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The Last of Us and the Postmodern Condition: Exploring the Themes and Motifs of the Game and TV Seri

"The Last of Us" is a critically acclaimed video game series that has captivated audiences with its engaging storyline, memorable characters, and post-apocalyptic setting. In 2021, a TV series adaptation of the game was released on HBO, bringing the world of "The Last of Us" to a wider audience. But what is it about "The Last of Us" that makes it so compelling? And what is the connection between the game and TV series and postmodern literature?


In this article, we will explore the themes and motifs of "The Last of Us" and how they relate to the postmodern condition. We will examine how the game and TV series depict a world where traditional authority and narratives have broken down, and how the characters navigate this complex and often ambiguous reality. We will also look at how "The Last of Us" embodies the postmodern interest in the fragmented, subjective nature of truth and reality.




The Collapse of Traditional Authority and Narratives in "The Last of Us"

In "The Last of Us," the collapse of society is portrayed as a result of a viral outbreak that turns humans into infected monsters. The remaining survivors are forced to rely on their own individual strength and cunning in order to survive, as traditional institutions and narratives have broken down. The game and TV series depict a world where there is no clear-cut moral absolutes, and where the characters must navigate a complex web of alliances and betrayals in order to stay alive.


Similarities with postmodern literature

Postmodern literature often portrays a world where traditional authority and narratives have broken down. This is reflected in works such as Don DeLillo's "White Noise" and Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49," which depict characters navigating a complex and often ambiguous reality in the absence of clear-cut moral absolutes. Similarly, "The Last of Us" portrays a world where the collapse of traditional authority and narratives has forced the characters to rely on their own individual strength and cunning in order to survive.


The Multi-Dimensionality of "The Last of Us" Characters

Another hallmark of postmodern literature is the emphasis on the fragmented, subjective nature of truth and reality. "The Last of Us" exemplifies this through its multi-dimensional characters, whose motivations and perspectives often conflict with each other. For example, Joel, the main protagonist, is a complex and flawed character who is forced to make difficult choices throughout the game and TV series. His decisions are not always morally justifiable, but they are understandable given the context of the post-apocalyptic world he inhabits.


Similarities with postmodern literature

Postmodern literature is characterized by its interest in the fragmented, subjective nature of truth and reality. This is reflected in works such as James Joyce's "Ulysses" and William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury," which use stream-of-consciousness narrative techniques to depict the multi-dimensional nature of their characters. Similarly, "The Last of Us" uses multi-dimensional characters, whose motivations and perspectives often conflict with each other, to reflect the postmodern emphasis on the subjective nature of truth and reality.


The Role of Emotions and Affect in "The Last of Us"

Finally, "The Last of Us" also embodies the postmodern interest in the role of emotions and affect in shaping our understanding of reality. The game and TV series use music, sound effects, and cinematic techniques to create an immersive and emotionally charged experience for the player/viewer. The story is not just about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, but also about the emotional bonds that form between the characters and how these bonds shape their actions and decisions.


Similarities with postmodern literature

Postmodern literature often explores the role of emotions and affect in shaping our understanding of reality. This is reflected in works such as Jean Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation" and Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," which critique the role of media and technology in shaping our emotions and perceptions. Similarly, "The Last of Us" uses music, sound effects, and cinematic techniques to create an emotionally charged experience for the player/viewer, reflecting the postmodern interest in the affective dimension of reality.


"The Last of Us" is a game and TV series that speaks to the postmodern condition in a number of ways. Its depiction of a world where traditional authority and narratives have broken down, its multi-dimensional characters, and its emphasis on the role of emotions and affect in shaping our understanding of reality all embody key themes and motifs of postmodern literature. By exploring these themes, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the richness and complexity of "The Last of Us," and its place within the broader cultural landscape. Overall, "The Last of Us" shares a number of similarities with postmodern literature in its themes and motifs. Its depiction of a world where traditional authority and narratives have broken down, its multi-dimensional characters, and its emphasis on the role of emotions and affect in shaping our understanding of reality all reflect key themes of postmodern literature. By exploring these themes, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the ways in which "The Last of Us" speaks to the postmodern condition.


References:


Bukatman, S. (2015). Terminal identity: The virtual subject in postmodern science fiction. Duke University Press.

Hutcheon, L. (2002). The politics of postmodernism (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Kellner, D. (1989). Critical theory, Marxism, and modernity. Johns Hopkins University Press.

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