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The Last of Us Showrunners Fail To Understand Audience Needs


The two LGBTQ+ love stories are the lowest-rated episodes of HBO’s zombie-horror post-apocalyptic thriller, “The Last of Us.”

Billed as one of the only successful adaptations of a video game, the show promised high-end drama and, if we’re talking about the set design, cinematography, special effects, and cast—they have delivered.

Early on, The Last of Us offered its audience many moments when they were left thinking, “Yes! Finally! A show!” instead of the usual regurgitated drivel that seeps out of the Hollywood vaults. The opening escape through the infected cities was a great piece of pacing and terror, while creeping about in the museum was a masterclass in suspense.

Unfortunately, the showrunners have openly expressed their desire to “trick” audiences into watching gay romance for long stretches of time, which is not exactly appealing to the average horror-action viewer. It’s a strange thematic marriage that is already cracking apart.

Director Peter Hoar told Inverse: “Sometimes you have to sort of trick the rest of the world into watching these things before they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, it was two guys. I just realised.’ I think then they might understand that it’s all real. It’s just the same love.”

Others may say it’s a bit strange that the demographic pursuing “trigger warnings” and butchering historic fiction to “update it” for modern sensibilities is the same ideological group that delights in tricking people into watching sexually themed content they don’t like or makes them uncomfortable.

Hoar’s comments were made in relation to episode three: “Long, Long Time,” in which a standalone love story between a “doomsday prepper” and random survivor, both middle-aged men, is followed for far too long.

They live and die without advancing the plot except for sending the odd radio message to Joel and providing a weapons cache for later. None of which requires any explanation beyond a few lines.

Forced Upon the Audience

While the LGBTQ+ community swarmed social media to drool over the episode, casual viewers were less than impressed, not least because it ruined the zombie tension and pacing of the first two episodes.

“Game of Thrones” used to get away with introducing characters only to kill them off shortly after viewers were bullied into caring about them, but The Last of Us doesn’t have sufficient audience trust to sustain emotional executions, and certainly not now that it has become a habit.

Redeeming ‘Long, Long Time’ was the quality of the acting and the scattered plot threads. There were even quotable moments of humour. If we really want to act as apologists, we can say it served as a micro-character development arc for co-lead Joel.

But the sentiment could have been achieved in a 30-minute version, leaving more time for the heroes to continue their journey.

The trend of marching characters to their dramatic end for manufactured emotion mounted the shark (but did not vault it) in episode five: “Endure and Survive.” If the previous gay love story had been left out, Endure and Survive would not have felt like a repeat.

The showrunners are well aware the gay love story was gratuitous.

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There seems to be this attitude in Woke Hollywood that if enough LGBTQ+ content is pushed onto straight viewers, they’ll start to love it and seek it out. Like all attempts at conversion therapy, this will never happen.

Over and over and over again, audiences have shown a preference for male-female lead pairings with blistering on-screen chemistry. If not between the leads, then certainly the side characters.

One need only look at BBC giant Doctor Who falling to bits in a few years after gender-swapping the lead and queer-baiting in the Tardis.

It’s a similar problem to the demonisation of “toxic” white males as heroes and the insistence on miscasting “empowered” females where they feel unrealistic and boring.

Hollywood has been sending itself broke on the #MeToo binge, and streaming services are doing the same thing with their “diversity and inclusion” program.

Normal People Like Normal Things

The rating rejection of the gay romances in The Last of Us is a warning to the survival of the show. Most people are straight, and straight audiences like to watch straight relationships.

Attempting to sustain a show that prioritises LGBTQ+ content while leaving out straight relationships is doomed to lose viewers. No doubt fans will call this “homophobia” but, as the Woke like to keep reminding us, audiences like to see themselves on screen.

A majority of men do not choose to watch other men making out for an hour, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a large audience of women who are entertained by other women kissing.

The men would rather watch old-fashioned zombie-hacking, and the women want that zombie-hacking done by hot, straight, shirtless blokes.

The most recent episode of The Last of Us has crossed over into dangerous territory. While the teenage lesbian romance in “Left Behind” between Ellie and new Firefly recruit Riley is part of the video game canon, dragging it on for over an hour has bored audiences who came for the zombie drama and overstretched casual viewers who have no interest in 14-year-old girls kissing.

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Carrying the lowest rating on IMDB, the reviews have well and truly turned.

“First time I’ve been disappointed by this show,” wrote one. “Most boring episode so far,” wrote another.

“So meandering that I wanted to turn it off halfway through,” said another, who went on to add, “Now I question my tastes—maybe this show isn’t for me.”

One poor sod muttered, “I am writing this review while I am watching the episode in an effort to keep from bailing entirely.”

Perhaps it is better summarised by the person who wrote, “What was this?”

However, the access media loved it, heaping praise on the episode that amounted to a pair of girls walking through an abandoned shopping mall for an hour.

At this point, it feels as if they are required to write glowing reviews, or someone will accuse them of being bigots.

Wasted Potential

Genuinely, this was not good writing. The showrunners are hoping that viewers are sufficiently invested in Joel’s survival to sit through the boring mess—and they might, but not for much longer.

The greatest sin this episode commits is that it hashes out story content that was already covered. We knew exactly what was going to happen from the start, leaving the viewer with nothing to learn or gain—so why is it there?

No one thought Ellie was going to leave Joel behind. By this point, it has been established that she views him as a father figure she is loyal to—so the framing of the flashback between Ellie running for the door and returning is a lazy, emotionless bookend.

It’s a shame we didn’t learn more about the FireFlies from Riley’s perspective. We could have been convinced to understand the political conflict from the first two episodes, but it was tacked on as an afterthought.

The showrunners did not even give the audience the satisfaction of watching Ellie forced to turn on her friend and choose to save her own life while waiting for the infection that was never coming.

Where were those scenes? What about Ellie wandering the shopping mall on her own, waiting to turn into a monster? Such wasted potential.

You can trick audiences once, but they’re not going to come back for season two. We’re not going gay for zombies.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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