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, 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.
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.