Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Why “Zombie” Was Taboo on the Set of “The Last of Us”


The Last of Us is a critically acclaimed video game that was released in 2013. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungal infection has turned most of humanity into zombie-like creatures called “infected.” The game follows the journey of Joel, a smuggler, and Ellie, a young girl, as they travel across the United States to find a group of resistance fighters.

The game’s success led to the announcement of a film adaptation, which was later canceled. However, a television series adaptation was announced in 2020, with HBO producing the show. The series will be written by Craig Mazin, the creator of Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of the game.

One interesting fact about the production of The Last of Us is that the cast and crew were not allowed to say the word “zombie” on set. This may seem odd, considering that the infected in the game are clearly inspired by zombies. However, there is a good reason for this restriction.

In an interview with IGN, Neil Druckmann explained that the infected in The Last of Us are not actually zombies. He said, “We’re treating them as humans who are infected with this fungus. They’re not undead, they’re not supernatural. It’s a different take on the zombie genre.”

This distinction is important because it affects how the infected are portrayed in the game. Unlike traditional zombies, the infected in The Last of Us are not mindless creatures that simply want to eat brains. They are still capable of thought and emotion, although their behavior is heavily influenced by the fungus that has taken over their bodies.

By avoiding the use of the word “zombie,” the cast and crew were able to stay true to this vision of the infected as something different from traditional zombies. It also helped to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings among the team about how to portray these creatures.

Of course, this restriction only applied to the set of The Last of Us. Outside of production, fans and critics have been quick to compare the infected to zombies. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it shows how influential and iconic zombies have become in popular culture.

However, it is worth noting that The Last of Us offers a unique take on the zombie genre that sets it apart from other works in this category. By focusing on the human side of the infected, the game creates a more complex and emotionally engaging story than many other zombie stories.

Overall, the decision to avoid using the word “zombie” on set was a smart one that helped to maintain the integrity of The Last of Us’ vision for its infected creatures. It also serves as a reminder that even well-established genres like zombies can be reimagined and given new life by creative minds like those behind The Last of Us.

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