Two girls try to restore their friendship… and try to escape a military dictatorship and spore infected rage zombies.
The Last of Us: Left Behind.
Before I get too far, I recieved disturbing news while working on this. A highschool friend has escaped a physically abusive relationship. People’s reaction on social media? Accusing her of being a crazy person. Sometimes it’s hard for people to see any problems with our culture’s relationship to gender and even mentioning the word misogyny puts you, for some, into the category of extremist jumping at imagined shadows. Perhaps a zombie video game will change minds.
In the game, Ellie and Riley, the main characters of Last of Us: Left Behind, wander through a post apocalyptic world where a fungus has taken over the minds and bodies of the majority of humanity. Ellie still lives under marshal-law and Riley has escaped and lives as one of the revolutionaries hunted by the military majority. Their relationship has taken a blow. Words were said. Riley has been gone for weeks and Ellie presumed her dead. Now she’s back and trying to recover their relationship. Strong girls who aren’t hyper-sexualized. Trying to survive life after the zombie apocalpse. And it’s great.
In the writing community, there is something called the Bechdel Test. For those of you who are not familiar, this is a test used by feminist critcs to evaluate films. I hope you won’t find it particularly outrageous. To pass, a film or story needs:
- At least two female characters, who
- talk to each other, about
- something besides a man?
That’s it. Not exactly radical stuff. And it’s disturbing how much can’t even rise to that level, like the original Star Wars trilogy or the Lord of the Rings films. It should go without saying that in the realm of videogames, a game that passes the Bechdel Test is a rare find. This expansion for an already excellent game really made me smile. And even though I know that Riley can’t survive this prequel, I deeply enjoyed the high quality game, both as Ellie tried to reconnect with Riley and as she was driving her small stilletto blade into the eye socket of one of the “Infected.”
This is our culture. We worry about violence and sex in media, when the Bible and classical literature–forming much of America’s cultural foundation–are filled with both, but it’s rare that real female characters have an actual part in any book, film or video game. What effect does that have on our minds and the minds of our children? What message are they receiving when women don’t even seem to exist in media or are only bit characters?
When I think about my friend’s suffering the indignation of having people judge her for taking her children away from an abusive relationship, I have to wonder if that’s because, for them, she’s a minor character while her husband is a main character.