Pop Culture
Jun 14, 2024, 06:28AM

Mushroom Zombies Are Gay

The Last of Us is really good.

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Last month, I wrote a four-part Mental Health and Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness series for the month. Last week, I wrote about how baseball is gay. If you don’t believe me, you don’t voraciously follow the Savannah Bananas and understand the juxtaposition between baseball and Broadway musicals, and that’s your loss.

I was asked if I was now doing a four-part Pride series since I came out two years ago, and I quickly responded “of course!” even though I hadn’t even thought about it and at the time I had no intention of doing that. I love nothing more than annoying all the cis straight white conservative men writers who comprise the majority of Splice, so away we go.

I just finished binge-watching The Last of Us, which is a new Amazon Prime/HBO Max series that can be compared to The Walking Dead, but my opinion is that it’s like if you put TWD in the dryer—less seasons, fewer but more intense characters, more action, better writing, better zombies. And 150 percent gayer. There are no zombies vogueing down a Drag Race runway on an episode of The Last of Us—maybe next season, or in an SNL skit.

One way to learn about the cinematic history, symbolism and culture of how zombies are a queer icon is to listen to a hot lesbian with a British accent, Rowan Ellis, brilliantly lecture, even if it’s your private singular (even if closeted!) celebration of Pride and no one ever knows about it. She ties the tropes from zombie films such as societal separation and fear of loss of autonomy together with themes of queerness, asking, “What better way to enforce ideas of otherness than by making queer people and queerness itself seem monstrous?” She highlights the ability of Last of Us to blend the poignant episode three, depicting the romance of two men into the zombie apocalypse, noting “this contrast of gentle, soft queer love against the violence of the apocalypse background of the show feels special… a radical thing to give queer characters this role in the narrative.”

Rolling Stone, noting the excellent musical choice of Linda Ronstadt’s “Long, Long Time” that made me cry while watching, covered the queer narrative in Last of Us, observing the beautiful love story between actors Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett):

“A man who hides alone in a bunker, after all, doesn’t have to worry about being rejected, by either homophobes or other gay men who simply aren’t interested. Or perhaps he hid from that part of himself because he couldn’t reconcile it with the rest of the image he had adopted. The reason doesn’t matter. All that does is his complete isolation, as well as his terror that this beautiful man in front of him will not find him desirable.”

Sometimes the fear of not being able to live authentically can be scarier than zombies, apparently. However refreshing to see a true embracing of “love is love,” it’s sad to see it happen in an “if we were the last two people on earth” landscape. If only people could find a way to live their best lives in the real world without waiting for a weird mushroom fungus to infect the brains of the majority of the planet.

And then there are the lesbians. Nonbinary actor Bella Ramsey portrays Ellie, who’s a lesbian in both the videogame the show’s based on, and the HBO series, where Ellie becomes more than friends with her bestie Riley. Although there has been some homophobic backlash for the gay representation in the game and show, they’re not concerned, stating in an interview with Variety:

“I’m not particularly anxious about it. I know people will think what they want to think. But they’re gonna have to get used to it. If you don’t want to watch the show because it has gay storylines, because it has a trans character, that’s on you, and you’re missing out. It isn’t gonna make me afraid. I think that comes from a place of defiance.”

Defiance is what Pride is all about and how it started.


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