The Last of Us has been getting review-bombed for its LGBTQ+ content, the negativity and review-bombing by these bigots concerning not just for the future of the HBO series but for how, in 2023, creating shows with diversity and representation is still such an issue and something that needs to be fought for and protected.
The most recent episode of The Last of Us adapted a beloved DLC from the first game, Left Behind. The narrative provided a look into Ellie’s life before meeting Joel and told the story of how she was bitten, infected, and subsequently discovered she is immune to the virus.
The episode also features a kiss between Ellie and her former best friend Riley, the young love and budding romance between the two culminating in said bittersweet kiss.
After watching episode 7, I was too scared to go online and see what others were saying. Because I knew, deep down, that there would be many taking issues with Ellie and Riley’s relationship in the same way that they seemingly take issue with all LGBTQ+ representation in TV and movies of late.
LGBTQ+ representation in The Last of Us has viewers madly review-bombing the series
As I expected, some online users voiced their discomfort at the LGBTQ+ representation, review-bombing the episode on IMDB and thus, intentionally tanking its reception. While Left Behind does have almost 10,000 perfect scores on the site, it also has over 3,700 one-star reviews, making up almost 14% of overall reception on the platform.
The only other episode of the show to have a similarly high number of one-star ratings is Episode 3, which also centers on a queer romance. On IMDB, Episode 3, Long, Long Time has over 50,000 one-star reviews, making up over 25% of the overall user scores.
Now, that’s not to say that everyone is this riled up. However, it’s unfortunate that following such a beautiful and tragic story of young life, the loudest voices across social media are the ones projecting homophobic views and complaining that the episode was unnecessary.
However, as a young gay woman, representation like this means the world. To have a character like Ellie, the protagonist of one of the biggest and most beloved video game franchises of recent years, is a dream come true. She swears, she’s not perfect, and she’s also a more masculine-presenting female character.
Growing up, I used to jump at the chance to play as a female character and would go out of my way to buy video games with a female protagonist even if the game was of little interest to me.
Characters like Ellie and TV shows like The Last of Us are so important
Adults always labeled me a ‘tomboy’ as a child and so, in my eyes, a character like Ellie is exactly what my younger self needed when she was navigating her sexuality and gender identity.
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates on Esports, Gaming and more.
Ellie was one of the first examples of a lesbian video game character who was created and developed for Queer gamers. She isn’t over-sexualized and she sure isn’t pushed to the sidelines. Instead, her power and her identity as an LGBTQ+ protagonist are pivotal to who she is, her motivations, and her actions.
If you drown out the negativity and hate, the messages of happiness and congratulations aimed at HBO and The Last of Us for the beauty they have shown LGBTQ+ characters is something to be celebrated.
LGBQT+ shows have also been getting canceled left, right, and center
At the end of 2022, I wrote a piece for Dexerto explaining why Netflix was being called lesbophobic for canceling Warrior Nun. Within the article, I discussed how the streaming service has developed a reputation for canceling shows that include or focus on an LGBTQ+ character. And, more often than not, these queer characters have been female-identifying.
Other WLW series that the streaming service chose to end prematurely include the likes of:
- Teenage Bounty Hunters
- One Day at a Time
- Everything Sucks
- I Am Not Okay With This
- First Kill
It is important to note that Netflix isn’t the only streaming service facing criticism for canceling sapphic shows: Amazon was hit with major backlash earlier this year when they chose to axe The Wilds – a female-centric show with the main WLW ship – after two seasons.
If The Last of Us wasn’t getting the record-breaking viewership numbers it was, I wonder if the show would follow suit and be canceled as well. Especially given the immense wave of backlash amid the latest review bombing cycle.
The other aspect of the recent review-bombing of The Last of Us that has alarm bells going off in my head is what it means for Season 2. Not only does the second game include Abbie, an extremely polarizing figure in the gaming space, but it also introduces Lev, a young trans boy.
While I trust the creative forces behind The Last of Us series to adapt the second game as perfectly as they have the first, I worry about how audiences will react to these characters in particular.
However, I am hopeful and optimistic that people can adapt and see just how important these moments in media are not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for society as a whole.