Content warning: This post contains discussions of suicide and related statistics.
Alright, well, we knew we’d have to confront this eventually. We’ve known for a while that Grimes is in Cyberpunk 2077, and given how little information there was available, we’d all just accepted it as part of the reality we have to face every day, and attempted to move on. But now, Grimes has given us all a brief rundown of her character’s whole thing, and we can’t just push it aside and act like nothing happened. We have to talk about this and move past it if we’re ever going to start the healing process. The rest of this post contains story spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077, and given how little story information exists right now, it’s impossible to know just how big of a spoiler Grimes put out there, so, read at your own risk.
Grimes’ fifth studio album, Miss Anthropocene, came out last Friday. Shortly thereafter, someone asked Grimes for more details about her Cyberpunk 2077 character, Lizzy Wizzy, during a question and answer livestream celebrating the album’s release. (Until now, all we’ve known is that Lizzy Wizzy is the leader of a band called Lizzy Wizzy and the Metadwarves.) The archive of the stream has since been removed from Grimes’ YouTube channel, but Reddit wrote everything down, so we still know the gist of it.
Basically, Lizzy Wizzy is a famous musician who made a name for herself by committing suicide during a concert as performance art. “I play a pop star who committed suicide on stage, and they had to quickly come and preform emergency surgery and replace her whole body with cybernetics while she was dead for an hour and then she finished the show as a cyborg,” Grimes said, at least according to a Reddit transcription that Polygon claims to have verified. “One of the greatest pieces of performance art ever made.”
I need to go make a noise expressing frustrated exasperation for like, 48 seconds? I’ll be right back.
Okay, I don’t think I need to explain exactly why this sucks, but I’m going to anyway. Suicide kills nearly 800,000 people globally every year, which translates to roughly one new victim every 40 seconds. It is the second most-likely cause of death for people aged 15 to 29, and overall is responsible for 1.4 percent of all deaths. And for every completed suicide, there may be as many as 20 other people whose attempts were thankfully unsuccessful. Global suicide rates have increased by 60 percent in the last half century, and there is little indication that they will slow down anytime soon.
All of which is to say, this is some hackneyed, rote, My First Dark OC™ forum signature detritus that wouldn’t make the grade as a first-year creative writing project, let alone one of the most anticipated video games of the generation. Suicide is not a convenient window dressing for you to throw on a sexy robot to make her fit your edgy dystopian backdrop. It is not a subject that exists for use as a load-bearing character trait, at least not without careful consideration, context, and education. If suicide is a part of your fiction, it must be earned and carefully administered to the situation, with a purpose higher than “check out how fucked up our world is.” I don’t know why I’m so surprised that the developer that did this would also do this, or that Grimes would think the whole thing sounded badass, because of course she does, but here we are.
If you’re one of the 9.8 million people who deal with suicidal thoughts every year, please reach out to The Trevor Project for free, confidential help by phone, text, or chat, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.