It’s not every day that someone mentions the latest celebrity death and the entire office gasps. There are so many reason to be sad about the passing of Robin Williams. How depression impacts people. How it relates to addiction. The passing of one of the funniest people on the planet.
I grew up in the era of latchkey kids. My Mom went back to work when I was in 3rd grade, right around 1978. I’d walk up the hill to my house, make a snack and go turn on the TV while i did my homework. Yes, TV became my friend. And right around 1978, one of my best friends was Mork. Mork and Mindy was one of those shows that you watched with you parents and everyone laughed. Sometimes my parents laughed at a really strange part and for two seconds I wondered why. Even with those crazy suspenders, Mork made the most complex, adult issues seem easy for an 8 year old. Years later, it was great to watch the re-runs and revisit all the jokes that had previously gone over my head.
Another childhood favorite was Popeye. This movie brought together cartoon characters, live action, musical numbers and clearly took all the scariness out of Shelly Duvall’s role in The Shining. I was never a huge fan of the cartoon, but it was a movie my brother and I could both agree to watch as young children. (God forbid)
As I got older, the roles Robin Williams took had a familiar father/teacher theme.. Dead Poet’s Society, Hook, The World According to Garp, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, etc… In a world where everyone told you that you can’t change people (especially men), Robin played roles that did. He made his students better people, learned to love his children more, and helped a really smart guy communicate better. As a young woman deep in the dating pool, it felt like he hit the trifecta of unobtainable change.
After that, he joined the wonderful world of Disney.I am a huge fan of Disney animated movies. I remember when they said that the next animated movie was Aladdin. After Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, I couldn’t imagine how they were going to make this move featuring a male lead enjoyable. Then they added Robin to the cast and it was a whole new world. My favorite tweet remembrance so far comes from Aladdin via The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science,”Genie, you’re free.” It’s become somewhat controversial but I take it to represent his metaphysical state now, not how he got there.
On and on it went. At every major milestone in my life, there was a Robin Williams movie that accompanied the change. I couldn’t bear to watch when he played dramatic parts, but he alway came back to the quirky, funny and vulnerable roles that I loved. I know every generation goes through this type of experience. The passing of a major entertainment figure that marks a moment of time. I think it came too soon for Robin Williams. I think it might feel too soon for everyone. Maybe my parents said the same thing about Elvis.Photo courtesy of: