Queer Survival on The Last of Us
Why "Long, Long Time" resonates so deeply
This essay contains spoilers for episode 3 of “The Last of Us.”
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was starting to watch “The Last of Us” on HBO. I have really been enjoying the show so far. I never played the game, so I came into it fairly blind, just as someone who loves horror and Pedro Pascal. And while the horror elements haven’t been nearly as gruesome as I expected, I have been engrossed by the story elements of the show.
I am a big proponent of television giving us more representation. In legislatures all over the country, LGBTQ people are facing more and more state sponsored discrimination. As LGBTQ characters populate television and movies, it can have an impact on the way that people think about them. This becomes even more important when we look at the kinds of stories being told.
Openly queer characters being on television are a more recent phenomenon, gaining some acceptance in the 1990’s, though there were definitely gay characters stretching back into the 1970’s. Despite the growing number of LGBTQ characters being introduced into mainstream television over the past three decades, the number of cases of positive representation have been far fewer.
Certainly there have been positive examples, but frequently the queer character has a tragic story, and often, they simply don’t survive. The “bury your gays” trope is one that has reared up in far too many situations. LGBTQ characters die by suicide or hate crime with regularity in media, often shortly after they are comfortable admitting they are gay or when they find happiness in a new relationship. And while hardship certainly is a part of the life of any minority, focusing exclusively on that to the exclusion of any joy is a huge disservice to the LGBTQ community. Seeing yourself represented only to immediately suffer and die is not something that helps folks feel actually seen. And it doesn’t help people see you as more human.
Which is why Sunday night’s episode of “The Last of Us” entitled “Long, Long Time” has immediately become a touchstone for queer romance.
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