You would think that in the year 2023, people would just accept that not everyone is heterosexual and that is perfectly okay. However, because there apparently can't be anything good or sacred in this world, there is a very vocal group of people that considers any piece of queer media to be "woke," and they just won't stop trying to get themselves heard. It's exhausting, and we are so, so tired.
I write this because "The Last of Us" has once again become the center of a pointless culture war, and this time, it's not because of the video games. Rather, it's the recently-aired third episode of its HBO adaptation at the center of yet another attempt at review bombing. The episode, "Long, Long Time" currently has the lowest IMDb rating of all the released episodes so far, with over 29,000 users rating it one star. Given how more than 101,000 users on the website have rated the episode, trolls unfortunately made a sizable dent in this score. In all fairness, however, around 52,000 other IMDb users have tried counter-acting this by rating "Long, Long Time" 10 stars, so at least there's more love being promoted than hate.
Rotten Tomatoes isn't experiencing a similar issue, thankfully. Its current audience score is holding steady at 93%, with users unable to sort through reviews by rating. Following the release of "Captain Marvel," the review aggregator cracked down on review bombing by changing some key functions on the site, including removing the ability to rate and leave comments on a title before its release.
Not Merely An Internet Nuisance
It might be easy to ask why we're even writing this article in the first place. It's just rating rigging and isn't hurting anyone in the real world, so what's the big deal, huh? In a logical world, yes, we wouldn't have to write this article because it is relatively harmless.
However, we aren't living in a logical world. We're living in a world where even the suggestion of queerness prompts people to accuse others of grooming and abusing children. These actions, at the very least, have caused for the banning of books and events such as drag shows. The Washington Post recently reported that physical attacks against Jewish people and LGBTQ+ individuals have drastically spiked along with rising hate speech on Twitter since Elon Musk took over as CEO. As of this writing, it's been only three months since a mass shooting at Colorado Springs' Club Q left five innocent people dead. It's hard to argue that we aren't in the midst of a terrifying rise in homophobic and transphobic hate not only in the United States but the world at large.
What does any of this have to do with "The Last of Us" and its third episode? Well, "Long, Long Time" mostly revolves around the 20-year relationship between two gay men: the lonely and repressed Bill (Nick Offerman) and the out-and-lively Frank (Murray Bartlett). Their relationship is far from smooth sailing, as Bill's conspiratorial paranoia and Frank's perpetual optimism aren't always compatible. However, they make it work, despite the literal end-of-the-world happening outside their walls.
'Older Means We're Still Here'
You might believe that the episode was one of the best you've ever seen, or maybe you think it was more on the manipulative side. It doesn't matter which camp you fall into; there is real cultural importance in witnessing a piece of television, directed by "It's a Sin" helmer Peter Hoar, whose central message is to never give up your sense of hope even in the worst of times.
It is terrifying to be queer right now, and it may seem like the future is completely hopeless. Bigots like the ones review-bombing "Long, Long Time" and posting hateful rhetoric about it want LGBTQ+ people to feel like there's no hope left. However, we can create the hopeful world we deserve if we refuse to repress ourselves. We need to create beautiful, expansive art detailing the LGBTQ+ experience, whether it's funded through a network like HBO or a completely grassroots project. Amidst both aimless trolls and genuinely hateful bigots, we need to be resilient in our love for each other and ourselves.
It's like Bill said in his letter, that's why there are people like us in the world. "We have a job to do. And god help any motherf***ers who get in our way."
Read this next: 12 Things We'd Like To See In HBO's The Last Of Us
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