The first season of The Last of Us, the undeniable smash-hit HBO series based on the video game of the same name, has ended. And though the discourse about the controversial ending rages on, people are already looking ahead to season two, which will introduce one of the most infamous characters in the series: Abby Anderson and her incredibly toned arms. If you haven’t experienced The Last of Us Part II yet, or are hankering to revisit the game, you’re in luck—Sony’s launching a spiffy new remaster on January 19, with a new roguelike mode and even the option to turn on a director’s commentary while you play.
When The Last of Us Part II first released back in June 2020, gamers had meltdowns over Abby for two key reasons: She enacts some seriously brutal revenge and she is incredibly ripped. I’m talking biceps the size of my head, defined triceps, and strong shoulders—all things that make the dark dude corners of Reddit very scared and very angry about being so scared. In the weeks that followed, gamers stretched so hard to prove she couldn’t be that muscular that they pulled mental muscles, proving yet again that the game industry cannot handle women in any size, shape, or form.
And now, with news that Booksmart and No One Will Save You actor Ktailyn Dever has been cast as Abby for season two of The Last of Us, I’m curious to see just how much muscle they’ll pack on to the diminutive actor (she’s my height, 5’2″), or if it’ll mute Abby’s muscles for the sake of Hollywood allure.
The She-Hulk Fiasco
But it’s not just the game industry, as proven time and time again by the dearth of women superheroes built like Victoria’s Secret models. Does Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman look like she can do anything other than strut and make mealy-mouthed comments on the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow capable of pulling off gymnastic stunts when she’s wearing a SKIMS waist trainer under a leather catsuit?
Sure, we all went nuts when Natalie Portman actually got buff for Thor: Love and Thunder, but remember how they nerfed She-Hulk’s muscles for the Marvel’s She-Hulk series? When the CGI version of actor Tatiana Maslany (who plays Jennifer Walters) was shown to be rather diminutive in comparison to Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, fans went, justifiably, apeshit. Where are the rear delts, where are the traps? Why does she look, as one person put it, like “she’s running for congress to stop the socialists from taking YOUR guns.”
In an Entertainment Weekly interview, She-Hulk executive producer Kat Coiro responded to rumors that “Marvel requested She-Hulk’s muscles be made smaller,” saying that She-Hulk didn’t need to be all that big, actually.
We honestly talked about strength more than aesthetics. We studied musculature and we studied women athletes who were incredibly strong. We really leaned towards Olympians rather than bodybuilders. That’s where a lot of our body references came from, very strong Olympic athletes. So she doesn’t have a bodybuilder’s physique, but she absolutely has a very strong physique that can justify the actions that she does in the show. I think people expected a bodybuilder and for her to have these big, massive muscles but she looks more like Olympians.
Unfortunately, until recently, one of the few examples of a muscular woman in modern media was MMA-fighter-turned-actor Gina Carano as Cara Dune on The Mandalorian. Her arms were absolutely gigantic, exploding out from her chest armor with purpose. She dwarfed every other person sharing a scene with her. Sadly, Carano came out as a transphobe and a covid pandemic anti-masker, so she got the boot, and I worried I’d never see someone built like her on TV or in movies again.
Mandalorian muscle mommies
Thankfully, Katy O’Brian came to the rescue. Though she’s only briefly in The Mandalorian season 2, she returns as a major character in the third season, and yes, we do get to see her arms. In fact, her muscles are so prominent that fans of the series already made an apt comparison, tweeting that O’Brian, an actor and martial artist, should play Abby in The Last of Us season 2.
Abby is voiced by Laura Bailey and has the face of former Naughty Dog dev Jocelyn Mettler, her body double is CrossFit athlete and former collegiate swimmer Colleen Fotsch, who looks like she could pick me (a pretty muscular woman) up with one arm and wield me like a baseball bat. Fotsch, who did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment, has a litany of YouTube videos showing off workout routines—and considering she’s currently a data analyst by trade, she’s proof that women can be muscle mommies while also living fulfilled NARP (non-athletic regular people) lives.
Casting an actor who is athletically inclined and already ripped up like a bad report card as Abby in The Last of Us season two makes a ton of sense—but that’s not what’s happened here. Dever, who gave an incredible, almost completely non-verbal performance in 2023’s No One Will Save You, is 5’2″ and of average build. She’s not what I would call muscular in any sense of the term. Maybe she’ll partake in a wild bulk-up of an actor, like male actors have done before, and surprise us all.though I find myself longing to see a wild bulk-up of an actor not already built like a brick shithouse. But also, I just want to see more muscular women in movies and television, guys. I don’t really care how they get there, I just want them there, muscles rippling like coiled snakes under their skin.
In January of last year, The Last of Us fans thought the series found its Abby in actor Shannon Berry, known for her role as Dot in The Wilds series. Berry certainly looks like Abby, but the role has gone to Dever instead. I’m excited to see how she portrays the complicated young woman, and will light a candle at the altar of muscle mommies in the hope that she shows up to set with some meaty forearms.
(This story was originally published on March 17, 2023)
Update 3/17/23 at 5:24 p.m. ET: Post updated to clarify Jocelyn Mettler’s job title.
Update 01/09/24 at 1:00 p.m. ET: Updated to include information about the recent The Last of Us casting announcement.
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