With a tiny object, “The Last of Us” succeeds almost incidentally in providing enlightenment. And that’s more than important – according to the fans!
Although Ellie (Bella Ramsey) didn’t necessarily grow up uncivilized in the FEDRA camp, an object in the sixth episode makes her wonder – and some “The Last of Us” viewers might feel the same way. Because the object in question, along with everything that goes with it, is still considered taboo today. So it’s gratifying that series creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Manzin have addressed the issue, marking a milestone in the series’ history. The corresponding scene is also very well received by the audience.
The period doesn’t stop at “The Last of Us” apocalypse either
When Ellie arrives in Jackson with Joel (Pedro Pascal), the 14-year-old is led to a room to shower and recuperate. Along with a pile of fresh, winter-appropriate clothes, Ellie finds a small object on her bed that she scrutinizes in wonder. Only the enclosed instructions provide clarification: it is a menstrual cup – an alternative to tampons and pads.
Since civilization in “The Last of Us” collapsed 20 years ago, it was no longer possible to produce period hygiene products, and as we all know, supplies eventually ran out. At this point, it is more than logical that the menstrual cup has to serve as a reusable solution for girls, women, and menstruators in the post-apocalyptic world.
However, it has seemed anything but logical in films and series to address the period at all. In 21st-century society, the (female) menstrual cycle is still considered something that is not discussed in public – let alone let images of it flow into the entertainment industry. Yet that’s precisely what it would take to educate people.
The scene in question made the audience of “The Last of Us” all the happier. Many viewers expressed their approval on Twitter:
“‘The Last of Us’ showed menstrual cups. So cool!”
“I really like how ‘The Last of Us’ picks up period products. Like they’re just there. Existing. I’ve never seen a period cup in a series before.”
“Ellie’s menstrual cup scene was so important to me.”
“As a gynecologist and a fan of the series, I love that ‘The Last of Us’ incorporated a menstrual cup. Period. (The word ‘period’ also means something like ‘basta’ in English, ed.).”
“How happy it made me to see Ellie and her menstrual cup. In the midst of the apocalypse, access to such basic products as tampons was an odyssey for her. How cool that the series addresses such an important issue like this.”
Series creator Craig Mazin also commented on the importance of the scene in an interview with Vulture:
“In a post-apocalypse, it’s infuriating to have to deal with something like this while having few options. Why wouldn’t we show that? Especially because our co-main character is a 14-year-old girl. It’s part of her life!”
One in three people feels “unclean” during their period
Periods are wrongly synonymous with uncleanliness; for many, just hearing about them triggers pure disgust. The fact that every person with a uterus has to deal with it once a month and is possibly ashamed of what happens in the abdomen and underpants for around seven days is often ignored. And this ultimately leads to the fact that according to a survey by Plan International, 35 percent of respondents are still ashamed of their period. As many as 62 percent find postponing or canceling appointments due to menstrual cramps uncomfortable.
But the survey doesn’t just shed light on the menstruating side: Thus, 79 percent of the men surveyed stated that they had already made a “stupid remark” about menstruation or had at least heard something like that among their friends. So it’s hardly surprising that one in three menstruating people perceives themselves as “unclean” during their period. Prejudices that lead to such an image of self-perception would be so easy to abolish if the media also accepted the period as part of the body. The interest would undoubtedly be there: 60 percent of the men surveyed would like to know more about menstruation. And this is precisely where “The Last of Us” comes in.
“The Last of Us” breaks the silence
Even though the “The Last of Us” scene is only a few seconds long, the focus is clearly on the menstrual cup and, thus, on a problem that girls, women, and menstruators have always had to face. The horror-drama series thus takes a crucial step in declaring war on the taboo subject of periods. Having to perceive oneself as unclean for one week a month because society demands it was and is no longer in keeping with the times – and integrating menstruation as a part of everyday life in films and series is more than overdue.
That’s why I want to thank Neil Druckmann, Craig Mazin, and everyone behind “The Last of Us.” The horror-drama series leads by example, making room for an essential discourse on periods and bringing the menstrual cup into focus through this scene. It’s hard to believe that men and menstruators are still unfamiliar with this object. Yet the purchase can be worthwhile, especially in terms of cost, because in the Plan International survey, 23 percent said that period products represent a financial burden.
While sanitary pads, tampons, and panty liners cost around 4 to 15 euros a month, depending on their thickness and preferences – up to 180 euros a year – the menstrual cup costs 9 to 25 euros once and can be used for up to ten years if properly cared for. This is easy on the wallet and the environment because, according to Rossmann, around 40 billion disposable menstrual products end up in the trash every year.
“The Last of Us” clarifies A few seconds, significant effect
At this point, of course, I don’t want to advertise menstrual cups. It is up to each person to decide which hygiene products to use – or whether to use pads, tampons or other “leakage protection” at all (keyword “free bleeding”). I am simply delighted that the best series of the year has taken such a big and important step with this scene.
Like Ellie, the audience is introduced to the subject within seconds, experiences the famous “aha effect,” and is released right back into the action. In my opinion, the scene is an essential contribution to enlightenment, which clears up prejudices and, at the same time, does not take up too much space. This is very cleverly solved and a sign that disgust and shame before menstruation will no longer have to be an issue in 2023. For Ellie, at least, it isn’t. Let’s hope it won’t take a Cordyceps pandemic in our society before this is ingrained in everyone’s minds.