Esteemed mycologist Paul Stamets claims that science fiction TV series The Last of Us is "exploiting mycophobia: the fear of fungi" when mushrooms could actually "save the world," as he explains in the TED Talk below. From the Daily Grail:
The use of a zombifying fungus in the storyline was reportedly inspired by a segment on [the mushroom genus] Cordyceps and how they control insects' minds, that was first broadcast in 2006 in the David Attenborough hosted BBC series Planet Earth…
On his Facebook page, [Stamets writes]:
All organisms must eat. There are animals that are predatory. There are plants that are predatory. There are fungi that are predatory. We are all part of a giant food web where we are sustained by each other. [The Last of Us] is fiction weaved into a theme speckled with mycology and exploiting mycophobia: the fear of fungi.
It is natural for humans to fear that which is powerful but mysterious and misunderstood. In reality, fungi offer us today some of the best solutions that are needed for solving many of the existential threats that we face. In fact, Cordyceps-like fungi could replace the majority of chemical insecticides with an ecologically rational and economically scalable solution.
That said, Stamets isn't without praise for The Last of Us.
"I applaud the writers for seeing this opportunity to take us on a literary adventure into the realm of sci-fi while exploiting the public's fascination, fear, and joy of fungi," he wrote. "Who knows, a young person watching this series could become our Einstein of mycology and help save the world from the toxins we create."