On the set of The Last of Us, it’s reported that there was one word that wasn’t allowed in the script or behind the scenes: zombie. While the Z-word has defined an entire genre of horror and sci-fi media for decades, writers are trying to get a bit more creative in recent years.
The Last of Us and The Z-Word
Speaking with The Credits, cinematographer Eben Bolter had plenty to say on the topic. “We weren’t allowed to say the Z word on set. It was like a banned word,” he said during the interview.
“They were the Infected. We weren’t a zombie show,” Bolter added. “Of course, there’s tension building and jump scares but the show’s really about our characters; The Infected are an obstacle they have to deal with.”
In a similar fashion, The Walking Dead tackled this topic by also banning the word “zombie.” Comic book creator Robert Kirkman has said many times that the universe of The Walking Dead takes place when the zombie pop culture aesthetic didn’t exist. There was never a George Romero in that world and there was no popularized lingo for the undead. This explains why so many groups have so many different terms for the undead ranging from Walkers to Biters to Geeks to Lamebrains, and so on.
But so far in The Last of Us, the common term for the Zom… er, undead is “infected.” Sure, there are terms in the games for various “levels” of these infected, like bloaters and clickers, but I have a feeling we’re going to see many more of these variants in the coming episodes.
What Are Cordyceps?
According to the game’s lore, the Cordyceps fungi has gone from infecting bugs to infecting humans, causing the parasitic spore to take control of millions of people almost immediately.
“When Cordyceps attacks a host, the mycelium invades and eventually replaces the host tissue,” Wikipedia tells us. “While the elongated fruit body (ascocarp) may be cylindrical, branched, or of complex shape. The ascocarp bears many small, flask-shaped perithecia containing asci. These, in turn, contain thread-like ascospores, which usually break into fragments and are presumably infective.”
Yes, Cordyceps is a real thing, but scientists say the plot of The Last of Us can’t actually happen to humans. But in the meantime, if I see a clicker crawling toward me during the apocalypse, I’m not going to stop to ask it if it’s a zombie or infected.