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'The Last of Us' applauded for breaking taboos with realistic portrayal of menstruation

The showrunner for the HBO series says that it is a natural part of life for their co-lead and they need to highlight it in the show.

'The Last of Us' applauded for breaking taboos with realistic portrayal of menstruation
Image Source: HBO

Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 23, 2023. It has since been updated.

Inclusivity and talking about issues that are considered taboo in our society are extremely important, especially in mainstream media. It helps break several stereotypes and shame surrounding topics like menstruation. HBO's series, "The Last of Us," which premiered on 15th January, has done a lot of right things. It is based on a 2013 video game developed by Naughty Dog and set in 2023, twenty years after a global pandemic of fungal infection. The bleak, end-of-the-world thriller has utilized its plot to shatter societal barriers and episode six was no exception, as reported by Lad Bible

A few episodes following the show's devastating LGBTQ+ love story, the sitcom has now appropriately represented how difficult it may be to get your first period. In the sixth episode, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) reach the peaceful town where Joel's brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna), resides with his new wife, Maria (Rutina Wesley), in a communal setup. The couple receives a warm welcome, and Ellie is given fresh attire. While going through the clothes, she discovers a menstrual cup and gets bewildered at first, then intrigued, as she examines the cup by pressing it with her fingers and reads the instructions for its usage.



She says with a smile, "Gross!" It's a brief scene, but many praised the realistic representation of what it's like to have your first period. It's perplexing and messy and will happen every month, whether you're trying to avoid the infected or not. On social media, fans hailed the moment for normalizing the conversation about menstruation. Twitter user @aikohwrites commented, "I am so obsessed with #TheLastOfUs finally showing us how people deal with menstruation in the apocalypse." 

@jobraincells commented, "The menstrual cup thing in the last of us was a really sweet touch. A lotta zombie/apocalypse media just ignore the whole thing, was nice to see it acknowledged openly." Another person @duckses said, "The menstrual cup on The Last of Us! Awesome to see a show like this acknowledge periods the way it has." 

Craig Mazin, the showrunner of "The Last of Us," says he started thinking about tampons early in the pandemic when strolling Target aisles and suddenly thought he should probably store some for his wife and daughter, as per The Vulture. He said, "These are basic items that we'd need or would want. In a post-apocalypse, it's annoying to have to deal with that and have a shortage of options. Why wouldn't we show it? Especially because our co-lead is a 14-year-old girl. This is part of her life!"



The menstruation-cup scene in Episode 6 is Ellie's second contact with menstrual products in the postapocalyptic wild. Ellie violates Joel's orders to remain put in the first scene from episode three and investigates the cellar of a convenience store. She digs through the wreckage, risking a confrontation with an Infected and when she comes across a dusty box of Tampax Pearls left on a shelf, she exclaims, "F*ck yeah!" Mazin emphasizes the importance of not having Ellie contemplate tucking them into her bag so Joel can't see them.

The tampons are a fun opening volley, but the menstrual-cup scenario is the actual high point of this theme. It takes the tampon moment's resource-scouting design and adds a new layer of video-game structure: You level up to better equipment as you progress through the game. The cup, according to Mazin, "is a great solution in the ongoing apocalypse. It's a reusable solution that doesn't require you to find boxes of tampons in Infected-ridden cellars."

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