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Our Favorite Apocalypse Stories Love To Get Into Cannibals

Sometimes, it feels great to watch someone like David go.

David (Scott Shepherd) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) sitting across from each other in The Last of Us

So many survival stories are set in the apocalypse. Struggling for warmth, for clothes, for anything to just help them stay alive outside of the odds stacked against them. I often think of things like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Reading it in high school, I was floored by the desperation that would drive people to do whatever it took to stay alive and how that “desperation” was really rooted in their own laziness as a humanity and wanting something easily given to them instead of finding another way of surviving.

I’m talking about those who resort to cannibalism in post-apocalyptic stories. It has happened over and over again but while they’re each different in their ideas behind it, they all fall into the same pattern. They can’t find food in the area around where they’ve decided to settle and so they resort to eating their dead or hunting other humans so they can survive. With The Last of Us, their take on cannibalism at the end of days is a bit different.

We have David (Scott Shepherd). When Joel (Pedro Pascal) is fighting off an infection from a knife wound, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is forced to find a way to keep them alive. So she goes hunting and clips a deer that later dies further away from where she was. When she walks up to it, she finds David and James (Troy Baker, who voiced Joel in the game).

The two are telling her that they have a big group to feed and they should have the deer that Ellie shot and it really set the tone for their interaction. Because why is her kill something for them to take? They just … were there later?

The entitlement

What a lot of these post-apocalyptic shows do present is how those who resort to this kind of diet are typically entitled. Meaning they think they deserve to live above everyone else. In David’s case, he’s a religious man and tells his cult of followers what they want to hear. But the entitlement that David and James have for Ellie’s game isn’t new. Sure, they offer her a trade and they do commit to it—but they also have plans to go and take Ellie and kill Joel despite what they originally agreed on.

It’s that their people are more important than anyone else. And we see that with David and James. They don’t care about Ellie and her survival, just that they have people who need to eat and they’ll take something that isn’t theirs to do it. It’s what happened in The Road when the father is protecting his son. It happened in The Walking Dead with Terminus.

They feel like their people and their need to live is far greater than those they come in contact with. The difference with David and his group is that, from what we see, they’re not aware of what they are eating and only David and his closest circle know better. But that same entitlement bleeds into his entire interaction with Ellie.

Their ideas of survival

Scott Shepherd looking like a creep in the last of us

David tells Ellie that he found religion after the end of days. Which he even noted was odd but it was really just all about what David believed and how he thought that he was helping his people. His way of surviving is to do whatever he has to in order to feed his people without thinking past where they are. That’s it. Ellie goes far from where she has Joel resting to get them food but David and James run into her and are ready to take something that’s not theirs. They could move their people somewhere not freezing for the winter to protect them but they won’t.

So they resort to eating their dead because they need the food and that’s a perfect insight into their ideas of survival. Doing what is necessary to stay alive without going out of their way to do it. That’s the difference between Joel and Ellie and people like David and James. They’d rather stay put, figure out what to eat without telling their people they’re eating each other, and stay safe in their little society. Whereas Ellie and Joel fight for their right to live and will eat bark if they have to as long as they go on another day.

It’s a fascinating part of apocalypse stories. We constantly explore this and it’s always about what they’re willing to do to survive and whether or not they’ll fight for it.


Sometimes, it feels great to watch someone like David go. He was, for lack of a better way of explaining it, evil. He forced Ellie into a jail cell, was ready to kill her, and was ready to kill Joel. What David wasn’t expecting was the power that both Joel and Ellie have and it came back to be his demise.

(featured image: HBO)

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She/Her. A writer who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.