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​The Last Of UsSeries First Look Is Here and Hopefully Still Queer, Too

‘​​The Last Of Us’ Series First Look Is Here and Hopefully Still Queer

‘​​The Last Of Us’ Series First Look Is Here and Hopefully Still Queer
Courtesy of HBO; Courtesy of Naughty Dog

Will the HBO adaptation of the popular video game series stay true to its LGBTQ+ roots?

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Over the weekend, HBO dropped the first sneak peek at Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) and Pedro Pascal (aka the best space dad ever on The Mandalorian) in their roles as Ellie and Joel for the network’s highly anticipated adaptation of blockbuster video game franchise The Last of Us. Gamers — and gaymers — alike are understandably thrilled about how it’s shaping up; the casting, costuming, and look of the photo released are pretty much pitch-perfect.

Now that we have an idea of how faithful the adaptation will look, it begs the question of whether the storytelling will stay just as true to its source material. Specifically, many are wondering if the TV series will retain the unambiguous and crucial inclusion of queerness that was present throughout the games themselves.

Without delving too deeply into potential plot spoilers, suffice it to say that Ellie, the co-lead, is a lesbian in the games, as revealed in The Last Of Us: Left Behind downloadable content, which is a prequel to the original title and explores her first crush. The second entry in series, The Last of Us Part II, centers Ellie’s love life even more explicitly, in what is a beautiful and profoundly bittersweet queer love story central to the game’s plot.

The second game also introduces the (controversial) trans character, Lev, and plays with a more complex expression of femininity with its (presumably) straight but masculine-of-center-presenting character, Abby. In short, The Last of Us series is gay as hell, and that’s part of what makes it so amazing. Excising this kind of foundational queerness from the high-profile television series would be a major disappointment to queer fans of the games, to say the least — not to mention a massive narrative rewrite. 

Lev and Abby

Fortunately, there’s plenty of reason to remain hopeful on that front. Back in March 2020, Craig Mazin, who’s adapting the series alongside Neil Druckmann, the game’s writer and co-president of its developer, Naughty Dog, assured fans on Twitter that Ellie’s sexuality is canon and will be staying that way. “You have my word,” he wrote in response to a fan asking for its representation to not be erased.

The games and TV series are set in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungus capable of turning its hosts into zombie-like monsters has decimated the population. Joel, a smuggler, broken from a loss in his past, is tasked with escorting Ellie — who may hold the secret to a cure for the plague — across the country. Between them and their destination lie thousands of miles of wasteland populated by the infected, and, worse yet, other human survivors. 

While that might sound like your standard post-apocalyptic narrative, what makes the game series stand out from the, well, horde of dystopian properties are its incredibly affecting storytelling and poignant character development. It’s a true high water mark for video games and its strengths also make it a property primed for prestige TV adaption, one that HBO is sinking a lot of resources into. Filming of the series has begun in Canada and will continue until June. It’s reportedly the largest TV production in Canadian history and the series is planned to run for as many as eight seasons. 

If what Mazin promised is true, and the show keeps the games’ queer characters and story arcs intact, this series could become the kind of must-watch queer TV we’ll never get enough of. Just make sure you have your tissues handy, because the franchise isn’t afraid to make you cry. Or maybe that was just me.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.