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The Last of Us: Our Obsession With The End Won’t End

The Last of Us is truely impressive and fantastic to watch, but isn’t it a story we have heard many times before?

By Josh ClementsPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
Picture: ‘The Last of Us’ by HBO

Twenty years have gone by since Cillian Murphy woke up in a devastated zombie filled London in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. We are treated to another spectacle of the end in the critically renowned The Last of Us. A show that cements the fact that the only thing left which separates television and film is the size of the screen. The Last of Us is truely impressive and fantastic to watch, but isn’t it a story we have heard many times before?

I could fill pages and pages with the end of world stories which have occurred these past three decades: Independence Day, Armageddon, 2012, The Road, The Walking Dead, The Quiet Place and on and on. Why are we so addicted to stories which depict the end? Even Marvel, that other behemoth of cinema from the last decade, resorted to an end of world premise for its signature piece; Thanos clicking his fingers and killing half the population of the universe. Or we can look to the White Walkers coming to finish life as we know it in Westeros. The end in entertainment is not so much nigh but constantly happening and throwing us into that void behind civilisation, it’s what we crave. Usually, with a few survivors, us, dealing with whatever monster caused it. Even the most recent season of Stranger Things ended with us facing the Upsidedown on a global level threat.

The answer is actually rather mundane but poignant all the same; it is our anxiety. Often the culture of an age is defined by its worries; think the Victorians facing ghosts as death in the real world lay all around them, science fiction proliferated in the face of ‘Roswell’ and the Space Race, and Godzilla terrorised Tokyo as Japan dealt with 200,000 dead following the fall of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Y2K, and now to the Covid Pandemic.

As depression rates soar and suicide remains the most likely thing to kill a male anywhere in the world under forty, we are undoubtedly anxious and we want relief. A world without responsibilities or worries, even at the cost of life on earth, seems exhilarating. Because let’s face it, that is the quickest solution for 99% of the world who don’t have access to unlimited resources. ‘The End’ is what we want to see, read, play and hear.

So, why are we so anxious? A reasonable person would point to plenty of structural issues causing this: the climate crisis, the prospect of nuclear armageddon, the pandemic, the shaking of our democratic institutions, war, genocides, racial inequality, poverty, and of course our ever present fear of death. As France protests the raising of the pension age, we know that we have only one life to spare, and do we want to spend it working to our late sixties?

Since the Enlightenment the facade of an ever lasting peace in the thereafter is a no go. After all, it was Nietzsche who lamented that ‘God is Dead’, for he worried that without a deity, what would we turn to? Well, I think we know. The early twentieth century did its best to bring about apocalypse, as did the Cold War. Presently, with the triad of USA, China, and Russia at loggerheads, we feel that we are inching back to the place of no return. And if that doesn’t get us, the polluting of our planet will. Give us a story about what will come next… because we think it is coming.

The Frankfurt School had an interesting perspective on all this, Marcuse positioned that ‘high culture’ often showed the world for its hidden contradictions or, eerily, the truth we know but are afraid to see. With the proliferation of the internet, social media, and the content explosion created by streaming platforms, we are being spoon fed our biggest fear and our desperate need (with amazing production value). We want out of this rat race, but we don’t know how; the end of the world is as good as any a place to start.

It is no small coincidence that a plane falls from the sky and explodes in an early scene of The Last of Us - our fear of flying comes true, the plane we are on falls from the sky; it is the epitome of the end of civilisation.

How will this all play out? Well, if you’re like me, you’re already waiting for episode two to drop.

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About the Creator

Josh Clements

Known to scribble away at my fantasy novel, screenplays, poems and short stories.

Tastes may vary.

Twitter: @JoshuaClements89

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