Why Ellie From The Last of Us Is A Great Video Game Character
Originally Published: September 29, 2014
Revised: September 29, 2014
So I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed this, but female characters in video games aren’t always portrayed in the most three-dimensional way. Most of the time, they’re treated as sexual objects, dressed in skintight bodysuits or miniskirts with large breasts and minimal personality. They’re like satellites. They orbit the male protagonist and frequently get themselves into danger, which he has to save them from before they ultimately become his trophy at the end of the game. We’re so used to seeing objectified or two-dimensional female characters that we don’t even think much about it anymore. I thought change in the video game industry seemed far off, until I saw Ellie from The Last of Us.
Ellie Is Unexpected
The Last of Us is a survival zombie video game based in a post-apocalyptic world. You follow two main characters, an older man named Joel and a 14-year-old girl named Ellie. Now because this is a sexuality education website, I’m not going to go into detail about the video game itself. (You can find out about that somewhere else.) I’m just going to focus on Ellie’s character.
First off, she is appropriately dressed for fighting zombies, in just jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. She looks and acts like a typical young teen; there’s really nothing unnatural about her personality. Her existence in the video game is actually very vital to the story, which is one thing that doesn’t normally happen with female characters. Since she’s immune to the virus, it is suggested she may be the cure for the zombie infection. But beyond her part in the story, she is actually a well-developed and strong character all on her own.
She allows herself to be vulnerable, sometimes even in the face of danger. Ellie gets to be human and still be a dangerous warrior.
Ellie Is Fierce and Feminine
Getting to know Ellie doesn’t happen as much in the main game as it does in the downloadable content (DLC), which is basically an add-on you can buy for the game and it features an extra side story. In the DLC titled, Left Behind, you follow Ellie’s life a lot more closely, and that’s where you really get to see who she is. When Ellie goes off on her own, she’s thrust into a lot of dangerous situations. She has to learn to defend herself against whoever tries to hurt her. Armed with only a pocketknife, she takes down grown men and formidable zombies by herself.
All of these things would terrify any human being, and they terrify Ellie, too. Often times, female characters, who are supposed to be strong, are created to be serious, even emotionless. They don’t seem to have fears or vulnerability, like they’re not allowed to even cry or be afraid. Living in a post-apocalyptic world, Ellie’s learned to toughen up and watch her back. She can kill a grown man with ease, but she is also “girly.” She still wants to go to the mall, take pictures with her best friend and share secrets with her. She has fears and falters. She allows herself to be vulnerable, sometimes even in the face of danger. Ellie gets to be human and still be a dangerous warrior.
Changing Perceptions of Girls in Games
Growing up, girls often think that “being a girl” is something to be scorned. To me, water gun fights were always cooler than dress up, video games were cooler than dolls. From a very young age, girls are taught that to be a girl is to be weak, to be less of a person. Some girls want to be or act like boys, because that just seems so much stronger and is often more valued. I’m guilty of this way of thinking. I thought for a long time that if I were to act “like a girl,” I wouldn’t be liked and it would make me weaker than other people. I thought being a girl was all about being helpless and superficial, but Ellie has proven me wrong, and hopefully will prove many others wrong, too.
In my mind, Ellie’s as close to human as a video game character can get. She showed me that any girl can be a courageous warrior and still be scared, because that’s what it means to be human. People of all genders have fears and moments of weakness, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t be strong, complex individuals. Any girl can have the bravery to kill a zombie with only a pocketknife and still want to take silly pictures with her best friend. It doesn’t make her any less of a compelling character.
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