The Last of Us is an award winning game created by Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment. In this game’s world chaos brews as a mutant form of the cordyceps fungus changes everyday people into raving cannibalistic monsters known as infected. The old government has fallen and a new military-centric one rose in its place keeping everything under its iron reign.
Ellie’s journey first began when she was bit by one of the infected, but did not change. It was then that she knew she was immune to the cordycep fungus and Marlene, Ellie’s guardian and leader of the Firefly resistance, knew she had to be taken to a lab to have the fungus reverse-engineered. Marlene hires Tess and Joel to smuggle Ellie out of the quarantine zone before Ellie is discovered and killed. After a number of close up fights with the infected, Tess gets bit by the infected and commands Joel to continue on as she makes a final stand against military forces approaching their position. He must get Ellie to the Fireflies’ lab to find a cure.
Ellie is a 14 year old girl born 3 years after the initial outbreak. She accompanies Joel, a smuggler from the Boston, Massachusetts quarantine zone, on their journey to survive in this dystopian world. When we first meet Ellie she is a loud and impulsive girl with a strong sense of loyalty to her friends. As the story continues and her character unfolds before the player’s eyes, they quickly learn that Ellie is also quite witty, sarcastic, funny, and clever. She even pulled out a joke book to try to get Joel to lighten up a bit. Ellie is not someone to sit on the sidelines and prefers it that way. She is not afraid to take matters into her own hands and fight alongside Joel in anyway she can. Whether it be throwing a brick at a thug’s head or shivving the infected in the neck; she will try her best to help defend Joel. There are countless times that without Ellie’s help, Joel would have been killed.
When it’s not fighting, Ellie also helps out in navigating across the landscape of crumbling buildings and flooded tunnels. Joel is able to lift Ellie onto higher platforms where she will look for something to help Joel up. Ellie also uses her small size to unlock a door for Joel at one moment in the game. Without her help, Joel would never have been able to traverse across the abandoned city landscape as easily as he did.
One important quality of Ellie is the effect she has on Joel. Joel was in a pretty bad place in his life; the world he knew is gone, his daughter is dead, there are no signs of this apocalypse lighting up. Surviving through the initial outbreak and the years after made Joel wary, morose, and cynical. This can be seen with his overall outlook on the post-pandemic life. However, after meeting Ellie and traveling with her, his character becomes a little less ill-tempered and more so optimistic.
Ellie has a constant curiosity about how the world was before the outbreak, often asking Joel about his life before the cordyceps fungus. She enjoys what remains of civilization such as music (including country), comics, and books.
Ellie and Feminist Criticism
It is difficult to apply something that is against the idea of patriarchy in a world where patriarchy is tossed out the window in favor for anarchy and survivalism. It turns into how well can you survive in this world and how good your aim is. But nevertheless, there are some aspects to this game and feminist criticism that can be applied to Ellie. First off, her general character. It is not about needing to protect Ellie, but wanting to; players generally have a natural feeling to want to protect Ellie, but why? Yes she is a great character with her witty remarks and her company is very much enjoyed, but what if it is more than just her personality? Ellie is a young girl and that is probably one of the reasons why players, not to mention Joel, are so keen on protecting Ellie. If Ellie was a young boy, let alone an adult man, players might not have the same connection they have with 14 year old girl Ellie. This plays into the idea of ‘female’ and ‘feminine’ in feminist criticism. In The Female Reader: Essays in Gender and Politics of Literary Criticism edited by Catherine Belsey and Jane Moore, it states that men use their lead role in culture “to elevate them (women) as the representatives of a higher and purer nature,”(pg 127). So seeing Ellie as a pure and innocent being makes players want to protect her which is funny because Ellie is not afraid to use profanity to express her emotions and she will resort to violence right off the bat.
Ellie and Posthumanism
Nothing can get more post-human than dead men walking right? Well, even if the infected are not reanimated corpses they are still mutated cannibalistic humans that plague Ellie’s world. The human population continues to decline with the spread of the cordyceps fungus and violence that was brought about after the initial outbreak, bringing the world into anarchy. The fungus ultimately destroyed the modern world forcing people to evacuate large cities and seek shelter either in the outskirts or in a quarantine zone. With no humans around the cities became jungles with trees growing from destroyed buildings and rivers covering streets; reverting back to landscapes before human influences.
Ellie is something a little more than just human. With the cordyceps fungus in her system and her immunity she holds a unique place in the world. She is the only possibility for a cure that we know. In posthumanism we talk about the idea of humans undergoing a change. Somewhere along the line, Ellie developed an immunity to the fungus. This immunity makes her better suited to survive in this world than any other non immune human, but under any circumstances she is not a regular human. Again, she is an infected human; a human with the cordyceps fungus and immunity.
Ellie is a unique and special character that many The Last of Us players hold dear. She provides an interesting experience with seeing the apocalyptic world through the eyes of a child born into it. Ellie shows that you don’t need physical strength to be strong where is counts. She teaches players the value of loyalty and the strength of determination. She shows there is still some joy in a hopeless world.