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media analysis

Cordyceps, COVID-19, and Care: Investigating Disabled Futures in HBO’s The Last of Us 

By Becca betty


Becca Betty (they/them) is an English Master’s Program student at Millersville University and a Graduate Assistant in the Department of English and World Languages. Becca graduated from Penn State Altoona with a BA in English and a BS in Biology and a senior thesis on YA dystopian literature with particular focus on the American Dream. Their research at Millersville is a continuation of their undergraduate interests, now expanding into Queer Theory and Critical Disability Studies (CDS) criticisms of Speculative Fiction. Their Made in Millersville poster, “Cordyceps, COVID-19, and Care: Understanding Disabled Futures in HBO’s The Last of Us,” is part of their ongoing thesis work, a version of which was presented at the Mid-Atlantic Pop Culture Association (MAPACA) 2023 Conference. This work demonstrates how The Last of Us, analyzed through a CDS lens, evokes both the projected fears and hopes of disabled futures by exploring the ways in which various representations of Disability in the show reveal our current understandings of Disability. As Becca graduates and hopes to move into a PhD program, they plan to continue research in dystopian media while also maintaining a connection to scientific writing and editing. Special Acknowledgments for this project are given to Dr. Emily Baldys, Dr. A. Nicole Pfannenstiel, and Heather Verani for enduring multiple iterations of this project, and to the Student Grants for Research and Creative Activity Committee for providing funding. 


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