Today, I have been thinking about the incredible Robin Williams, as so many others around the world are also doing. Unlike other celebrity deaths, Robin’s passing has really shaken me and I still haven’t quite processed that he’s gone. In the past day, I have seen nothing but love for him come from his fans and personal acquaintances. I think this speaks enormously of his personality and how deep his influence in the world was.
What I really want to discuss in this post is why so many fans, specifically those of my generation, are so affected by this tragedy. I personally have categorized a group of actors in my life who I grew up watching. They go beyond appearing in that one movie I liked as a kid – their films have been universal to every stage of my life and I see them as my lifelong cinematic icons. Robin Williams was included in this group, and he is the first among its members to pass away.
Now, I’m sure many others around my age, and even my parents’ age, can testify to having a similar kind of connection to Robin. The man was an indelible and monumental part of the entertainment industry. His portrayal of the Genie in Aladdin was seemingly always in the background of my childhood memories. My dad loved uttering Good Morning Vietnam‘s title line at random times. As a teenager, I felt inspired to continue towards my dream job after watching Dead Poets Society. My family and I all saw Night at the Museum in the theater together. Mrs. Doubtfire is still one of my favorite movies.
For those of us in our late teens and early twenties – and perhaps even some people a little older or younger – this may be the first time we are experiencing the death of a childhood figure. Things like this remind us that no one is immortal – their most memorable selves may be, having been captured in a film – but the person behind these wonderful characters is gone. We will watch Robin’s films in the future with a sting of sadness, knowing how he died under horrible circumstances.
However, Robin Williams seemed to highly value laughter in this world. Knowing this, we are reminded that laughter can get us through our toughest times. As Robin says in Patch Adams, “Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity and decency…and, God forbid, maybe even humor?” And, honestly, I feel that this is exactly what the world is doing with his passing. We are remembering his best moments and laughing over our favorite memories of him. And, perhaps most importantly, his death has reminded us that people’s initial appearances can be deceiving, and that it is paramount to help anyone who may be struggling within themselves.
My mind is still in a fog over what has happened, and these are just some thoughts that have come to mind after this news came about. Rest in peace, Robin. You will never be forgotten.