The Last of Us Part 2 Navigates the Complexity of Deadnames
I appreciate when queer representation dares to delve into the complexities of life. In reality, the LGBTQ+ community often faces societal challenges, despite increasing acceptance and visibility. We find ourselves constantly justifying our existence and fighting for what we have, aware that it could be taken away at any moment. This struggle builds resilience, and as a trans woman, I’ve developed a thick skin. Finding representation in media where I can see myself allows me to feel proud of who I am, knowing that others share the same optimism. However, life isn’t always rosy, and art should acknowledge this reality without shying away from uncomfortable aspects.
“The Last of Us Part 2” understands this complexity, not just because its queer protagonists engage in violent acts of revenge, but because it grapples with the messiness of life. The game isn’t perfect. It’s puzzling to witness Ellie and Dina, two queer women in their twenties, stumbling into a queer bookshop and expressing surprise at the presence of Pride flags or the existence of queer literature. In a world where Pearl Jam still circulates and characters collect antique coins, it’s hard to believe Ellie hasn’t encountered other queer individuals or learned about their history.
Naughty Dog presents queerness as an unknown element in many ways, even though many of its characters are queer-coded. This choice may be aimed at preventing Ellie and Dina from discovering the persecution their community faced. It’s a peculiar decision in a game that references the Holocaust and features a trans character battling prejudice from an organized religion he’s desperate to escape.
The queer representation in this masterful sequel is problematic from the outset, but that’s what makes it captivating. It acknowledges its messy and flawed execution while still depicting lesbian, bisexual, and trans identities in a way that fits the post-apocalyptic world it portrays. The absence of certain terms in this world, compared to the survival of original PS3 consoles and copies of Jak and Daxter, raises questions about the readiness of triple-A games for such conversations at the time.
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