The Last of Us Part 2 has Israeli politics within

Clout

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This article has spoilers so beware of that. I didn't even consider this prospective until I read the article, good on the author.

The Last of Us Part II focuses on what has been broadly defined by some of its creators as a "cycle of violence." While some zombie fiction shows human depravity in response to fear or scarcity in the immediate aftermath of an outbreak, The Last of Us Part II takes place in a more stabilized post apocalypse, decades after societal collapse, where individuals and communities choose to hurt each other as opposed to taking heinous actions out of desperation.


More specifically, the cycle of violence in The Last of Us Part II appears to be largely modeled after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I suspect that some players, if they consciously clock the parallels at all, will think The Last of Us Part II is taking a balanced and fair perspective on that conflict, humanizing and exposing flaws in both sides of its in-game analogues. But as someone who grew up in Israel, I recognized a familiar, firmly Israeli way of seeing and explaining the conflict which tries to appear evenhanded and even enlightened, but in practice marginalizes Palestinian experience in a manner that perpetuates a horrific status quo.
The game's co-director and co-writer Neil Druckmann, an Israeli who was born and raised in the West Bank before his family moved to the U.S., told the Washington Post that the game's themes of revenge can be traced back to the 2000 killing of two Israeli soldiers by a mob in Ramallah. Some of the gruesome details of the incident were captured on video, which Druckmann viewed. In his interview, he recounted the anger and desire for vengeance he felt when he saw the video—and how he later reconsidered and regretted those impulses, saying they made him feel “gross and guilty.” But it gave him the kernel of a story.
“I landed on this emotional idea of, can we, over the course of the game, make you feel this intense hate that is universal in the same way that unconditional love is universal?” Druckmann told the Post. “This hate that people feel has the same kind of universality. You hate someone so much that you want them to suffer in the way they’ve made someone you love suffer.”


Druckmann drew parallels between The Last of Us and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict again on the official The Last of Us podcast. When discussing the first time Joel kills another man to protect his daughter and the extraordinary measures people will take to protect the ones they love, Druckmann said he follows "a lot of Israeli politics," and compared the incident to Israel's release of hundreds of Palestinians prisoners in exchange for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011. He said that his father thought that the exchange was overall bad for Israel, but that his father would release every prisoner in every prison to free his own son.
"That's what this story is about, do the ends justify the means, and it's so much about perspective. If it was to save a strange kid maybe Joel would have made a very different decision, but when it was his tribe, his daughter, there was no question about what he was going to do," Druckmann said.
Naughty Dog and PlayStation have presented Druckmann as The Last of Us Part II's creative lead and public face. Game development is a highly collaborative practice that demands the backbreaking labor of literally hundreds of programmers, testers, writers, and artists, all of whom make creative contributions and without whom a game of this size and scope would not exist. So while it's impossible to pin a big budget video game's themes and inspirations to one person, parallels between The Last of Us Part II and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict manifest in the final product, not just in what Druckmann has said in interviews.

This conflict comes to a head when Isaac decides to push deep into the Scars' land to finish them once and for all. We don't get to see how the battle ends or who comes out on top, but we see Isaac die in the fighting, and get the sense that the battle is so brutal and bloody, whatever survives is not worth keeping.
Rather than step back, cooperate, and seek truth and reconciliation, the Wolves and Scars keep seeking revenge for past grievances in a cycle of violence that eventually ends them both in literal fires sparked by hate. The game's message seems to be: "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind," another cliche that The Last of Us Part II indulges in by taking away Tommy's eye at the end of the game for seeking revenge for his brother Joel.
A "cycle of violence" is a tempting way to interpret this conflict, or any conflict, because it signals careful nuance while quietly squashing more difficult conversations. By suggesting that since both Wolves and Scars are equally implicated and equally in pain, we are free to stop thinking about the problem. All parties include both good and bad actors. We're all human. Both sides.
This common, centrist position on violent conflict, while better than absolute dehumanization, is not coincidentally a world view that allows conflicts to drag on forever. Suggesting moral equivalence and a symmetry in ability between sides also invites us to throw up our hands and give up on better solutions because of implied and unexamined perceptions about "human nature." Indeed, the game is unrelentingly cynical, and this cynicism animates most of the 30-odd hour experience. Whereas Abby and Ellie find interpersonal resolution at the end, the game seems content to leave the question of community-scale cycles of violence as a regrettable fact of human existence. Even if the Wolves and Scars meet their mutual end, the game leaves us with the knowledge that a resistance group from the first game, the Fireflies, and other groups, are regrouping and gaining strength. The cycle continues.

The Last of Us Part II is an incredible journey that provides not only one of the most mesmerizing spectacles that we've seen from big budget video games, but one that manages to ask difficult questions along the way. It's clearly coming from an emotionally authentic and self-examining place. The trouble with it, and the reason that Ellie's journey ultimately feels nonsensical, is that it begins from a place that accepts "intense hate that is universal" as a fact of life, rather than examining where and why this behavior is learned.
Critically, by not asking these questions, and by masking its point of view as being evenhanded, it perpetuates the very cycles of violence it's supposedly so troubled by.

 

Nicodemous52

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I'm, I don't know about all that. I guess if the director sites it himself. Then who am I to argue? But the real question is, what actual insight would he have worth sharing? I suspect the same as the rest of us, none.
 

Tommy Walls

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Apparently...

I hear that leading up to the fight with Abby, Ellie experiences what TLOU Strategist explains on YouTube, is supposed to be many religious references. The garden that looks dark with the tables is how Jesus felt, and Abby hanging like that is meant to be symbolic of his crucifixion.

Here's the video.


I wish more YouTubers used their brains like this guy does. :cool:
 

Nicodemous52

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Jul 2, 2020
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Apparently...

I hear that leading up to the fight with Abby, Ellie experiences what TLOU Strategist explains on YouTube, is supposed to be many religious references. The garden that looks dark with the tables is how Jesus felt, and Abby hanging like that is meant to be symbolic of his crucifixion.

Here's the video.


I wish more YouTubers used their brains like this guy does. :cool:
Wow, I've said it seemed like the whole idea was to craft a narrative about the nature of vengeance itself, and at five min it it seems like this guy agrees with me. I may not have played the game, but philosophy and human nature are kind of my wheel house.

EDIT: Ok, maybe Neil would have more insight on the conflict than the average person. I stand corrected on that.
 
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Tommy Walls

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I know Neil said he didn't know yet if he could do a third game, but even fans have their own ideas and theories on where Ellie's and even Abby's journey could go next. You know? I don't think the series is done. But I guess that may depend on how well the upcoming HBO series does. It has to live up to the expectations that the original game delivered, so perfect casting choices are important...

Several years back, a group of us zombie fans made a film called Redcon-1. It has a similar story to The Last of Us, because it's about a girl who has antibodies to a virus. A group of marines come in during the chaos, and one was played by a former WWE Superstar. Well, I took part in a shoot in March of 2016 inside an old mine with an actor called Mark Strange. :)

I'd imagine practically any film or game has ripped off or copied something similar before it, but this film tries to be clever by making the zombies do martial arts. The film only made it to 26 in the official UK charts, but that's not particularly bad though.


I'm that handsome guy with the glasses who attacks Mark Strange in that scene...

My philosophy, even when I'm dead: "If you don't feed Saunders... Saunders will have to come feed on YOU!" :ROFLMAO:

Redcon-1.png
 

Tommy Walls

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Yeah. You have to pay attention to every piece of detail.

In the ending, you see Ellie with the bracelet Dina gave her as she approaches the farmhouse, and because Ellie doesn't seem surprised that the house is empty when she walks inside, it is suggested that perhaps Ellie reunited with her. The ending would otherwise be extremely sour if Ellie truly lost everything. Nobody knows, as Naughty Dog didn't exactly chuck any happy aspects in our face, so the audience is just left to ponder about her fate.
 

Tek

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The video was neutral, it wasn't praising or attacking the game. It was merely offering an interpretation of it's themes and their deeper meaning.
I mean like in geral, everyone trying to find things in the game like hidden messages and stuff even thou theres been alot of slating for it.
 

Tommy Walls

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Those memes on Reddit though, are funny. It's odd seeing an entire Reddit group almost universally agreeing that they think the game sucks. It's only a game. 🤪
 
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