Last Christmas I was given the game “The Last of Us.” I started playing the game but never finished it. I love video games. Sometimes I play for fun and sometimes I play as an escape. Last year I wasn’t in the right living situation. It wasn’t the living situation where I could play a post-apocalyptic game about a skin disease that turned people into zombies. A game where the main character, whose 12 year old daughter died 20 years ago, is now traveling with a 14 year old girl who doesn’t even know what an ice cream truck is. I generally choose to be happy or at least attempt to be, so I put the game down. It wasn’t healthy for me to play a game with such realistic graphics and depressing environment when I myself was living in a depressing environment.
A couple of days ago I was able to experience the entire “The Last of Us” storyline (I am getting somewhere with this, but I have to explain the game before I continue). In the beginning of the game, one of the main characters, Joel, lives with his 12-year-old daughter. They find out about this skin eating disease that is making people go mad, and start to run from the infected. In the conflict of it all, Joel’s daughter dies, but not at the hands of a zombie or even Mother Nature; she is killed by a man in a SWAT uniform.
Fast forward to 20 years later where in order for Joel to get weapons, he must transport a 14-year-old girl named Ellie who is immune to the disease. Over the course of the game, Joel’s hardened heart softens for Ellie and they form a sort of father/daughter relationship. They are forced to fight Runners and Clickers (different types of infected humans) along their journey to reach a group of doctors and hopefully use Ellie’s immunity to find a cure for the rampant virus. Halfway through the game something changes; I begin to notice that Joel and Ellie are no longer fighting clickers and runners, but are fighting humans. Although the “zombies” appear from time to time, it is other humans that for no reason try to gun them down. This includes military personnel who are supposed to protect them. Ellie even almost gets raped by the leader of a group of cannibals, and various other wandering groups of survivors are constantly gunning for Ellie and Joel’s lives. You notice Ellie harden through these experiences and can see that she is no longer the little girl who was full of curiosity and life you were introduced to at the beginning of the game.
Cut to the end of the game where while Ellie is unconscious and in the operating room. Joel finds out that this group of political scientist will have to kill Ellie in order to find a cure for the disease, and does what any father would do and kills everyone in the lab in order to save his daughter. The problem is that Ellie is NOT his daughter. Given the chance, she would likely rather die and make a difference than live in a society where a horrible death awaits from clickers, runners, rapists, politicians, police, killers and cannibals.
On the other hand, Joel saw that the lesson of the game “The Last of Us” wasn’t the terror of the disease that turned people into clickers or runners. The game was about humanity and how easily it can crumble. He saw this even before the world turned sour when at the first sign of trouble his 12 year old daughter was gunned down by a SWAT soldier. Even if Ellie saved the world from this disease she would not have been able to save humanity. Humanity had already gone down a rabbit hole far beyond any social contract.
Which brings me to the point I am trying to get to. While the game shows us that Joel is correct about the state of humanity, he merely uses this to justify his actions to himself, while his true motivation is actually a selfish one. He saves Ellie from something that she didn’t want to be saved from. When a friend gets mad at you for helping them out, this is why. True intentions are the reason why no good deed goes unpunished. When our ego and control issues feed our need to help others we help them in ways they do not wish to be helped. It is part of the reason why national geographic photographers let seals die in the gaping mouths of sharks. By letting things happen, they are doing the right thing.
Joel kept Ellie alive out of his selfish need to fill the void left by his daughter’s death. He never acknowledged that Ellie didn’t need him to survive, and instead he created and thrived on their co-dependency. There is a reason why it’s called co-dependency. It is proven that when we help others we develop a positive association with them. This is how needy people manage to have friends who are constantly required to help them, like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. They create a need for us to continue to help them by being that person in our lives we can prove our humanity and strength to.
Joel’s entire value relied on Ellie’s weaknesses. To translate this into a real world situation, it is why some parents shelter their children; not to keep them safe, but to feel needed. Co-dependency is also the glue that holds the relationships of older rich men and uneducated/broken young women together. It is when someone creates a reason to be needed by the other that otherwise would not exist. It is unhealthy. It benefits no one. If you ever feel that you as an adult absolutely need someone or a person constantly devalues you in order to feel needed, do yourself a favor and run the other way. They will eventually hurt you without ever knowing how.
Broken people break people. It is in human nature that we replace individuals with each other. Is it endearing that we are giving others a VIP into our lives without them having earned it? Or is it selfish that we are giving them the responsibility that comes with the power of being in the VIP section of our lives without them having asked for it?