Last week, the world was rocked with the news of the demise of Robin Williams. People were shocked to find out that a man so full of positive energy committed suicide after a long drawn out bout with manic depression. Netizens all over the world made tribute videos and memoirs of all of the good things the man has done. To me, the news of Robin Williams passing was bigger than any previous celebrity’s death.
Not to downplay the tragedy of the deaths of other famous personalities like Michael Jackson, The Ultimate Warrior and Harold Ramis but I felt tangible loss with the departure of Robin Williams. And, judging by the outpouring of love from over the world, a lot of people feels the same way. But… why? Why does it seem there’s an extra amount of sadness with his passing? I can’t speak for the entire world but I can try to explain by expressing my own feelings on the topic.
For me, my earliest memory of Robin Williams was playing Mork from Mork and Mindy. I actually remember watching the show when I was a kid. Well, I don’t exactly remember it vividly. I can’t recall any of the storylines or even what was actually happening. I don’t think I even realized he was an alien for the longest time. But I do remember enjoying Mork’s zany antics and I loved whenever he contacted Orson at the end of each show. Even if I didn’t understand the story of each episode, I loved watching the show because, well, Mork was funny.
As I got older, I saw Robin Williams take on varying roles. Some of them were actually very serious and dramatic roles, which astonished me as it really showed that he wasn’t just a comedian. He was an actor! As a teenager, I remember watching Dead Poets Society and couldn’t believe Mork was in the very serious role of the teacher, John Keating. I actually remember some of the lessons he taught there, such as there really shouldn’t be a formula for evaluating art.
I think to most young people, they remember Williams as Genie from Aladdin and it’s easy to see why. Genie was a comedy dynamo, spouting out funny lines at such a rapid pace and the animation managed to capture the basic essence of the person behind the voice. I’m glad the folks at Disney took the huge risk of writing the character for Robin Williams because, hey, I don’t think Aladdin would’ve been this massive hit if Genie was portrayed by another person.
And that’s why I think his death is being mourned around the world: it’s because Robin Williams made a connection with people around the world with his enormous body of work. For me, he’ll be the alien Mork. For others, he’s Genie. And for others as well, he could be the devoted father who disguises himself as a woman nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire. Or the gay drag queen club owner in The Birdcage. Or the crazy doctor who invents a new material in Flubber. Or Theodore Roosevelt from Night at the Museum. He’s all of those people and we developed some personal connection with the man in the process.
Of course, his passing is still a tragedy. But I don’t think Robin Williams wants us to be sad. With all of the tributes that have sprung up since his passing, the common thread between all of them is they remember his as a person that wanted people to be happy. So, rather than focus on the man’s death, I think it’s more appropriate to look back at his life and remember him for the funny man that he was.
How do you remember Robin Williams? Let me know by putting it in the comment section below.