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The Ellen Page of It All

Posted on Tuesday, February 18 @ 11:40:00 Eastern by Jessica_Vazquez

SPOILER ALERT!!! If you haven't played the DLC for The Last of Us, and don't want it ruined for you, go back now! You have been warned!

Last Friday something tremendous occurred. As a lesbian and a prolific video game enthusiast, I can only describe the serendipitous events of this past Valentine's Day as one big gay miracle. I was fully prepared for Ellie coming out but the fact that it actually happened still seems unreal.  

When you grow up queer, closeted or not, you develop this uncanny subtext detector. Or as it is more commonly known: gaydar. In an entertainment world dominated by heterosexual storylines, the slightest sense of homosexuality can send our gaydar off the charts. That’s pretty much what happened to me the first time I watched the opening cinematic of The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC. I hadn’t considered that Ellie was gay before seeing it, but watching her interact with Riley definitely made it clear there was something deeper going on under the surface.

Then add the fact that it was going to launch on Valentine's Day and I’m sure most people could have figured it out from there. Aside from the inevitable tragedy Ellie and Riley’s journey was an absolute delight to experience. I believe it is the first time we’ve seen a queer character in a game who is not only a protagonist but has a well-established storyline that isn’t centered around the fact that he or she is queer.



Ellen Page coming out that same day? Now that knocked me on my ass. My only rational thought for about ten minutes was “ELLEN PAGE.” It was like waiting in line to play Beyond Two Souls at E3 all over again.

I doubt that Naughty Dog and Ellen planned for this to happen. Some of you may think otherwise due to how much of a coincidence it is but let's get one fact straight: Ellen Page did not voice Ellie in The Last of Us. I think it’s important to state that since I’ve known some people that are unaware of that and it’s kind of alarming. Ellen Page has even gone so far as to correct people when they mistakenly give her praise and gives proper respect to Ashley Johnson.



While Ellen Page may not be directly linked to Ellie, what she stands for is. The entertainment world has the power to affect society to such a degree that it has the capability of pushing certain “standards” upon us. Page referenced this issue in her Time to Thrive speech by stating the following:

“I am, an actress, representing -- at least in some sense -- an industry that places crushing standards on all of us. Not just young people, but everyone. Standards of beauty. Of a good life. Of success. Standards that, I hate to admit, have affected me. You have ideas planted in your head, thoughts you never had before, that tell you how you have to act, how you have to dress and who you have to be.”

These same standards are present in gaming culture. Even before The Last of Us came out Naughty Dog was challenging the norm by featuring Ellie in the foreground of the box art while Joel is featured in the background. Very few mainstream titles primarily feature female characters, even if the game has female characters in it. If a female character is on the box art of a game, she's usually overly sexualized or overshadowed by a male character.

Naughty Dog's' refusal to go along with this unspoken standard even before the release of The Last of Us was as profound as the impact the game had on its audience. The standard in the gaming industry is that male characters draw in more customers. I could go into greater detail about this, but I feel Ashley Johnson said it best in an interview with VG247 back in 2012:

“I feel like they don’t put women on the covers because they’re afraid that it won’t sell. It’s all gamers really now – and I don’t want to be sexist by any means – but I get the feeling, generally, that they think game’s won’t sell as well with a woman on the cover, compared to some badass dude on the front.”

Misconception and misrepresentation are predominating in all forms of the entertainment world. The collective impact of movies, television, music, and video games is powerful. Individuals living within the microscope of the public eye like Ellen Page and companies like Naughty Dog have shown us that honesty and simple displays of authenticity can call for change and force us to rethink how we see the world. As a gay woman I am thankful for celebrities like Ellen Page who are brave enough to announce who they are and lead by example. As a gamer I am thankful for everyone at Naughty Dog, especially those who were involved in the creation of Ellie and the preservation of her integrity. 


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