Updated: Sep 26, 2019
This is why we can't have nice things!
There is a stigma going around the video games industry right now that it hates the LGBTQ+ community because developers are apparently not inclusive enough in popular video games. There's also the other side of it that whenever there IS a LGBTQ+ character in a video game, news sites and gamers, whether it be in a good or bad way, have to scream and shout about there being one: "LOOK OVER THERE, A GAY CHARACTER!" they shout (not like that but you get my point). Then on top of that, you have other sites who act like there being an LGBTQ+ character in a video game is literally an attack on who they are. You might think the said site I'm talking about is run by straight people as per the norm, but not this time. For some reason, a site named GaymingMag thinks that the latest trailer released for The Last of Us Part II is "troubling for queer audiences". No. It isn't. Expect spoilers from the first Last of Us game.
Before we get into this though, a small disclaimer. I myself am an out gay man. I of course support my community like any other gay man should... but not on everything. I mean hey, just because someone is a member of a political party for example, it doesn't mean they agree with everyone else in their party. While I won't go into the specifics on what I agree and disagree with in our community, one thing that irks me is when there's, say, a gay character in a video game and everyone makes a huge damn deal about it. Okay great, there's a gay character, but I'd rather a) know for myself rather than having 40 gaming sites letting me know in the same week and b) would rather it be treated as normal as a straight character is. I mean could you imagine if we treated straight characters the same way we treat gay characters? There'd be articles every damn day about their straightness!
But that's not why we're here. The Last of Us Part II has you playing as Ellie, who is, if you haven't already had it screamed at you, a lesbian, and she begins a romance with a character named Dina. There, now you're caught up on the apparent hysteria. If you've not gone on the article in question by GaymingMag because you're trying to avoid clicking on such nonsense, I'm here to break down certain elements of it and tell you why what they're moaning about is, to put it lightly, complete crap. Expect a lot of quotes (cited in bold) as we head down this utterly bizarre rabbit hole.
"...with the recently released trailer, detailing the release date of the game, the way the trailer has been marketed is deeply troubling for queer audiences. How so? Because it paints the narrative of a well-known, but stale trope called ‘Bury Your Gays’. Bury your gays is, to put it simply, killing off your gay characters in a world that is widely heterosexual. Hey, just like real life! It is also known as Dead Lesbian Syndrome, a trope that has been overused since the dawn of time and even caused outrage so prominently that billboards dedicated to the overwhelming amount of queer characters being killed in media were made to try and raise awareness."
So by that logic, Naughty Dog are both homophobic and LGBTQ+ inclusive? Not only does that make absolutely no sense, but Naughty Dog are not exactly known for being stereotypical. Heck in 2014, they actually said what I mentioned earlier, where Bruce Stanley said "Who cares?" when people asked if Ellie was lesbian or bisexual in the DLC for the first Last of Us game. When it came to the Uncharted games, not once did I ever think "you know, this could do with more gay characters", and heck neither did Naughty Dog as the games were about telling a great story rather than "who does this character have sex with?"
Okay yes, lets get something out of the way. Whenever there IS a gay character in a piece of media, someone did have a reason to make them that way since straight is the default. The reason could be maybe the actor who plays a character is gay in real life as to make them more comfortable in the role, or perhaps it makes sense to the story, or there needed to be a wide variety of characters to differentiate them, or maybe it really is just for the attention and money, who knows. But who on earth puts a gay character in their game, book or TV show and purposely kills them off because there's too many gays in the world they created? You might as well of not put them in there in the first place! I go more into this point in the next section too, so keep reading.
"...this is also the first triple-A game that has a gay protagonist as its lead. That alone is fantastic, yes, but what good is having Ellie be front and center when all Naughty Dog seems to be capable of is killing off her love interests? Riley in the DLC ‘Left Behind’ was just one example of that, and so for Dina to possibly meet the same fate in order to make Ellie feel something? This kind of representation is tired, and so overdone in other mediums that the possibility of it in the future is incredibly disheartening."
Okay great. We have the worlds first lead gay character in a triple-A game. That is if you don't count Assassin's Creed Odyssey or almost any Bioware game which allowed your character to be gay for a good decade now, which by the way was only a small part of your character and not made a huge deal out of, as it should be. But yes, if we were going with "already gay and can't be changed", then sure thing. That, to a lot of of the LGBTQ+ community, especially lesbians, is absolutely a great step in the right direction for inclusivity... even if her sexuality shouldn't have been used as a selling point by video game websites in my opinion. You shouldn't buy a game because it has a gay character, you should buy a game because it looks amazing as a whole.
GaymingMag talks about Ellie's love interests being killed off. If you've watched the trailer, while it IS implied that Dina is killed off, it is exactly that: implied. The game isn't even out, and already the site seems to firmly believe that a gay character is killed off because there's too many gay characters in this straight world (as mentioned in the first section). Have they actually played The Last of Us? Let's start with the Clickers. Clickers are fungus covered enemies in the game. They don't just hunt down people because you're gay, black or have one leg. They hunt you down just because. They kill people because it's in their nature to. If we went by GaymingMag's logic then, they've killed more straight people than gay people, since it is of course a straight dominated world. "But Charlie, Dina was apparently killed by humans, not Clickers" you may cry. Okay so let's assume Dina is killed by the humans. Was she killed for being gay? Probably not. No where can you hear her being called any homophobic slurs or anything of the sort to imply that; heck I doubt they even KNEW it at the time. If anything, it just looked like two women travelling alone, she and Ellie are attacked because it's an "every man and woman for themselves" kind of world and they looked like easy targets. If, then, they find out Dina is lesbian and attack her for it, well then that's the world these characters just live in, which sucks, but that's how it is. However what it does it make for some fantastic story telling, as it paints these characters that attack them as clear villains with very little redeeming qualities.
Here's the thing: just because you are gay DOES NOT, and never should, give you a free pass in a post-apocalyptic world, or even the real world. You're not going to have someone mug you, you shout "but I'm gay" and they're suddenly going to go "oh damn, sorry, I had no idea, I'll leave you alone!" As far as we know, the whole plot of The Last of Us Part II could be that Dina is kidnapped, not killed, and Ellie is trying to save her, which would not only be a fantastic character drive for Ellie, but would turn her into a hero of sorts. This is something which, if we went by GaymingMag's logic, would be a huge morale boost for the LGBTQ+ community. HECK, THEY EVEN MENTION THIS (sort of) IN THEIR OWN ARTICLE: "In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss to actually have Dina be the one happy thing in Ellie’s life, and her love for Dina to be the motivation of doing what she does — to get back home." So again, they're making an article based on assumptions... why?
If Ellie was straight, and she was travelling with a male love interest, literally no one would bat an eye, but because it's a lesbian romance, suddenly its "tired, and so overdone"? These are just people, and that's it. GaymingMag is making out like us gay people are more important and require special treatment. We are not, no matter how much we may make as fantastic characters.
"Because love, as always, is much more fascinating when we get to see it play out. Death? It’s played too large a part in queer stories in video games, and while I don’t pretend to speak for all of the LGBT community, I speak as a queer woman when I say that enough is enough. When we get equal opportunities to have happy, queer stories instead of death, more death and hey, another slice of death, then we can talk about the setting of the world the game is set in. Because in truth? That hardly seems important in the whole scheme of things."
I had no idea I was playing "The Many of Us: Living in a Happy, Safe World". The Last of Us is about torment, death, destruction, horror, and trying sticking together and rebuild in the post-apocalypse. If that's not a game you want to play, then The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II is DEFINITELY not for you. The writer says "When we get equal opportunities to have happy, queer stories instead of death, more death and hey, another slice of death, then we can talk about the setting of the world the game is set in". No, the world comes first. You have to have the world first, then put the characters in it. Heck, even the Bible, as nonsensical as that is, had that rule. God didn't create characters to have them floating in a blank space of nothingness until he made Earth. He built his world, then filled it with living creatures.
It just so happens that these characters, no matter who they are sexuality wise, are in a destroyed hellish world where anyone and anything can kill you. Also, as I already mentioned, the game isn't even out. As far as GaymingMag knows, Ellie survives with Dina and they live happily ever after. It's not likely, sure, but who knows? Not them nor me that's for sure!
"We can always give Naughty Dog the benefit of doubt, of course. But let’s be honest with one another: have they rightfully earned it? Yes, they’ve shown Ellie and Dina’s kiss and love front and center, but they’ve also killed off every gay character (barring Ellie) that we’ve ever encountered in-game."
Wait hold up... "they’ve also killed off every gay character (barring Ellie) that we’ve ever encountered in-game." In the first game, the known gay characters we encountered were Ellie (though we only found out in DLC), Riley (again, DLC) and Bill (though it's only implied he's gay and up to the player to decide, but let's say for the sake of it he is gay). So the article excludes Ellie because... reasons? They killed off Riley, even though we already knew she was going to die as it was teased in the main game BEFORE the DLC was released and before we even knew about any form of sexuality of her and Ellie. Then there's Bill, who is... well what do you know, still alive as of the first game! Then of course there's Dina in The Last of Us Part II, who we don't know if she ends up alive or dead. So either the article writer just forgot about Bill, or just didn't do their research. It's almost like the writer tried to fit their point to make us LGBTQ+ folk look like victims in video games!
"Even in spite of the grimdark world of the Last of Us 2, why is it that death of a loved one is considered the only answer to hurt LGBT characters? All it does is rub salt into a wound again and again, intentionally or not, that we don’t deserve to be represented in a positive way in the media we consume."
It isn't, nor has it ever been the only answer. Heck, let's look at the journey Ellie, who is clearly LGBTQ+, went through in the first game. She was first of all pawned off with someone she did not named Joel know who, at first, completely disregarded her as a person because she was a kid (A KID, not because she was gay), She then reveals to Joel that she was previously bitten, where who knows what went through her mind about it and the turmoil that she lived with about it. She and Joel are then ambushed by a huge group, which must have terrified her inside. She then is given no choice but to kill another human for the first time in order to save Joel, where, rather than thanking her in a situation which must have stirred up so many emotions inside her, Joel gave her a hard time about it. She then makes a new friend, only for him to become infected and die, though he wasn't exactly a loved one of hers.
Joel is then gravely wounded during the coldest and harshest time of the year: winter. This left Ellie having to survive for herself for a little while until Joel was able to get better. Then she meets an older man who captures her and not only tries to cut her up for food, but also tries to affectionately touch her up (bear in mind she was only 14). Then later on she is almost killed to try and find a cure (though she did not know this), and then upon being rescued by Joel, is then lied to about why she was there.
Not a single thing about that was about her sexuality, so no GaymingMag, the death of a loved one is not the only way to hurt an LGBTQ+ character. Being gay isn't the sole reason a person exists, they are just a person like anyone else. The death of a loved one is something that can happen to everyone and anyone, so stop trying to assume it's exclusive to us.
"To end this The Last of Us 2 article, I’d like to indicate something Khee Hoon Chan says about the trope in their article on Polygon: “these story decisions don’t exist in a vacuum. The death of queer characters is as common as the Wilhelm scream at this point, and often just as distractingly artificial."
The death of queer characters is as common as the Wilhelm scream? Hey you, the one reading this: are you a producer of a TV show or movie? Has it got a gay character in it? Oh, were you going to kill them off as well as a bunch of other straight characters? Well how about you only kill the straight characters and SOMEHOW have the gay character survive? Why? Oh because we're special of course and just shouldn't be allowed to die in life. Okay? Thanks.
Listen, GaymingMag, I get you mean well. But for crying out loud, it's articles like yours that pitch a bad light on the LGBTQ+ community rather than help us. It paints us as victims, that we're incapable of being just like everybody else and that we should receive special treatment. We should receive the same as everyone else, not more like you seem to believe. No one is trying to kill us off in movies or video games because we are gay; there are many gay characters who are still alive and well in their respected games. In fact, killing us off WOULD be treating us just like any other character in a video game, proving we can die just like anyone else. You just choose to be a victim in all this for some reason. Stop it.