Friday, March 1, 2024

The Last of Us 2 release date trailer is troubling for queer audiences

When The Last of Us 2 was first teased back in 2017, the hype was already pretty high for gamers. Fast forward a few months, and the reveal of Ellie and her new girlfriend Dina had some queer audiences feeling cautiously optimistic about what Naughty Dog would have in store for the couple in The Last of Us 2.

After all, at first glance, it looked as though Ellie would be on a rescue mission to help Joel with Dina by her side.

Yet, with the recently released trailer, detailing the release date of the game, the way the trailer has been marketed is deeply troubling for queer audiences. How so? Because it paints the narrative of a well-known, but stale trope called ‘Bury Your Gays’.

‘Bury your gays’ is a trope most LGBT audiences will recognize.

Bury your gays is, to put it simply, killing off your gay characters in a world that is widely heterosexual. Hey, just like real life!

It is also known as Dead Lesbian Syndrome, a trope that has been overused since the dawn of time and even caused outrage so prominently that billboards dedicated to the overwhelming amount of queer characters being killed in media were made to try and raise awareness.

That was three years ago and it seems obvious that we haven’t learned a thing.

While it can be argued that this is a post-apocalyptic game with no happy endings, regardless of your sexuality, this is also the first triple-A game that has a gay protagonist as its lead. That alone is fantastic, yes, but what good is having Ellie be front and center when all Naughty Dog seems to be capable of is killing off her love interests? Riley in the DLC ‘Left Behind’ was just one example of that, and so for Dina to possibly meet the same fate in order to make Ellie feel something? This kind of representation is tired, and so overdone in other mediums that the possibility of it in the future is incredibly disheartening.

Even if it doesn’t come to pass, which could be likely considering trailers often don’t show everything, Naughty Dog’s marketing of what looks to be Ellie and Dina taking their steps into a romantic relationship, only to have it torn apart by Dina’s murder is tortuous at best. There are so many other ways outside of death to cause drama. In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss to actually have Dina be the one happy thing in Ellie’s life, and her love for Dina to be the motivation of doing what she does — to get back home.

A gay love story about revenge is fine, but what if it that’s all we ever get?

Because love, as always, is much more fascinating when we get to see it play out. Death? It’s played too large a part in queer stories in video games, and while I don’t pretend to speak for all of the LGBT community, I speak as a queer woman when I say that enough is enough. When we get equal opportunities to have happy, queer stories instead of death, more death and hey, another slice of death, then we can talk about the setting of the world the game is set in. Because in truth? That hardly seems important in the whole scheme of things.

We can always give Naughty Dog the benefit of doubt, of course. But let’s be honest with one another: have they rightfully earned it? Yes, they’ve shown Ellie and Dina’s kiss and love front and center, but they’ve also killed off every gay character (barring Ellie) that we’ve ever encountered in-game.

Even in spite of the grimdark world of the Last of Us 2, why is it that death of a loved one is considered the only answer to hurt LGBT characters? All it does is rub salt into a wound again and again, intentionally or not, that we don’t deserve to be represented in a positive way in the media we consume.

To end this The Last of Us 2 article, I’d like to indicate something Khee Hoon Chan says about the trope in their article on Polygon: “these story decisions don’t exist in a vacuum. The death of queer characters is as common as the Wilhelm scream at this point, and often just as distractingly artificial.

For more opinions on The Last of Us 2, as well as features, check out the rest of Gayming Magazine.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.

15 thoughts on “The Last of Us 2 release date trailer is troubling for queer audiences

  • Aimee being gay does not make you immune to terrible things. being treated equal in society means getting the negatives as well as the positives.

  • OR, it’s just a character losing another character that they care deeply for, thus fueling their revenge and the story at large. It’s called a catalyst, and it doesn’t matter if the loved one is of the same sex or not. It’s merely a plot device, and a plot device basically used since the dawn of story telling.

    • Feels like you’re reaching a bit here.

  • you’re assuming it was Dina that got killed.
    Last i knew Ellie was still alive and kicking ass.
    so what’s the problem again?

  • I am a gay man and I sure as hell will never call myself “queer”. Why is that even a thing now? I can’t stand these millennial gay people who are so out of touch with reality. Always crying about something. And LGBTQIA is a f##king joke now. Please add a bazillion more letters to make yourself look more ridiculous.

    • I think you might be overthinking. First of all this whole outrage is based on speculation. Second, what does the sexuality of a person have to do with the character being killed off for plot purposes? I’m not understanding why you are so upset.

    • Same here. It’s crazy to me that some people think it’s okay to call others a slur.

  • In some ways, I do have the similar concerns about Dead Lesbian Syndrome. And I do wish Ellie would have a happy ending that queer characters normally don’t.

    (Spoilers below)

    This being said, the context in TLOU is different. In the first installment, everyone close to Joel and Ellie died. No matter who you are, a lover, a daughter, a partner, a close friend, the first lesbian crush. Everyone can die. We surely should discuss if TLOU exploits sadness as an extreme tragedy porn. Yet the thoughtful writing and the appropriate layers of emotions somehow counter most of the concerns. That makes the death of Frank not exploitative, but purely astounding.

    Well, it’s quite immature to discuss the plot of a game which is not published yet. Maybe Dina will be utilised as a troll, which will be unfortunate and infuriating. It’s just that, TLOU’s theme always focuses on loss. No matter which sexual orientation you are, what colour of skin you have, the whole journey won’t be exhilarating and bright, let along “in a positive way in the media we consume”. I kind of assume everyone in all the trailers will be dead in the end, even Joel.

  • Social Justice ideologues are never happy, is there a name for that Syndrome? What more do you want tha a tripple A game treating homosexuals like every other character and even being the main protagonist?

  • At the end of the trailer when Ellie is grabbed and it swings around to Joel, he is in a house, even though Ellie was quite obviously outside. Shock twist, Joel was the one that died down those stairs and Dina was the one that grabbed Ellie at the end of the trailer. And it’s a bait and switch like with the first games story trailer… just a theory… Also, Bill was gay, and never died, and was one of my favourite characters…

  • This is stupid, for all y’all know it’s Joel getting killed in that trailer!

  • However, an early 2020 release date for The Last of Us 2 does not seem impossible at this point as PlayStation having two such huge releases close together at the end of 2019 would be a surprise indeed.

  • “Bury your gays is, to put it simply, killing off your gay characters in a world that is widely heterosexual.”

    Ellie is the main goddamn character! I know, I know you deal with this in the rest of the article, but… poorly.

    “In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss to actually have Dina be the one happy thing in Ellie’s life, and her love for Dina to be the motivation of doing what she does — to get back home.”

    Not sure you get the post-apocalyptic genre. You’re framing it like Ellie goes off to war and then has a nice safe warm home to return to. That is a rare plot device to play in a post-apocalyptic storyline. Watch any post-apocalyptic movie, show, and in this case game. A common theme is no place can be considered safely as home. The biggest difference between the pre-apocalypse (I guess like us, our current situation) and the post-apocalypse is that most of us, depending on where you live of course, take our homes and our lives for granted, and a lot of us see no reason not to. That is not there in post-apocalyptic stories. There is never a time to afford complacency in your situation. And even when the characters do, that’s usually when the audience can predict, “Shit’s about to happen.”

    “they’ve also killed off every gay character (barring Ellie) that we’ve ever encountered in-game.”

    Lie or memory problems or you just never played the first game. I’m not sure who you mean by “every”. And I may be having memory problems here as well, but thus far we’ve encountered 5 gay characters in-game. And 2 were killed so far and the 5th is Dina and we don’t know what’s going to happen there yet. If you’re looking at the previous sentences in confusion, I’m not surprised. You would think in an article dealing with the lgbtq issues in Last of Us you’d at least mention Bill and Frank. We never get to meet Frank (this might have given you an opportunity to possibly critique the game further), only his lifeless hanging body, but as far as we know Bill is still alive. So…

    “Even in spite of the grimdark world of the Last of Us 2, why is it that death of a loved one is considered the only answer to hurt LGBT characters?”

    Play a different goddamn game. Oh my god. This story is about tragedy. And whoever the main character is you can be sure, none of those close to them will be safe. I’m expecting Joel is going out in this one. I hope Ellie saves Dina, but if that falls through it wouldn’t surprise me. It will be tragic, and I will feel lots of emotion for Ellie, because she is my current favorite videogame character and I want her tragic life to get a break. But refer to my second point, this is the post-apocalyptic genre. Hell, they could throw a real wrench in the machine: kill Ellie and Dina is the main character for the rest of the game. If you can’t deal with this “nobody’s safe” plot device, play a different goddamn game.

Comments are closed.