When it comes to critical analysis of entertainment and pop culture, the media industry has a way of over-saturating coverage with op-eds and opinion pieces all fighting to claim to be the singular voice and opinion of a particular issue. Sometimes things are clearly black and white, but oftentimes there’s a lot more nuance to be parsed. It happens with everything, but I noticed this was especially the case with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which heavily dealt with mental illness in its story. In the game based on Norse mythology, a young woman warrior named Senua delves into Viking Hell to save her beloved, made up of psychotic nightmares and demons from her own mind.
The fight for clicks and the desire to be the one person ahead of the herd leads to cycles of backlash. A take is put out, a counter-take is pit against it, a redux of the original take evolves, and so on. Hellblade opened to largely positive comments about how it captures Senua’s mental illness but some recent takes are more critical. That’s expected– it’s fine and it’s normal. The thing about this larger discussion though is that it happens so quickly for internet traffic that individual writers often clamp down on one element of any work and argue themselves into a corner. Sometimes people need more time to absorb something and round out their opinion.
Personally I think Hellblade did a great job handling the issue. It might not be be perfect, and certainly merits conversation, but not every story about mental illness is going to contain all the same experiences of our own lives, and that’s fine. That’s why we need more stories more studios reaching out to experts, and more disabled and other marginalized writers being given opportunities.
I feel like all of this is captured in this galaxy brain meme I made. As silly as that sounds, the format has a way of incapsulating every cycle of thought I just described.