The Last of Us showed a gay love story to the mainstream audience who need to see it most
Queer people exist, even amidst the apocalypse
Even the biggest of fans of the 2013 source material video game probably felt blindsided by the lengths HBO’s The Last of Us TV adaptation went to on its third episode, which diverted from the main Ellie and Joel storyline to give us a bottle episode centred on survivalist Bill and his partner Frank. The game made no secret about the fact Bill was gay (the gay porn mags in his room were a slight giveaway), but what HBO created here gave the characters warmth, depth and one of the most beautiful accidental gay love stories I’ve ever seen told on screen – a queer romance nestled in the heart of global destruction. But what really makes this feel special to me as a gay man is who is going to be watching Bill and Frank fall in love on The Last of Us, and what that means for LGBTQ+ people going forward.
Bill and Frank
As the above tweet deftly puts it, Joel and Ellie needed a car. Before they get it, we get the full backstory of the car’s previous owner – Bill. The show takes us back 20 years before the current plot line, and Bill is a survivalist living in a bunker under his home as Lincoln is evacuated after Cordyceps spreads. Once the town is evacuated, he emerges and ransacks the businesses around the town to fortify his traps, defences, build a generator and live a comfortable post-apocalyptic life.
Four years later, Frank falls into his trap – and after agreeing to let the stranger have a shower and a meal, Frank makes a move on Bill and the two have sex. The ep then jumps forward another three years and they’re in a relationship, and making friends with Joel and Tess.
The episode then jumps 10 years forward and the two are old, and Frank is dying of a degenerative disease. He emotionally asks Bill to assist with his suicide as the two have one last perfect day together – getting married in nice suits they loot and with Bill making Frank the same meal they had when they first met. Bill tells Frank he’s going to be overdosing too, because he’s content and doesn’t want his life without his soulmate.
They die together, and then Joel and Ellie turn up and Bill has left all their stuff for them to use. Not a dry eye in the gaff, and if there was – you’re dead inside.
Why it’s vitally important
It’s not a presumption to say that a huge proportion of video game fans are straight men. There’s good reason why trying to find a video game that features female lead roles is far from an equal gender split – and if you find me a video game where the lead roles are two gay men I’ll show you my jaw as it hangs on the ground, because as far as I’m aware it doesn’t exist.
I’m going to use my dad as a case study here. He loves The Last of Us (but not The Last of Us 2 – which he tells me is “too woke”, which is a battle for another day). I don’t think my dad is homophobic, but he would never consume any queer telly out of choice I’d say. He loves me, he’s never given me any grief – but I do think he has this resentment towards diversity for some reason. It’s frustrating, but that’s family – I pick my battles.
He’s been loving the adaptation of The Last of Us. Watching episode three, I sat there thinking about how my dad is going to have watched it. He’s going to watch two men fall in love, have sex, be flirty, funny, fiery – in a setting and genre that he enjoys. Having queer love stories told like this in a mainstream way without compromising on detail and heart is so important because men like my dad are going to watch this show and think about gay relationships differently going forward. I think that’s so beautiful.
It doesn’t matter if we have Heartstopper or shows like Cucumber and It’s A Sin from Russell T Davies, my dad and men like him were never going to watch those anyway. But they were going to watch this, and what the writers have done is create an amazing and thorough gay love story from the game’s springboard and whether the gaming community of straight men cry “woke” or not, they will think about things differently going forward deep down.
It’s so special that we’re getting prestige shows detailing the love stories we deserve to have told, for everyone to see without it being a gimmick or the focus of the whole show. We exist amongst the mainstream, even when being queer itself is an act of divert rebellion. We exist – even in video games, even and especially in the apocalypse.
“I was never afraid before you showed up.”
For all the latest horror news and to keep up with The Last of Us cast drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
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