“The Last of Us,” a critically acclaimed action-adventure video game made into a show on HBO, tells the heart-wrenching story of a post-apocalyptic world, where Joel, a grief-stricken survivor, and Ellie, a young girl immune to the deadly fungal infection, develop a strong bond while fighting for their lives. At the game’s climax, Joel makes a controversial decision to rescue Ellie from the Fireflies, a group intending to sacrifice her for a potential cure. This blog will argue that Joel’s decision is justifiable as it protects Ellie’s right to consent and her intrinsic value as a human being.
I. The Fireflies’ Intention and the Violation of Consent
Ellie’s immunity to the fungal infection makes her a potential key to finding a cure. The Fireflies, upon discovering this, decide to create a vaccine by removing and studying her brain, a procedure that would undoubtedly result in her death. However, the Fireflies fail to seek Ellie’s consent before proceeding with the operation, violating a fundamental principle of consent culture. Consent culture emphasizes the importance of obtaining clear and voluntary agreement before engaging in any activity, particularly one that has significant consequences for an individual’s well-being or autonomy.
In a post-apocalyptic world where survival and self-preservation often take precedence over ethics and compassion, Joel’s decision to rescue Ellie from the Fireflies sends a powerful message about the value of consent. He asserts that Ellie’s life and choices matter, regardless of the potential benefits her sacrifice could bring to humanity.
II. Humanity and the Intrinsic Value of Life
Beyond the issue of consent, Joel’s decision to save Ellie also highlights the importance of recognizing the intrinsic value of human life. Throughout the game, players witness the deep bond that develops between Joel and Ellie, who become surrogate father and daughter to each other. They rely on each other for survival, emotional support, and companionship in the face of adversity.
By choosing to save Ellie, Joel demonstrates that her life has worth beyond her potential utility as a source for a vaccine. He refuses to reduce her to a mere means to an end, recognizing her as a person with her own desires, emotions, and aspirations. In a world ravaged by chaos and destruction, this choice serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of valuing and respecting the humanity of each individual.
III. The Uncertainty of a Cure
Another factor to consider when defending Joel’s decision is the uncertainty surrounding the potential cure. The Fireflies’ assumption that sacrificing Ellie would guarantee a vaccine is speculative at best. Given the limited resources and scientific knowledge available in a post-apocalyptic world, there is no guarantee that the Fireflies would succeed in developing an effective cure. In light of this uncertainty, Joel’s choice to prioritize Ellie’s life and consent is both reasonable and morally defensible.
IV. Marlene wanted Joel to save Ellie
Marlene wanted Joel to save Ellie. Otherwise she would have told him anything else other than “they’re about to kill Ellie unless you do something.” She could have made up a story that would have kept Joel pacified for a few more hours. Alternatively f Marlene had wanted to she could have presented the situation to Joel and a conscious Ellie in a way to allow them to both make an informed decision. Ellie almost certainly WOULD have agreed to sacrifice herself, and if she had voluntarily made that choice, Joel would have honored her decision. Instead Marlene felt trapped by her obligation to the Fireflies to do something that she wished wouldn’t happen.
In “The Last of Us,” Joel’s decision to rescue Ellie from the Fireflies is not only an act of love and protection but also a powerful stand for the principles of consent culture and the intrinsic value of human life. By prioritizing Ellie’s autonomy and humanity, Joel challenges the notion that sacrificing an individual for the greater good is always morally justifiable. His actions remind us of the importance of consent and the need to respect the dignity and worth of every person, even in the most desperate of circumstances.