The Last of Us Has a Rich LGBT History

Promotional poster for the upcoming series

As one zombie show falls, another series rises.

Thousands (millions?) of horror fans are patiently waiting for the television adaption of The Last of Us, due to debut on HBO Max on January 15, 2023. If you’ve never played the 2013 video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, let me set the stage for a cross-country adventure filled with mystery, suspense and hybrid zombies that want to eat your insides.

Unlike The Walking Dead, The Last of Us is honest from the get-go as to how the sort-of-dead apocalypse starts. Spoiler alert: a new type of fungus, which is spread through the air or via a bite to the body, emerges from a cocoon and quickly turns America into a battle for survival. If you don’t own a gun or a gas mask, the odds are completely out of your favor. 

When the third person shooter was released in 2013, it quickly became one of the highest-selling video games of all time – to the tune of 21,000,000 copies sold. It is also often regarded as one of the best video games of all time story-wise and received dozens of awards. However, to the queer community, it became far more important for representing gay people in a video game; something that hadn’t been done on such a large scale up until that point. 

While video games have almost always featured transgender or crossdressing characters, think Final Fantasy or even Pokémon, they’ve always been used as joke characters and gay male avatars in general have been nothing short of reference parts. The Last of Us features a short-lived lesbian or bisexual romance revolving around one of its two main characters, and it features an out survivor by the name of Bill – who is about to become a bigger character in the HBO Max adaption from Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann

The Last of Us video game follows Joel (voiced by Troy Taker) and Ellie (voiced by Ashley Johnson) as they brave raiders, corrupt government and fungus infected humanoids to search for a cure. Spoiler alert: Ellie doesn’t become infected after a nasty zombie bite and Joel is tasked with delivering her to a major hospital facility in hopes of using her blood to develop a remedy for the infection that’s plaguing the country. Possibly the world. Towards the middle of the game they meet Bill.

Voiced by W. Earl Brown, Bill is an aggressive, paranoid recluse that lives with his boyfriend in a chop shop surrounded by traps to protect them from the sort-of-dead. He also owes Joel a favor, which comes in the form of fixing a car so he and Ellie can travel to their destination faster. Bill is only in the video game for a short time and his fate is left undetermined, but he is briefly mentioned in the 2020 sequel, The Last of Us Part 2

Bill, portrayed by Nick Offerman, in the teaser trailer

In the television adaption, Bill is played on screen by 3-time Emmy Nominee and Parks & Recreation star Nick Offerman. Joel will be portrayed by The Mandalorian‘s Pedro Pascal and Ellie by The Worst Witch‘s Bella Ramsey

Bill is due to appear in 4 episodes of the 10-part saga. Some sources have stated that certain parts of the television adaption will differ greatly from the video game, so it’s up for debate whether Bill will play a much bigger role in helping Joel and Ellie get to safety this time around.

The Last of Us series is reportedly the largest television production in Canadian history. Will you be watching when it drops on January 15, 2023 on HBO Max?

I’m always game for queer representation. See what I did there?

Sources: IGN, The Verge, Wiki 

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