Mentor Text Wednesday: The Empty Sentiment of The Last of Us

Mentor Text: The Empty Sentiment of The Last of Us by Jackson McHenry


  • Criticism
  • Making connections to make arguments


As a insomniac geek teacher who loves stories in pretty much any form, the combination of streaming services and the internet is a gift. There’s lots of stories to immerse myself in, and there’s lots of commentary on those stories.

I think it’s pretty important that we explore this with our students, and we all know, once they know what you’re into, you’re having conversations about those things regularly. Which makes mentor texts like this one valuable.

Via Express

How we might use this text:

Criticism – In those conversations about whatever pop culture is capturing us at the moment, I’m always trying to push students past “It’s awesome!” or “It sucks!” Expanding on the negative, in particular seems to be challenging for them.

That’s why I always keep an eye out for pieces like this, pieces that model how to express that something isn’t “working” for you. There is still praise of the show, but it highlights good reasons to not laud this particular episode. In this case, it expands past the “deviation from the game” commentary, as well as any of the other (small-minded) reasons that others have shared on the internet to decry this episode. It notes a trend, and highlights the things that, for the writer, didn’t work.

Making connections to make arguments – In our binge mode era, we’re all taking in a heck of a lot of content. As much as that might be a cause for concern at times, it actually puts us in a pretty good place for analysis work. Like McHenry does here, we quite likely have numerous other “texts” to draw upon as evidence for the claims we’re making about the pieces we’re writing about. We can reference them to establish context for our arguments, to demonstrate our “expertise.” We can refer to specific examples where the devices we’re commenting on have been used, in this case over-used, before. We can highlight instances where it’s been done better, with more resonance. This is a model for our writers to move past “It sucks!” and to articulate why they feel that’s the case.

Full disclosure – I loved the episode in question, and have thought about it a lot since it aired. I will go back and watch it again before long. But since I haven’t gotten to the fatigue stage with the post-apocalyptic yet, I couldn’t fully embrace McHenry’s arguments. I really appreciate good criticism, and good writing about pop culture though, and I’m glad that I’ve now got a good mentor text to support my burgeoning critics, a way to improve the quality of their pop culture hot takes.

What good pieces do you have set aside for this purpose? How do you encourage your writers to explore texts that don’t “work” for them?

Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @doodlinmunkyboy!

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