One of my fave things about Overwatch is that it shows how, no matter who you are, you are capable of being powerful and awesome and worthy of being a playable character. It’s one of the many reasons why this game is such a huge hit.
Two of the game’s most popular characters are Junkrat and Roadhog (especially Junkrat). As you can see, Junkrat is an amputee and Roadhog is very heavyset, yet that doesn’t stop them from being fun to play as. While they were originally created as grimy, dangerous criminals, they often come across more as lovable rascals.
While fandom debates which character interpretation is more accurate, I think people forget something very crucial about both characters: they’re both mentally ill.
We all know that Junkrat is a little, well, mad, and very obsessed with explosives (and can forget rather important things and not be totally alarmed when he remembers it), but why is he like it? From his official character bio:
The attack on the Australian omnium’s fusion core forever altered the landscape of the Outback. After the detonation, the area was transformed into a harsh, irradiated wasteland, littered with debris and the twisted fragments of the ruined facility, and unlivable to most.
But there were some who survived. Calling themselves the Junkers, they scavenged the husk of the omnium and formed a lawless, cutthroat society in its shadow. Junkrat was one of them, eking out a living reclaiming metal and components from the ruins. Like many others, he was affected by the lingering radiation. This touch of madness made him ideal for handling dangerous explosives, a love which he turned into an obsession.
I feel like people forget this important detail. Junkrat is suffering from brain damage because of radiation.
As for Roadhog, he was at least partially responsible for this happening. He literally “watched as his home became an apocalyptic wasteland, and he was forever changed”. Now he barely speaks, always wears a mask, and has essentially abandoned his old self to become his new identity. The implication here is that he is suffering from immense guilt and trauma, which suffered a devastating blow to his mental health and sanity.
So when we discuss whether these characters, it isn’t a matter of “they’re evil, dangerous criminals who just happen to be charming” or “they’re lovable goons who just happen to be able to kick your ass”, they’re literally sick, can’t make the best decisions, and need help.
I find it a little odd how fandom goes on and on about the need for mentally ill characters, when we have two characters who are blatantly mentally ill, no one talks about it. They appreciate them, sure, but they don’t acknowledge the fact that they’re not mentally well. Maybe they needed to have anxiety and depression?
Now I’m not saying they’re the ONLY characters who are mentally ill. I mean Reinhardt suffers from delusions (he’s described as being a Don Quixote type and quite literally imagined dragons in the form of his opponents), possibly from old age and from having fought in the war for so long, Widowmaker is literally brainwashed, Genji suffered (and possibly still does) from body image issues, Ana has PTSD, and it’s possible that the reason why Tracer is so hyper all the time is because she’s suppressing her own depression after having nearly died. (Symmetra is autistic, but that is not a mental illness, and I think most fans are aware of that and remember that when talking about her.) They all deserve to have their mental problems acknowledged, and I’m kind of shocked that’s not the case.
I’m very happy these characters are popular at any rate. I’m especially happy that Junkrat and Roadhog are mentally ill/disabled characters who are allowed to be likable and fun (and not just dangerous and evil). At the same time, when we discuss these characters, we need to remember that their brains are not wired the same way as most people, which explains why they are what they are, and how that can or should be resolved.