This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us and to a lesser extent, Tomb Raider.
Last month, NewStatesman published an excellent article by Sophia McDougall about the inadequacy of the ubiquitous "Strong Female Character", whose sole trait is invulnerability. Central to its argument is the fact that while pop culture’s favourite male heroes are deeply flawed (Sherlock Holmes is an addict, Batman a lunatic and James Bond a psychopath, to name a few) their female counterparts are rarely allowed to be anything other than “strong” lest they are automatically rendered unheroic. This is not only boring but insulting, since it implies that while men are innately heroic enough to remain so despite having serious character flaws, women have to be bulletproof, otherwise they’re pathetic.
|The Last of Us' Ellie does what needs to be done.|
As if to prove McDougall’s point, Cracked.com published a half-baked piece of clickbait last week which contained a troubling analysis of a pivotal scene in Naughty Dog’s zombie road trip epic The Last of Us. In the scene, 14-year old Ellie, cornered by a cannibalistic hebephile, violently stabs him to death with a machete before being pulled away by ageing smuggler Joel, whom she’s spent the last three months trying to save from starvation, infection and worse. Reunited with the man she thought she’d never see again as her attacker's mutilated corpse lies bleeding beside her, Ellie bursts into tears.