The Last of Us: Who’s the Real Killer Fungal Spore?

Dan Hanrahan
2 min readMar 1, 2023

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This Is Us, I mean This Is the Last of Us, I mean The Last of Us (!), the HBO series based on the third person player video game, depicts a humanity ravaged by a fungal spore that’s gone out of control, nesting in people’s brains and converting them into kamikaze violent killer mushroom beings. And the whole time I’m watching it — I’ve made it through the first two episodes — I can’t help thinking that, from the point of view of every non-Homosapien organism on the planet, we the industrialized human species, play the role of the rampaging fungal spore: mindlessly committed to masticating landscapes, reducing varied wilderness into endless acres of mono-cropped dullness or paved, hideous exurban sprawl. The worms, the dragonflies, the snakes, the bats, the foxes, the whippoorwills, the salmon, the trout, the oarfish, the marlin — they all flee us in white panic, their habitats overtaken by we, the unthinking maniac fungus.

Indeed, such a theme is detailed in Derrick Jensen’s* magnificent, 2012 nonfiction book, Dreams. Jensen has spent decades cultivating a rich dream life, which includes reflection on and interaction with the goings-on in his unconscious, twilight realm. From his home in Northern California, he is aware of a disease that is killing off the frogs in the forest and ponds in his area. He asks the frogs to appear in his dreams to give him an idea of what this experience feels like to them. What he describes is a sequence I can never forget. In the dream, Jensen is granted the awareness of a frog and what he experiences is a cold terror and pulsing dread, sensing that there is a large figure behind, in the shadows, ready to pounce and kill with him a blunt instrument. This is what the frogs feel like and we are made to understand that the figure stalking behind the frogs is the human.

And so, watching The Last of Us, my mind finds itself stuck in a whirring perceptual ring, understanding the human protagonists to actually be the stalking spore and the fungal network to be the pursued, the prey, from the perspective of today’s reality.

(*In recent years, Derrick Jensen has published opinions on trans people that I find limited and ignorant. Similarly, I find the book he co-wrote, Deep Green Resistance, as being replete with ideas with which I disagree. I, nonetheless, value and have benefited greatly from much of his heartfelt and deeply philosophical writing and thinking that falls outside of those areas ).

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