The annual list of GLAAD’s ‘Most Intriguing’ LGBT characters in media was recently released for 2014. In the video games category, the LGBT-advocacy group had some special remarks for one of Naughty Dog‘s most popular characters.
Warning: there are SPOILERS for anyone who has not completed The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC.
One of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, The Last of Us actually made our list last year for including gay hermit Bill amongst its cast of diverse characters trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic America. Then in February, developer Naughty Dog released an important piece of add-on content expanding on the story of central character Ellie and her life before meeting Joel. Though Ellie had previously mentioned the best friend she lost, Left Behind reveals that in their final days together, Ellie also confessed her true feelings for Riley after learning they would soon be separated, which Riley reciprocated. These scenes between them deepened Ellie’s story even further and made the survivor’s guilt she expresses later in the story all the more poignant. With a big-budget film adaptation in the works and a highly anticipated-sequel planned for 2016[*], Ellie is primed to become the most famous LGBT character in gaming.
*The 2016 date for a The Last of Us sequel has not been confirmed by Sony or Naughty Dog.
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Ellie’s LGBT legitimacy has been brought into question by many skeptics who have played Left Behind. Regardless of what Naughty Dog’s writers may say on the topic, it’s ultimately up to the audience’s interpretation of the material and how the work stands on its own.
The Last of Us plays in some very murky water, so it comes as no surprise that the game’s heroine would deal with questions of self-identity. As a teenager, with a female friend she clearly cares deeply for, Ellie’s internal struggle would likely be expressed through an act of physical passion. I believe it was that creative choice and Naughty Dog’s realistic execution that were key in GLAAD’s decision to name Ellie one of gaming’s most intriguing LGBT characters.
Jordan Loeffler is an Associate Editor for MONG. He recently platinumed The Last of Us: Remastered and can be frequently found in its masterful multiplayer mode. You can also follow him on IGN and on Twitter.