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The Z Word Wasn’t Allowed on the Set of ‘The Last of Us’

I was right!!

The bloater climbing out of the ground with fire in the background in HBO's The Last of Us.

I love being right about things. Whenever someone brings up The Last of Us and calls it a zombie show, I point out that the infected are not, in fact, zombies. When I corrected Ben Shapiro about this after he went on some nonsense rant about the third episode of the series, titled “Long Long Time,” people tried to fight me on the zombie correction. So I brought up how Neil Druckmann himself has said the infected are not zombies.

Now, it has been made even clearer that those behind the series do not consider the infected to be “zombies” at all. Again, I made it clear that a zombie is a dead person brought back to life. The Last of Us has made it clear that the “dead” cannot be infected. But whatever, let the set’s reaction to the “z” word speak for me.

In an interview over at The Credits, cinematographer Eben Bolter explained that cast and crew were seemingly “banned” from saying words like “zombie.” “We weren’t allowed to say the Z word on set,” Bolter said. “It was like a banned word. They were the Infected. We weren’t a zombie show.”

He went on to talk about how the series isn’t a “cliché” story. “There’s a lot of things ‘The Last of Us’ is not,” Bolter added. “It’s not a cliché zombie movie, it’s not Hollywood backlit where everyone’s close-up is perfect.” All this so I can gloat because I was right. They’re not zombies. Before I get the same complaints as last time, I’m going to again point out the difference between an infected and a zombie. Just to clear up any confusion.

Stop calling them zombies!

First, let’s break down the infected. An infected is a person who has the Cordyceps fungus slowly taking over their mind, forcing the mushroom into control of their bodies. The Cordyceps’ only drive is to create more of them. They want to drive their growth and survival. That’s the goal. Yes, a bite can infect someone, but it is with the desire to create more of them.

Next, there are zombies. They are the undead brought back to life with a overwhelming need for brains. The key difference is that zombies are dead. That’s not the case with the infected. They’re alive, and that’s how the Cordyceps can work. If you die, then the infection dies with you. That’s why they could control the outbreak in specific areas by bombing it. That wouldn’t necessarily work with zombies, because they’re just dead already. They’d still come back, because they’re already gone.

The infected aren’t dead. And seeing how much the cast and crew were told that they weren’t zombies makes it clear that they’re not. Stop calling them zombies! It’s not accurate!

(Featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 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.