Closeup of a clicker from The Last of Us. The person's mouth is visible under a plume of yellow and blue mushrooms.

Even ‘The Last of Us’ Creator Is Out Here Correcting You On This

One of the things I called out in the Ben Shapiro’s rant on The Last of Us was that he called the infected “zombies”. A lot of the comments both here and on Facebook tried to fight me and tell me that I was being pedantic about it because Cordyceps is often known as the “zombie ants fungus.” But I am not being pedantic. The conversation about whether or not the infected are technically zombies is not a new one.

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And yes, on one hand, it is just getting into semantics if you’re trying to talk about whether or not something is categorized as a “zombie” or something else. The way that I describe The Last of Us is simply by saying it is a post-apocalyptic series. But if you want to use the term zombies to describe it, know that it is … technically wrong.

Game creator Neil Druckmann has often made note of the fact that they are not zombies. The infected are just that: Infected. And there is an important distinction between the two. Back when there was a question on Jeopardy about the game, it says that Joel and Ellie are on a “cross-country trek filled with zombies.” Druckmann quote-tweeted it in 2020 pointing out that they are not zombies.

Is it just splitting hairs? Maybe! But it’s the point of the matter: The creator doesn’t consider them zombies. Anyone who claims to be a fan of the thing that disregards what Druckmann is saying for their own point is … well, just being difficult to do so.

It’s just so easy to make a note that they’re not zombies and move on but since we’re all just going back and forth about it, let’s talk about why it matters either way.

Why does it matter?

A zombie is a corpse that is revived. With the infected in The Last of Us, death has nothing to with it. In fact, death stops the infection. There have been multiple examples of how a dead body cannot be infected making them effectively not zombies. The function of how you can become infected is similar to how some would become a zombie but the difference being that, as a zombie, you have to first die and then you awake as a reborn zombified version of yourself wanting to eat brains.

That’s not what happens with Cordyceps. The fungus just takes over your brain and forces you to want to create more of the fungus. It’s just different overall and sure, it is semantics but I don’t care. We can be literal about so many other nerdy things, so why not this? Because it really doesn’t make sense to call the infected zombies anyway!

So calling them zombies is just simply incorrect. And when we live on the internet with plenty of people ready and willing to correct people, I’m happy to let this be the hill that I am willing to die on. At least I know when I die on this hill, I won’t become an infected person!

(featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.