripped of the invisible rules that inhibit our lives everyday allowing the writer and characters to fully focus on themselves and the task ahead.
In the scene there was no need for explanation there was only a (not exactly) consensual kiss, but even when Ellie apologized to Riley, Riley responds with a simple question that hints at the world’s apathetic nature towards orientations: bi-, pan-, poly-, hetero-, or otherwise. The world accidentally designed to create the perfect environment for everyone.
The complete suppression of a person’s life causes the little things like the repercussions of stealing weapons or expressing one’s sexual-orientation or gender negligible constructs since the world is fighting a much larger battle that spans much farther than one person and their identities and choices because it’s about survival and if you can’t make it to the next day than the fact that you’re bi-curious and killed your neighbor for food won’t matter at all.
Honestly it makes me horribly sad and disappointed that it takes world-wide crisis and the threat of human extintion to overthrow societal constructs like prejudice, racism, gender inequality. Maybe it’s because everyone in that reality must live in the moment since they don’t know what might happen in a week, a day, or an hour from the time they might be alive to the time they die or worse become infected and enslaved in perpetual animation. It’s more important to them to live without regret rather than torment others because one day, any day, you might not be living anymore.