the last of us – a feminist perspective

TheLastofUsPoster

The Last of Us– a highly anticipated and positively reviewed (unanimous 10s?) game– came out on Tuesday and has been in the PS3 since then. Some of you out there have probably already beaten the game or at least progressed way beyond where full time job and two kids allows you to progress to but that’s okay– not gonna stop me from passing judgment on the stuff that I’ve seen just yet.

Now just in case you haven’t heard about The Last of Us because you don’t typically care about these things or you’re out of the loop somehow, it’s about the post cordyceps-cum-human-fungi-strain apocalypse (zombies, basically) that runs over the earth and makes everything complicated, sad, and stressful. Not to mention, of course, zombie apocalyptic.

So about that game…

SPOILERS ALWAYS.

It’s interesting the game chooses a single father relationship to demonstrate the pain of becoming a survivor. The daughter is such a small part of the game play (though big part of the story) that including a wife would have been an irrelevant freebie for the ladies that really makes no long-term difference to the storyline. Especially since the game writers did include an uncle (though he does return later in the game).  But the game could have included a wife or that uncle could have just as easily been an aunt (Lara Croft anyone?) or even a best friend (boy or girl) who is a person of color (if the interracial family doesn’t fly with your writers). The daughter could have been half white, half something else or adopted PoC.  I would say the lead could be a PoC or even a woman but I think that’s rather ambitious of me (as if everything previous to this statement wasn’t).

(My ambitious wink.)

Regardless, there is a single father relationship and of course the absolute worst thing you can imagine– okay, second to worst thing you can imagine– happens to this little girl (who possibly inconsequentially looks boyish). So back to the practical aspects of the game without going into all the speculations on what could have been, the first female character to appear in the game is freezer-boxed within like 10 minutes of gameplay. But at least there was a feminine-esque character included at all despite the fact they were a tom-boyish little girl.

SarahBut here’s the funny thing about a daughter, why is a daughter considered frail? Why is it that in all the games whether the girl is a tomboy or a girly girl (whatever those terms mean anyway) women and daughters are always portrayed as frail?  Obviously she’s a “tough” little girl and as if to demonstrate the horrors, she’s killed off.  Sons just aren’t afforded this same weak status though they’re arguably just as vulnerable– it just never comes up.  But killing off your daughter is definitely a quick and effective way to rope you deep into the story almost immediately in the most brutal way imaginable (as a parent writing this). Even so, the idea that the girl is supposed to be more progressively strong and “masculine” (for lack of a more appropriate term coming to mind) yet still manages to get hurt in some way or relies on the male lead for protection is unsurprising.  It smacks of sexism– men are stronger than women– and ageism– the young are weak and vulnerable and the same old stereotypes recycled as compelling story a million times.

Even deeper than the frailty of a child, we have a pasty blonde girl as the daughter.  The father has dark hair so the daughter having light hair is, for all intents and purposes, not biologically likely (though still probable). The reason why it matters is because white is often held as a symbol of purity so what’s weird is the fact that she is killed when things go bad like a great symbolic death of purity on the macro and micro levels.  It’s not surprising to imagine that an otherwise capable little girl wouldn’t make it through the beginning stages of the apocalypse (parents try not to think too hard about why) but it does smack of cheap parlor tricks story-wise.

So the call to adventure is loud and clear– kill or be fungied– and 20 years in the future the father has gotten himself into some sort of illicit trading scheme to make questionable living circumstances marginally better with a woman who turns out to be a love interest of sorts. Like a sort of fallen hero, he has no children (can you really blame a person?) and so we’re kind of watching this game unfold like “where is this going”? Where is Joel (the main character) going after 20 years in this zombie hell?  And if it’s 20 years in the future how come there are still “infected” roaming about?

Anyway, when you watch the trailers, there is a little girl and the man and it seems like he’s her father and she’s his daughter. However, you know that the daughter of the man you see from the trailers (Joel, the lead) has already died. So at this point I was wondering where the little girl was going to come into play.  Also, I was hoping the little girl was going to come into play because the “strong male lead with a witty and driven female accomplice” game is so played out in my opinion. Looking at the gaming company, Naughty Dog, it doesn’t seem that out of sorts (x) but still.

On the way to reconciling the daughter-figure question, you wind up crossing paths with the first POC that isn’t inconsequential (more or less) and she’s wounded and only serves to propel story forward (but she’s a woman and she’s black). Seriously though, I know in a zombie apocalypse everyone is dying and it’s crazy, but what’s up with the females being shot, weak, and irrelevant? And has there ever been a PoC character that’s made it to the end of the movie or show without being killed off (though they stress multiple times that she will be fine, she’s essentially dead to the storyline so…)?

So it is through the wounded POC, Marlene*, that you meet the little girl you’re supposed to deal with.  This girl is a quick-wit, strong willed and tough little warrior.  She is also the same age as the lead’s daughter when she died– and she has dark hair. While this girl is still innocent and of course lighter skinned (pure), her hair is not blonde (still soiled by hell) and there are not even any blonde characters on screen (’cause no one can be pure in hell) as though even the innocent can’t be completely innocent in an apocalyptic world like theirs (no matter how true that is). She also happens to be filling a bit of a savior role as they think she can be useful in contributing to great immunization work.

So the plot– kind of– thickens. The female partner of Joel is bitten and succumbs to the fungus (another fridge, eh?). Joel, of course, has a difficult time dealing with her death and institutes a ban on discussing her (the stern but caring man trying to fulfill the dying wishes of his lover-friend– humble, aloof, loyal…) and they continue on their tortured way.

A few times the girl insists that she is capable of defending herself and Joel insists she quiet herself and let him take care of everything. While it makes sense from the perspective of a parent-child relationship (stereotyped relationship, anyway) but it’s disappointing. Why not be a bigger dad type and let her try? Why not break the boring cliche parent trope that says adults must always take care of children because children aren’t capable of responding and behaving properly? That could have been an incredible moment where parents go, “YEAH! THIS IS HOW I WOULD FIGHT WITH MY KID IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!” but no. Instead these moments are filled with awkward projection and overbearing stereotypical parental crap that should have stayed in the 50′s when they didn’t understand much about life.

Which is all to say, this could have definitely been interesting to break through boundaries on many levels. There’s still, of course, plenty of game to get through, but that doesn’t mean that if and when the girl is allowed to fight (after inevitably proving herself capable somehow) that it’s empowering. Instead, females proving their worth to battle is always the way females are allowed to fight. That’s asinine and at some point (thought maybe when the world as we knew it ended) you have to say to yourself– gender norms are a thing of the past, grab that bow and shoot the heads off some infected, girl.

On a side note, I’m not sure what’s going to happen to the girl, but I do find it interesting that she’s essentially going to die so from the perspective of positive female representation, does she count? If we’re able to relate to a character that from the start is going to die, then how positive is her inclusion in the game?  Even if she lives, does that make a difference in the way that they were able to integrate her into the game? I know it’s all part of relevant story and the story line, while problematic for the aforementioned reasons, is great. The question is just why must it be part of such a rigid gender based paradigm that is completely played out?

So the now-duo’s ultimate goal is to get the girl to the anti-government group, The Fireflies, but first they must bring her to Joel’s brother* (the uncle from before) who can be reached via a car. Getting a car means they have to talk to some other guy who is strange and reclusive– and totally could have been a woman (talk about breaking gender barriers with a woman living on her own in the midst of a zombie apocalypse!) or a PoC. This guy is neither and while the mentally unstable white guy is a more believable representation of a… well… mentally unstable loner, variation and twists on the status quo are always welcomed. Twists, of which, there are none so far.

As far as game play and visuals go, this game is amazing. The detail is absurd! It blows my mind that video games can be what they are today and I am blown away by this game. Naughty Dog is top notch gaming and I would still recommend The Last of Us for many other reasons outside of the problematic story elements.Gaming is always going to be fun and rewarding, it’s just that sometimes it would be nice to have gaming culture or games reflect important social movements in relevant ways.

Gamer culture is so overtly hostile toward women. While there are women in games, the representation of them has almost always been in some way sexist or misogynistic. Even The Last of Us has elements of that misogyny (think loner white dude) in its game. But instead of catering to the same old tropes and easy stories, make something that blows the tropes out of the water by challenging gender stereotypes, norms, and oppressive perspectives. Make a game that, like The Last of Us, wows people so much with its attention to detail and gameplay (amongst other things), that it’s groundbreaking socially as much as any other category by which we judge an amazing game.

 

*Has been edited to reflect oversights in the original post.

Comments

  1. Zav says:

    If you really want to be taken seriously with a “feminist perspective”, you should at least finish the entire game before you write a novel length blog post dissecting something you don’t fully understand.

    It’s absurd how every single decision a game developer chooses to make has to be “problematic” from a “feminist perspective”. I pity people who have to sit through their media collecting tropes and finding ridiculously trivial things to complain about rather than just enjoying the product for what it delivers. You can turn ANYTHING problematic if you run through enough mental gymnastics. Just relax and enjoy the game.

    And again, finish the game before you try to act like you know what’s happening and write up a long blog post about it.

    • admin says:

      While I agree that finishing the game will give me a more well-rounded perspective of which to understand the storyline, nothing I’ve said in this post will become irrelevant upon finishing the game. It seems like you didn’t read my novel length post dissecting something I actually fully understand. As you said yourself, it is a “choice” made by game developers– of whom the majority are male– to have the story play out a certain way. Women like myself– and people of color– have learned since the birth of gaming to “just enjoy the product for what it delivers.” And while we enjoy the product, that doesn’t mean the product doesn’t have problems. It is not trivial to discuss the desire for women and people of color to be accurately represented in the games we have been supporting and consuming for over 30 years in a way that isn’t cliche and stereotypical.

      So just RELAX and enjoy the intersectional feminism.

      • Zav says:

        There are plenty of things you have said in this post that you are just completely wrong on that will become irrelevant once you finish the game. I’ve beaten the game, hence, why I can say you don’t fully understand the things you’re talking about. You’re just blindly grasping at straws to twist this into a social justice angle.

        I can go into the details if you really don’t believe I read the post, but I didn’t want to do you the disservice of spoiling the game, particularly on the big points you seem so adamant about. I will point out that you called Marlene by the wrong name. I assume Daisy was mistaken from Daisy Fitzroy in Bioshock Infinite, another woman of color like Marlene. I found that VERY problematic because that says to me that you think all women of color look the same.

        No but seriously, the reality is that as a feminist, EVERY portrayal of women and people of color is going to be “problematic” from your perspective because you’ll always find something to nitpick, not because it isn’t “accurately represented” but because it’s just not what you want to see. Explain to me what an “accurate portrayal” is exactly. Going by the criteria you have said so far, this game provides plenty of “accurate portrayals” but yet, you still blatantly and falsely accuse it of doing things it doesn’t just to keep stoking feminism flames.

        I mean you talk about all the females being “shot, weak and irrelevant” and it’s blatantly clear to me that you have no idea what you’re talking about. As someone who beat the game, I’m wracking my brain how can you call Tess or Marlene weak? How can you call Marlene or, for fucks sake, Ellie, irrelevant? Tess is arguably a stronger character than Joel, without Marlene there is no story, and Ellie is such a more relevant character than Joel in so many ways that you could call her the main protagonist of the entire game.

        There’s so much to dissect in the character development in this game that this post is laughable and an insult to the developers that you generalize and just say it’s filled with cliches and stereotypical tropes. These Anita Sarkeesian trope arguments do nothing but encourage incredibly shallow thinking. They lack any real comprehension of the games themselves, lack any deep analysis into who the characters are, and simplify everything down into the lowest common denominator of “racism” or “sexism”. The only thing that is cliche and stereotypical are the same old tired feminists arguments that pop up for every single game.

        • admin says:

          I do not believe that what I am saying is a logical fallacy (grasping at straws? please…) simply because there is more to the game than the first 1/3 or 1/2 I have played might suggest. As I stated already multiple times, I am reserving judgment on the ENTIRE game but the thoughts contained in the piece are things that occurred to me BASED ON THE GAME SO FAR.

          With that said, I have no idea how I messed up Marlene’s name. What can I do at this point other than accept that I called a character by the wrong name and that makes me look racist if you conflate it to Bioshock which, yes, I am familiar with so I can’t say that no where in my brain was that related somehow. Therefore if you’re going to accuse me of being racist I guess I have to throw up my hands and say OK. I don’t think all women of color look the same but whatever. Oh well. Should have cross checked a wiki or something.

          As for the rest, I don’t need to ‘explain to you’ what an accurate portrayal is because that is the whole article you are commenting on. If you are going to go through it and read it with your MRA agenda of hate then what can I possibly say to you? You won’t hear or see anything I am saying without immediately thinking it’s BS. I can say Nothing. Ever. At all. Therefore, this article remains and you can continue to read it and get irritated with what you believe is stupid feminist bullshit or maybe get the point. I don’t care. I didn’t write this for you so whatever you do is on you.

          In regards to portraying characters (women, POC), there is the standard portrayal and there is the radical portrayal. This is not radical, this is BETTER, but The Last of Us is not radical. If you consider this game to be radical simply because of certain elements (like a gay character and more than one female and POC) then you are missing the point entirely. This piece is asking WHY NOT to a more radical portrayal of every group of people (what about trans* since we’re talking about gay) and pointing out how even within a “radical” redesign of certain presentations of groups of people in the entertainment industry, there is still SUCH A LONG WAY TO GO and some of those portrayals STILL (while present) fall into stereotypical presentations of groups of people.

          Next, I did not call Tess OR Marlene weak in the sense that they’re incapable of fending for themselves. I said that STRONG FEMALE LEADS are always somehow put out of the game so the focus can be redirected toward the male lead. That means that they must be killed, shot and temporarily weakened, or whatever else. They become irrelevant because they are not part of the playable game experience. They are not progressing story past their little entrance and quick exit in the story. Whether they are discussed again, come back later, or never enter into the sphere once more is not relevant to the game. Just because a character ADVANCES STORY does not mean that character is important to the story line.

          Ellie, for all intents and purposes, is not a playable character. Therefore this game does NOTHING INTERESTING in regards to women. If she becomes playable later, that is not currently in my experience so whatever. Even so, for the majority of the game, NOT PLAYABLE. How does that break any boundaries again? I could go on but I’m wasting my time on someone– you– who doesn’t appreciate what I’m saying.

          If you refuse to see how the game can be BETTER, than you are the one engaging in shallow thinking. I even said I applaud Naughty Dog. I love their franchise. I’m not afraid, however, to look toward greater things and not sing the same asinine praises just because the game is one of the best ever made.

          • Bill says:

            I’m sorry, but by the end of the game pretty much your entire blog is invalidated. (and YES it IS a logical fallacy to make a judgement based on limited information) (SPOILERS FOLLOW)

            Let’s start with this:

            Regarding the “strong female leads” being “killed, shot and temporarily weakened,” for your information, at a very crucial point in the game it is JOEL who is wounded and weakened, and ELLIE who has to take care of him, protect him, draw the enemy away from him, kill the enemy to save him-and YES you play her for this sequence- PROTIP, THIS MEANS YOU’RE FLAT OUT WRONG WITH NO EQUIVOCATION when you say “Ellie, for all intents and purposes, is not a playable character. Therefore this game does NOTHING INTERESTING in regards to women.” And of course that makes you look pretty darn ignorant when you then conclude with “If she becomes playable later, that is not currently in my experience so whatever,” which of course IS a logical fallacy, even if you want to try to wave it away (much like a Biblical creationist does with evolution). Yes, Joel saves Ellie as much and more, but NEVER is Ellie rendered as helpless as Joel is in that crucial point in the game.

            But I won’t get further into plot specifics. I’m going to explain to you why Joel is the way he is, and why Ellie is the way she is.

            HERE IS WHY YOU ARE WRONG ABOUT ELLIE BEING SOME SIDESHOW AND JOEL BEING THE MEAT OF THE STORY:

            He is the BACKDROP from which we view Ellie. As to why the BACKDROP is the character you play most of the game, that should be obvious if you think hard enough: when you’re going through your life on a day to day basis, how often do you see other people? How often do you see yourself, watch yourself talk, watch your own actions? When you watch the consequences of the actions people take, you view them from a less biased perspective. The avatar is always the field on which the action takes place. What is important is the action, not the field. Joel is the field. Ellie is the action.

            Joel was chosen to be a man with deep personal anguish hidden away with a hard exterior for one reason and one reason only: to make the way Ellie changes him that much more powerful. With a non-stereotypical Texan jerk it would not have been possible to accomplish this relationship change.

            I notice that you are able to accept the explanation for Bill’s asshatery being his need for survival, but refuse to consider that explanation for Joel’s (his initial refusal to let Ellie have a weapon, for example, would be a BELIEVABLE position for a character like Joel to take: thinking a child with a gun adds more danger than help is what you would expect from someone like that)

            WHAT’S MORE, THE GAME SHOWS HOW JOEL WAS WRONG ABOUT THOSE ASSUMPTIONS HE MADE ABOUT ELLIE! THAT IS A FEMINIST COMMENTARY!!!!!!!!! The game shows how typical cowboy Texan Joel is biased in his views towards young women, and it shows how he is flat out wrong. Now, I understand that you would rather games just assume the world is a pretty little perfect place where sexism doesn’t exist, but if you wanted to REALISTICALLY portray how a particular sexist attitude is wrong, you have to actually PORTRAY IT. In this particular instance the game shows Joel he is wrong in his views, and it shows him changing them because of what Ellie does.

            Regarding your “grasping of straws,” you have made a fallacy there as well. There is no objective evidence for your pop-psychology interpretation of imagery. This is you projecting your own defenses onto it.

            As for why Sarah (Joel’s daughter) is a daughter and not a son, it’s because that loss and relationship is RELIVED between Joel and Ellie (*also, Ellie was NOT the age that Sarah was when she died. Ellie is a few years older). It HAD to be a daughter to set up the plot for later in the game, particularly the final point of the game where Joel basically screws mankind because of his selfish love for Ellie that develops.

            In the end, both of these characters rub off on each other, but Joel, while the main avatar you control, is the GENERIC BACKDROP from which the gamer sees ELLIE changing things. She is the key. She is the ultimate driver of the story. Yes, this involves the changes she causes in Joel, but without her this game is a flop.

          • Bill says:

            Shoot: I didn’t specify why it had to be a father-daughter relationship rather than a mother-son.

            Men in our society are taught to bury their feelings. Boys aren’t allowed to cry in school, lest they get made fun of. This makes men hard to connect with. In light of the traumatic experiences of this game, it makes it doubly so.

            That conflict is VITAL for the story. Given our current society, you WOULDN’T find a mother-son type relationship very often in which the older of the two is as closed off as Joel is to Ellie initially, and as a result you wouldn’t be able to tell the story of how Ellie manages to change Joel’s character. In today’s culture, such a relationship conflict and catharsis wouldn’t be possible with an older woman and a teenage boy.

            Hence the reason it had to be an older man and teenage girl. Because of evils in our culture, this meaningful story would be less believable if it was Joan and Elliot instead of Joel and Ellie.

          • Zack says:

            This was so painful to read and clearly this whole article is man hate BS.

            Play the damn game and do not write a review based on the opening cutscene that you watched on youtube.

            Cannot say too much without spoilers so Ill leave it to two points:
            1. Females are in all the authority roles
            2. That little girl you keep referring to as frail and weak would wreck you.

  2. orinthe says:

    I’m wondering if you’ve gotten to the end of the segment involving Bill, who you describe as a white loner embodying a misogynistic stereotype. I’d be interested to hear if your opinion changes when you do, as, I think he was anything but stereotypical and misogynistic, and I’m not even entirely sure I agree he’s best described as a loner.

    SPOILERS AHEAD
    ==========
    Yes, when Joel and Ellie first meet him he seems very much to embody the trope of a paranoid loner, but it seems to me that this is subverted by the fact that as it turns out he didn’t choose to live alone but rather lived outside of town together with his partner, Frank, another man who (it is very strongly implied) he is romantically involved with. Offscreen and prior to Joel and Ellie’s arrival Frank and Bill’s relationship deteriorates and Frank and tries to leave town on his own. Far from being a stereotype, I read Bill as an interesting, nuanced, gay (or possibly bi) character that doesn’t fit neatly into any boxes. I applaud his inclusion and characterization given the dearth of queer characters in video games that challenge stereotypes.

    • admin says:

      Just saw your comment. At the time I had posted this, I hadn’t found out that Bill was gay or at least greatly implied that he had a relationship with his “partner” Frank (I think we can safely assume that is the lover-partnership and not just an all business partnership). That is where I was when I wrote this piece. I can greatly appreciate that detail and I welcome it!

      With that said, IRL just because two men are gay (especially gay white men) does not mean that they aren’t misogynistic or racist. For the sake of the game, it doesn’t matter. I did see that while Bill was reluctant to help I think it was coming more from a place of survival than total assholery and he did wind up giving kudos to Ellie when she handled herself well. And I agree with his inclusion being awesome. :) Thanks for your comment!

      • Andre says:

        “especially gay white men”
        What about gay white men makes them “especially” likely to be misogynistic or racist?

  3. mas says:

    OP…really finish the game or watch the full 3 or 5hr playthrough on youtube before you make your incorrect conclusions. Some very odd and biased comments.

    The symbolism of a blond daughter being pure and portrayed as weak female in your comments I think you’re really grasping at straws to somehow demonstrate that as male oppression and sexism. His daughter dying in the start is key driver to understanding why Joel makes the choices he does in the end, there is no primary intention of making a female appear weak as the purpose. It’s about losing a loved one.

    There is a blond female introduced as Tommy’s wife in the post holocaust scenes so i don’t get the odd comment with no blonds in hell only brunettes. Again watch it fully through.

    To be fair I think the game has strong female leads,
    - Marlene objectively stuck to her convictions in the end for the greater good despite the personal cost
    - Ellie, where as you said “Why not break the boring cliche parent trope that says adults must always take care of children because children aren’t capable of responding and behaving properly?” they actually did that later on and yes it is a very incredible and courageous moment on Ellie’s part. She shows her courage throughout the game. (This comment of yours really shows you have not seen the whole story end to end to understand the characters and what drives them)
    - Tess while being a hardass and shrewd made a selfless sacrifice in the end.
    Hardly any of these characters I would percieve as weak female characters in their own right.

    note: I do criticise the marketing company working with naughty dog that only wanted to used male focus testers only and also stated they wanted Ellie to take position on the back cover likely due to cater for the male majority of the market, luckily naughty dog ignored their advice and got female focus testers included and put Ellie on the front cover, pretty stoneage thinking if you ask me.

    But really watch the full story through 1st (theres a good dansg8 5 hour one on youtube but you didn’t hear that from me ;P).
    Last of us is a groundbreaking game in my opinion. not because of the graphics on an aging platform (even though they are beautifully immersive) or the beatiful soundtrack, it’s the first time i’ve seen a such gem storytelling and character development and acting in a game outside of great arthouse film festival masterpieces.

    • admin says:

      Just because you disagree does not mean that I am wrong (and “grasping at straws”). What that does suggest, is simply that you disagree. If you had read the links or understood the basic story telling devices I was referencing I feel like your comments would be much different. All I’m talking about is the understanding of imagery in stories, story telling devices, movie production guidelines for writing characters, and script-writing which leads to “tropes” or cliches in presenting characters that are not essentially straight, white, men.

      As far as a lead, it is very specific and doesn’t mean someone in the story, a lead is the person LEADING THE ENTIRE STORY. While an argument might be made for Ellie being a lead, she is not. Ellie would be a deuteragonist or Second Most Important Character. Joel is the lead character (antagonist) and most likely to be the person with whom players identify. All other characters are what is called “ancillary.” While ancillary characters vary in their role or importance, they’re still ancillary. Sometimes there is a Third Most Important Character but as far as I’m in the game, that hasn’t become relevant.

      As for the other stuff: Ellie had to gain respect to pitch in as a child. That is not breaking any parent-child or father-daughter cliche.
      All women in all entertainment always make “selfless sacrifices”– that is a trope. So is being a “hardass” while female.
      The fact that the females are injured or killed in some way to get them out of the game (none of the women are really weak but they are weakened– or killed– to progress the story under the lead of Joel) makes them “weak” in that sense and that was my point.

      I would watch the thing on YouTube but we have a strict policy of not doing that in my house. :) I said in the article that I admire the story, I admire Naughty Dog– I actually LOVE ND– and while I see that this game rules on so many levels, I’m not going to say that it’s perfect. I’m not going to say that 10′s across the board are due for the story which, while amazing, could be even more amazing than it is. I’m NOT faulting them for really pushing the envelope. I’m just saying why is this “radical” when I feel like there’s still so much more that can be done and said.

      • Andre says:

        I do very much understand the tropes and I still have to disagree with your take on the game. As a feminist I love this game AS a feminist game.

        The interesting take on the power dynamics of men and women in this game is thought provoking and powerful.

        Just one line at the end of the game made me rethink the whole game and it’s power dynamic.

        I find your take on it kinda shallow when there is so much to enjoy and think about this game as a feminist.

  4. Maria says:

    It must be sad to be you. It’s obvious from all the factual errors in your review that you haven’t played much of the game, and what you did play you don’t seem to be able to recall correctly. Daisy? Really? But the things you think you see in the game that aren’t there makes one wonder what kind of blinders you have on that you experience the world the way you say you do.

    I’m sure it’s pointless to argue with your preconceived notions, but I will point some things out as futile as this may be:

    Tess (a female), is perhaps the strongest character in the game, mentally and physically.

    Marlene (aka Daisy…), a black female, may arguably be the morally strongest person, and is a bad-ass herself.

    Ellie (a female white girl) eventually becomes a seriously strong bad-ass through suffering through some seriously dark and tough stuff. And surprise! (spoiler), she ends up saving Joel, which you wouldn’t have known since you didn’t finish the game.

    Henry and Sam (a black male and his kid brother) are strong survivalists with a very strong bond, and Henry has very strong convictions and morals. He serves as an example to Joel. A very touching relationship between brothers that ends in a moving scene, that again you were unfortunate to witness…

    Joel (a white male, apparently your enemy just because that’s what he is) appears to be a strong man, and although very tough, is also quite flawed. He grows because of Ellie, Henry and Sam; but in the end it’s arguable whether he was a good man or a villain.

    Tommy, by the way is his brother, not his cousin.

    In any case, if this joke of an essay you call a feminist perspective is indicative of how you approach everything in your life, I’d say you’re suffering from a very distorted world-view that reflects poorly on what real feminists believe and are trying to accomplish. It’s dishonest and smacks of controversy for the sake of page views.

    • admin says:

      Seeing as how I’ve already addressed most of what you’re saying in other comments, I’m sorry that you’ve internalized so much woman-hating misogyny as to not believe that you deserve to play a game with a female lead. I’m sorry that your distorted world view sees my piece as a declaration against white men and whatever else. I’m sorry that you can’t see what I’m saying in my blog without anger and resentment. I wish you well regardless.

  5. Anon says:

    Bill is gay. Really cool how you think a gay guy can just be swapped out for a woman without changing the character at all.
    Marlene plays a key role throughout the game.
    “The Uncle” is Joel’s brother, not his cousin, obviously. Also, theirs is an inherently brotherly relationship.
    Ellie has red hair.
    You’re basically wrong about everything.
    So shut up.

    • admin says:

      “The Uncle” was “the uncle” to Joel’s daughter so no.
      As for the rest.
      No.
      Nice email, you should take your own advice.

  6. Ogre says:

    The problem with your writing (and there is a lot) is that beyond anything else is that you don’t seem to really grasp the terms you are using. I realize this is a feminist perspective, but really I don’t see a feminist perspective so much as the frequent misuse of feminist buzzwords outside of any sort of logical context.

    For example, you use the the ever-popular “fridging” term and you seem to think it applies to any time a female character is killed, which is both facile and inaccurate. Sarah, that is Joel’s daughter’s name, which you don’t even feel fit to mention, is not fridged. She dies yes, but the soldier wasn’t attempting to shoot her specifically, he shot at both Joel and Sarah because he was ordered to stop any that might be infected.

    Let me reemphasize this so it makes sense: Joel survived, she didn’t. There was no malice in it. Even by the definition of the trope you linked, it doesn’t count as it describes someone Stuffed into a Fridge as, “A character is killed off in a particularly gruesome manner and left to be found just to offend or insult someone, or to cause someone serious anguish.” That was not the intent. The soldier did not kill Sarah specifically to cause Joel any kind of distress, that was not the point of it.

    Let me make this clear: Bad things can happen to female characters and it isn’t “fridging.” The constant misappropriation of the term makes it seem like feminists can’t handle the idea of anything bad ever happening to a female character. Does that seem realistic?

    This leads nicely into Tess. The woman whose name you forgot. Again, Tess wasn’t “fridged.” She died, that’s bad, but you need to understand the grand concept of context. Tess sacrificed herself to protect Joel and Ellie, more specifically Ellie because she has the potential cure so -no more people will die from the infection-. That’s huge. On top of that, she wasn’t killed to, again, cause any sort of emotional strife with a specific character. It is a Heroic Sacrifice, since you seem to be big on tvtropes. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that everywhere you go, everyone defers to Tess. She’s awesome, she’s badass, no one messes with her, even when they want to start something with Joel.

    Also, seriously, for someone who is a feminist and cares about women so much, you can’t even be bothered to remember female character names, or, you know, look them up. The black woman? The wounded one you complained about? The, you know, leader of the entire Firefly movement. Kind of a big deal. Her name is MARLENE, not Daisy. I mean, at least put forth a little effort.

    Oh, here’s something else, since you keep bringing up race…You do realize this takes place in Boston, right? A city whose population is about 54% white, right? Oh, and the blonde thing…you realize that only 16% of Americans are blonde, right? So, yes, it is unlikely his daughter would be blonde (and I believe you mean possible, not probable, as that means it is LIKELY to occur), the more obvious reason would to have more of a separation between her and Ellie.

    Next let’s tackle the supposed ageism, which is just…dumb. If you think there is no value to experience, then there’s very little help for you. Joel has literally survived in a hostile environment doing dangerous stuff for longer than Ellie has been alive. He doesn’t want her to fight initially partially because of paternal instinct (it is a thing) and partly because his only real friend that we’re aware of gave her life to make sure she reaches the Fireflies safely. I would consider that a fairly good reason to keep something safe.

    Also, just gonna point this out: Tess, the badass woman? She lives alone. She has no romantic interest. There’s that twist on your gender norm.

    So, basically…the majority of your perspective shows a massively skewed bias that is, frankly, incorrect. You even say that a “loner white dude” is misogyny. WHAT? You literally said Bill’s existence IS misogyny.

    I can understand your desire for diversity, which is fine. Noble, even, but if we were to use this piece of writing here as an example, how would you expect anyone to take a “feminist perspective” of gaming seriously since it’s basically a rambling, incomplete and incorrect mess?

    • admin says:

      What is wrong with you aside from a complete lack of reading comprehension skills and hatred of women? I was going to go through and point out all the things wrong with your comment but frankly, I’ve already addressed them and if you had half a mind to actually learn something, my response would be unnecessary. I stand by my words and choice of words. when I finish the game I will write a part 2 of my thoughts and feel free to keep trolling my blog until then or forever. I don’t care.

      • Ogre says:

        Hatred of women? From the person who can’t remember or be bothered to look up female characters names? Seems I care more about the women than you do, not to mention their representation.

        But please, show where I showed a hatred of women. Feel free to quote me. Do so, and I will gladly admit it.

        You can stand by your words, which is fine, and your word choice, which is great, but you are basically saying, “I don’t care if I contradict myself.”

        If you can point out all the things that are wrong, please, go right ahead. It would be good for discussion, but if you can’t, at least have the decency to admit the points I brought up.

        • admin says:

          I know the names of the female characters with the exception of the one I fucked up for no reason I can even logically think of aside from I was tired and my brain is a scumbag racist at 3am. I already apologized for that not that it matters since I already fucked it up. The purpose in not naming the daughter– PS her name is my name so I’m not going to FORGET that shit– is that she is so irrelevant to the story that you need to remember nothing more than “Joel’s daughter that was murdered.” I’m not contradicting myself anywhere so that’s a “bizarre” comment.

          If you aren’t going to respectfully disagree with me or engage me in conversation then neither am I going to engage you. If you are going to continue to hurl your perjorative bullshit at me then you will be doing so in silence. I will publish your comments simply to show that I acknowledge you are speaking but I will not engage with disrespectful assholes.

          Calling me “illogical” is a gendered slur as women are frequently insulted as “irrational.”
          Telling me I am ignorant and “mansplaining” feminism to me is sexist and misogynist as though women are incapable of understanding their own goddamn movement unless some dude explains it to them. Actually ALL you’re doing is mansplaining and you don’t even get your own facts right when trying to tell me how much better you were at understanding the game. Please.

          Get out with your rude misogynistic shit.

          • Ogre says:

            Sigh.

            I try to be civil, I really do. You push the boundaries of civility, and for the life of me, I can’t understand why. I will attempt, however, to give you measured, even-tempered responses.

            If you know the names of the female characters, why did you not mention them? You obviously know Joel’s name, but that seemed to be about it. You didn’t even mention Bill or Tommy’s name you just gave one a very prejudiced description. The one character aside from the main character that you did name you got incorrect. That doesn’t make your brain a “scumbag racist” (which, by the way, is a weird thing to say, because you wouldn’t say your mouth is a scumbag racist if you called someone a nigger, would you?) what it does, however, is indicate you that you could not be bothered to look it up, which makes you a lazy writer. If you are going to talk about a subject and you aren’t familiar enough with it to remember information to look informed, it usually doesn’t take long to find references. That’s middle school essay writing level stuff, and considering you are one Google search away from the info, there’s no excuse for that except either laziness or the writer, you, simply not caring.

            Maybe this says something about the way you and I view things; I never considered Sarah’s death “irrelevant.” It was emotional to me. It could be that, as a father, I can empathize with that situation. It would be horrific for me to lose one of my girls.

            Point of fact, you did contradict yourself. Allow me, if you would: You talked about how Joel has dark hair and his daughter is blonde, and you even provided a link about things that genes influence, including hair color, which agreed with your statement that it is biologically unlikely for that to happen, and then in parentheses you said that it was “still probable” which means that it is likely to occur. So, in six words you say something isn’t likely to happen followed immediately by a statement that says that it is. That is, in a nutshell, a contradiction.

            Calling you illogical is not gendered, as it simply means you are not following logic. As the above paragraph pointed out, that is a factual statement based on words you wrote. If you are taking a gendered connotation from it, I can’t help that. You are projecting that. I call you illogical because you repeatedly say people are using gendered slurs against you, and they are not.

            Also, at no point did I tell you that you are ignorant. Go back and read my comments. Alt + F on this page with a search for ignorant will show that you are the only one to use that word. I also did not “mansplain” your movement to you. At no point did I ever even imply that. I did make comments how I find that there is a strong correlation between a woman dying and it being automatically classed as “friding” even when that term doesn’t really apply. I also thought it odd that, as a feminist, you didn’t seem to name any of the female characters, but we discussed that above as not necessarily you being a poor feminist, but instead just being lazy in your writing. The reason it seemed so me is that the female characters are very important to the story, more so really, than Joel at this point.

            Anyway, if there are any facts I got incorrect as you said, please point them out to me, as I like to be as factually accurate as possible. Now, if it is an opinion I am wrong about, that is something else entirely, but perhaps we can actually discuss that.

            Last thing: You are the one who is rude. You are the one who has been directing profanity and calling me and the rest of the commentors names. That certainly isn’t polite.

            This reply has been unfailingly polite. I’ve not called you any names, I’ve not directed any profanity at you. Instead, I’ve asked questions and clarified things I would like to know.

      • LightRey says:

        I read the original poster`s comment, I did not see anywhere where he implied he hated women..is that what you resort to when you`re backed into a corner?? because quite frankly, from your article, nothing would`v been satisfying to you..you make no effort to remember the females` names you defend so badly and you simply DON`T want to see anything outside of your skewed view…

        Tess?? she leads Joel effortlessly (how you missed that is beyond me)Joel calls her boss, she orders him around, everybody we meet fears and respects her and she`s badass…so your point about Tess is moot.

        Marlene?? she`s the leader of the rebel militia group..that`s pretty big considering she`s fighting the good fight against the oppressive military. she leads other men against other men, so yet another point moot. just because she`s wounded, doesn’t mean she`s portrayed as weak.

        Now Ellie, your most cringeworthy comments are at her. “ermagerd, why isn’t he making her help him?” Ohhhh she`s gonna love it when Joel trusts her and lets her have his back “even if Joel lets her take part it`s still stupid” :| wtf?? are you bored?? seriously?? God, I knew feminists were a bunch of nitpicky idiots, but this is just bizarre.

        You complain that why does a girl have to show her worth to be allowed a gun, well wake the hell up, so many forms of media and entertainment have the male proving his worth…it`s NORMAL, the main character (joel) survived for 20 years, she just 14..do the math and stop whining…other males are shown to prove their worth, if every female is instantly given a gun at 14 then that`d be pointless…no character progression whatsoever…

        i`ll be honest, bad experience reading this and you`re a bad representation of feminists..

        • admin says:

          When you use gendered slurs against people and are rude and demeaning and immediately go to insulting them as a person instead of engaging in debate, this is trolling, first of all and second of all it is misogynistic. It doesn’t matter if you’re generally a nice dude, when you approach any woman ESPECIALLY one with whom you disagree and don’t personally know, that says a lot about how you perceive all women. Not a single word in your response or “OP” is respectful. So… NO. If you all refuse to read what I’m saying, I have nothing more to discuss.

  7. Red says:

    I have to agree that the game has problems with gender roles, because it starts with a very problematic premise:

    Joel is a father fantasy, a projection of the need to protect and care for a child that is automatically assumed to be helpless and in need of that protection. As his daughter is killed in the beginning he has lost his primary purpose as a caregiver and is dis-empowered, being a failure as a father and this all for the sake of an emotional cheap shot showing us how grim it is for the strong manly-man.
    Would the story have stopped there or derailed itself into a revenge fantasy where he takes up arms against the soldiers and “sticks it to the man” I would totally have checked out of the story then and there. Seen it done it, didn’t like it.

    Instead he does something peculiar, he gives up. Sarah being killed isn’t his call for adventure it is the reason he later is reluctant to follow the call. We learn that 20 years later he edges out a living with illicit trade but he isn’t even the driving force for that it is Tess who is referenced at various points to always be with Joel yet at the same time nobody on the streets knows him while everybody recognizes her. Likewise his brother was the one who joined the resistance, something I would have expected the protagonist to do after being lead into the story in such a problematic way.

    That should have made for a very weak character (both in-game and storytelling wise) but somehow I found it easier to accept him as a character. Make of it what you will.

    Of course he could have been a PoC or he could have been homosexual or having a multiracial daughter (wouldn’t solve any of the problems with her though) without taking away anything from the gameplay but I would say he couldn’t have been a woman, not in this game as it is. In another game along similar lines maybe in this one however, no. As I said in the beginning the game is a father story and it projects along the lines of fatherhood and the relationship with a daughter.

    If I think about the relationship with my own father and what it means to the both of us I think I can honestly say I “got” this game (and I admit I cried when the daughter died in the beginning despite of what I wrote earlier, I know no shame).

    The ending I find problematic though. I’m interested to read your thoughts on that one.

    • admin says:

      That’s an interesting observation– father fantasy. I like what you’re saying a lot and this is a perspective (at least idea) that I didn’t consider because I was looking at possibilities pre-production and postulating more on the “what ifs” than anything else. I like it though! I’m going to think on this more.

      As far as Joel… I didn’t expect him to join the Fireflies, personally, because of the fact that the initial attack was carried out (supposedly) by the fireflies. Because of that, I saw his fast forward to 20 years as him in a personal hell of sorts brought upon by both parties that caused his greatest personal loss. So he’s tenuously involved with the Fireflies while also being held captive by the military that killed his daughter. It’s a really deep situation. You can tell that he has no strong alliances either way– the only person that he truly wanted to care for was Tess (after his daughter) and that arises more out of circumstance than anything else. His brother joining the resistance makes sense to me because you expect that his brother is going to be the one to want to find justice in any form whereas Joel could arguably be alienated by both power structures at play.

      With the idea of a father fantasy, yes I agree he couldn’t have been a woman. I understand the game as a parent and with a relationship with my dad and I’m not gonna lie– this game is good and it’s an amazing story (problems and all) and I totally cried as well. :)

      I haven’t got to the ending yet but I am working on my “part 2″ and I totally enjoyed your thoughts! I have been thinking on them since I saw your comment. Thank you!

  8. Sarah says:

    I think this perspective is a bit of a mess, even though I found it looking for people who might have also noticed the problems I saw with The Last of Us, and you certainly have, but you seem to get distracted and overly verbose, which detracts from your point.

    Spoilers lie ahead, BTW.

    Having seen the game through to completion, the problems can be summed up as thus: you can predict who is going to die based on gender and race. Important characters who are white men have the highest chance of surviving (Tommy, Bill, Joel). White women are ranked underneath white men, with Sarah and Tess dying while Ellie and Tommy’s wife (both important emotional anchors for Joel and his brother, respectively) live. Finally, main POC characters have zero survival chance – Sam, Henry, and Marlene all died, with no other significant POC characters existing.

    While The Last of Us is, indeed, a beautiful game and uses its high budget effectively to be as emotionally involving as any movie, it unfortunately falls into those grand old movie stereotypes: the women and people of color must die, for the sake of the male hero’s desires, motivation, and happy ending.

  9. MadJackal says:

    I think there is something you didn’t completely think through, a perspective you haven’t seen yet. Let’s make a list of all the characters :
    - Tess. She’s the most badass character in the game. She handles everything by herself wherehas Joel is just reconned as “that dude following Tess”. She’s the boss, the one who makes every single decision.
    -Marlene. She leads the Firefly, the resistance, the opposition, the allies, whatever you want. You could think that she was just “fridged”, but no, she survived a bullet wound that would have killed most of the cast. Man, her wound is even worse than what Joel gets before winter (which takes him 3 months to recover from). In the end, she’s ready to give up on Ellie, the person she loves the most, to save mankind.
    -Ellie. She’s a complete badass. She’s the first person you see on the game’s cover. Although she’s 14 years old, she can completely handle herself alone, she acts like a survivor herself (immature, yes, but still). In most of the situation in which you think “oh, yeah, just gotta rescue that chick because she’s so a helpless girl” she ends up saving you instead, or saving herself. For instance, an elevator fall and you end up in the sewers of a hotel. You think “man, gotta go rescue her before something wrong happens”. Instead, she ends up finding Joel almost drowned because some random guy (emphazis on the random) beat him and was about to kill him. Joel is the damsel in distress.
    Then, there’s the winter part in which you take control of Ellie, trying to save Joel. She gets captured by David, and Joel wakes up, you take control of him again. And there, you think “man, I’m so gonna rescue her”. Nope. She manage to free herself just by being strong and smart (the complete opposite of a damsel in distress) and she defeats the chapter’s boss, David. All by herself, without needing Joel as a parental figure to come in and break the guy’s face.
    -There is Sam and Henry (I think Sam is the child and Henry is the big brother). They make a good pair, they do a lot of teamwork, they are morally good persons. But in the end, they both get “fridged” (like you often say). Notice how Sam is nothing compared to Ellie. He’s scared, he’s not authorized to wield a gun, he can’t act all by himself and constantly needs support and guidance from Henry, despite being almost the same age as Ellie.
    -And, there is Joel, that random guy who selfishly took the cure for mankind away from the Fireflies. He’s an anti-hero, he tortures people, beat them to death. He looks badass, but he constantly follows Tess around like he’s a dog in a tight leash. He’s a failure hero. He lost his daughter, so he lost confidence in himself. He stopped trying to be a father. He gave up, he didn’t want to open his heart to Ellie because he was afraid of failing her like he failed his daughter.

    So, quiet simply, Joel looks to me (but it’s only my opinion) like the worst human being from the game. He’s no better than all those crazy Hunters (and it’s the only reason he is dreaded). He is the lead, sure, but a very very bad lead. Would you have liked one of the only female lead character to be that kind of bastard ? I certainly hope not.
    The Last Of Us is a very complex story and you can’t simply sum it up by invoking tropes. You certainly have good arguments, the tropes you quote are right, but I think you should play the game a second time from a different perspective.
    Thanks for reading

  10. Liam says:

    Hm, I’m interested to see how or if any of your points change

  11. Briahlen says:

    I was a frail, blue-eyed blonde tomboy when I was a little girl. My father’s hair was black with green eyes, & my mother is a red head with brown eyes. (I have two younger brothers. One has green eyes & brown hair, & the other red hair with brown eyes.) It’s not that unusual or biologically unlikely. The link you posted even says as much.

    Mom & Levi
    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y88/Briahlen/Leviampmom.jpg

    Mom & Ashton
    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y88/Briahlen/Ashtonampmom.jpg

    Dad (who is now going grey) with Levi & Ashton)
    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y88/Briahlen/LeviAshampDad.jpg

    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y88/Briahlen/dadashlee.jpg

    Me as a little girl
    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y88/Briahlen/tomboy.jpg

    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y88/Briahlen/dishes.jpg

    Me as an adult
    http://s3.photobucket.com/user/Briahlen/media/army.jpg.html?sort=3&o=2

    http://s3.photobucket.com/user/Briahlen/media/BlondLadyAliara.jpg.html?sort=3&o=20

    Despite my mother’s desire for a girly-girl, I didn’t grow out of the tomboy thing. :P

    Both recessive & dominant inheritance are in play. Take a child who was born deaf. (This is, of course, highly simplified) You have a mother & father with normal hearing (both a carrier for the trait) end up with three kids with no hearing impairment, (two are carriers) & one child that is hearing impaired. This is very basic genetics. It’s taught in high school.

    Most kids tend to be scrawny things. Boys haven’t developed muscle mass & girls don’t have curves yet. Before puberty, my brothers & I were pretty much sticks. It’s not sexist or ageist to depict a little girl as such. That is a realistic depiction of a prepubescent child.

    (SPOILERS AHEAD – READ AT YOUR OWN RISK)

    I think it’s stretching to call a game that you haven’t even finished sexist. Both men & women have strong roles they play. Nobody is purely good or innocent. At some point, everyone’s hands are stained with blood in a strikingly visceral way. Even little Ellie.

    I don’t believe that the Tess being bitten or Marlene being shot is particularly sexist or violence for the sake of violence against women either. I’d like to point out, that they were both fighting when it happened. Just like the men were. Tess was an equal partner with Joel & Marlene is the leader of the fireflies. Both are in positions of power. Both are fighters in a world where doing so means death. Tess straight out holds back armed men while Joel escapes with Ellie. She gives you the time you need to escape, saving you in that situation.

    If you had played further in the game, you would have learned more about Bill. You’d also hit parts in the game where you play as Ellie & take care of Joel.

    Honestly, I didn’t find Joel protecting the child to be sexist at all. That is the job he took on. (Keep in mind the last kid he tried to protect is dead. The last thing he wants is to have a repeat.) I sure as hell wouldn’t tell a child to fend for itself in a zombie apocalypse. I’d want them as far away from it as possible.

    I’d also like to point out that when she did show she could fire a weapon accurately, she becomes way more active in combat. She will shoot enemies. If you are struggling to get away from a baddie, she will jump on their back & stab them in the throat. She throws bricks at enemies to stun them. She will warn you if someone is sneaking up behind you. Ellie is a bad ass, & comes into it naturally.

    If Joel was a women, I’m fairly certain that by the end of the game, you’d be calling him a sexist depiction of a female lead. When, or if you finish it. Think about his choices. Try imagining him as a women. It’s a very easy swap. I believe this game has very little to do with gender roles. It’s mostly about being a parent.

    I understand that you are reviewing what you have seen so far. However, that isn’t entirely fair to the game or it’s creators. They fought hard to keep Ellie on the cover. When the PR guys were going to take Ellie off the cover (claiming men wouldn’t buy a game with a girl on the cover), the creators told them she stays or they don’t make the game.

    Please, try finishing the game. I’m interested to see what you think of the final outcome.

    • admin says:

      Briahlen,

      Thanks for your comment. The point about the blonde hair is that it’s *less* likely for a child to be born with blonde hair than brown. To depict Sarah as a blonde is an age old literary device to symbolize innocence and purity. I believe I linked to that trope when discussing her appearance. I’m not faulting genetics but keep in mind this is a fictional game and they could have portrayed her any which way but chose to do it that way. For all intents and purposes, her appearance is completely irrelevant to the story. But they chose blonde. Why? That’s my point. I know how recessive genes work but I also know how writing works and I’m asking readers and players to question why they chose this representation of her.

      As for the ladies dying- the ladies always die. That’s the point. Women must die to propel the story forward. POC must die to propel the story forward- they are easy to sacrifice because they’re ancillary characters. No matter how strong they are they somehow die while the lead doesn’t. Against all odds a tough ass lady like Tess or Marlene falls at just the right moment to inspire the lead or move the story along… It’s a lazy literary device.

      As for Ellie being tough and proving herself- they very fact she had to prove herself is the point. That is a trope. If Joel cared so little in the beginning he could have just as easily handed her a gun and said “fuck it, do your worst I don’t even care” but he didn’t. He chose instead to perpetuate the “parent-child” relationship that doesn’t respect children as autonomous people.

      The points I made didn’t pass judgment on the game, it said: hey look this story has these elements that suck. As for the entire game, when I wrote that piece I said like 4 times that I was reserving overall judgment. The things that I brought to attention are elements of the story that will never change and affect the way the game (or story) plays out. Sarah being fridged in the first 10 minutes doesn’t change 1/2 way into the game- she’s still dead and it still affects Joel and his decisions. Therefore using her as a device to add backstory and whatever else is problematic and I don’t need to finish the game to know or see that.

      That’s the point. It’s not the game, it’s not the story, it’s the small paradigm from which all these games and stories come from. When you’re thinking up something to this magnitude and degree you write the story first. So what I’m saying is when you pitch the idea “what if we have a dude…” Stop. Why does it have to be a dude? At any point, this could have been unique. But at no point was it. I don’t hate it as far as a story or game, I hate the culture from which it springs. A culture that doesn’t even think about writing a story that isn’t the same old story only now with more intersectionality.

      Does that make sense?

      • Bill says:

        Regarding Sarah’s death, you definitely DO need to finish the game to see the merits of it. The event haunts Joel even to the very last seen of the game, as he drags Ellie out of the hospital in which the fireflies were going to kill her to get the mutated fungus out of her brain. “Hang in their Baby Girl;” basically what he said to his daughter as she was dying. So yeah, Sarah getting “fridged” was pretty much a requirement for this game.

        The only way to not have it would be to have Joel as a mother figure, with her son or daughter dying. But in my other comment I explained why this wouldn’t work (it’s because of our society). Now, I don’t think it’s fair to blame Naughty Dog for failures in our society. It IS fair to comment on that failure, however. But as I said in my other post, the mother-son/mother-daughter relationship wouldn’t have been as believable DUE to flaws in our society.

        Joel needed to watch his daughter die in order to add weight to the very last scene of the game before the epilogue.

      • Ogre says:

        You are still really bad at analysis, you know? No, scratch that, you are really good at voicing your uninformed and ignorant opinion, really bad at analysis. I’m floored that you can say half the things you right and believe them. I want you to be joking because I honestly don’t believe someone can be that wrapped up in an ideology that it changes things from facts to just whatever makes you feel more angry so you can justify whatever nonsense view you have. I feel sorry for any children you have.

  12. Bill says:

    As I said in my previous post, Joel is the backdrop. Sure, he’s the guy you play most of the way, but he is the passive character of the two, while Ellie is the one who does the affecting between the two. The sunset on this painting is Ellie, not Joel. I have two issues:

    (1) Until you finish the game you simply don’t have enough information to judge the game on it’s feminist merits. As I pointed out, it COULD be argued that the game makes a very large feminist statement by pointing out the flawed thinking of the typical male.

    (2) This game doesn’t have one protagonist with a sidekick. It just doesn’t. One without the other would have left the game hollow, but if one of them was replaceable, it was Joel. He was the generic backdrop, not the driver of the story. AT BEST his role in driving the story is a PASSIVE one, as HE is the one affected by Ellie the most, not the other way around (this would, of course, require you playing much more of the game to know, and of course, with an OPEN MIND rather than playing it on the defensive trying to find issues). Joel is the passive character between him and Ellie. Ellie is the difference maker, not Joel.

    In any event, I have read through all these comments and I’ve not really seen you answer many points, except with “misogynistic asshole,” which is of course nothing so much as the logical fallacy of ad hominem. I noticed you edited your errors out of it. Perhaps an attempt to hide their implications brought out in the responses to you?

    I’m sure that above now qualifies me as a “misogynistic asshole” since I wasn’t satisfied with the argument tactic of ignoring counter points, but in any event, I really have only these two complaints here.

  13. jellycat says:

    Whilst this game portrays an obvious ‘trope’ (father, daughter), I genuinely believe it turns it on it’s head in a fantastic and progressive way. Ellie is by far the focal point and most loved character in the game – if you played it till the end *spoilers* you’d realise Joel was actually a villain. Not to mention that Ellie is eventually a playable character who saves Joels life. I feel that if Joel was a woman, people would be upset that a female protagonist was so unlikable and selfish. Yes when you start the game, you might think ‘Urgh, so this guys going to be the hero and every woman is a bit part’. However, he was really a coward, although still put in an agonisingly diffcult situation. If we really want to get down to semantics, the Last Of Us features non-stereotypical characters of both sexes and various ethnicities. Men and women die as equals. Sexism is a debate worth having in games but I do not feel like it belongs to the Last Of Us.

  14. jasper janssen says:

    If you have a problem with anything in the Last of us or any other video game for that matter.

    Go make your own video game.

    Writers of books, film and video games should have creative freedom to write whatever they damn well please. No matter how many stereotypes they employ or how they portray women, it is none of your business. If you don’t like something don’t buy it. So to be clear, I am not saying you have to like it. But it is not your place to say: “This character could just aswel have been a women” I find that lack of respect for the writing distasteful. If you actually get in to the story you will notice that they made conscious choices for every character.

    (I feel I had to make those basic facts clear to you before continuing)

    That being said.

    I think The last of us is a beautiful game that portrays women in a very tasteful and realistic way.
    If every video game after this adheres to the standard of the last of us when it comes to the portrayal of human beings. Then we have a great video games to look forward to.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] for people to comment on my blog– be careful what you wish for, eh?  I wrote a review on Last of Us video game and now I am being trolled by a bunch of misogynistic assholes and have like 8 comments that tell [...]

  2. [...] the more you nit-pick at the what-ifs, the thinner your argument gets. I looked up a feminist write up on The Last of Us, curious as to what issues some had with the game’s sex characterization. Not [...]

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