Last week, we said goodbye to one of the funniest men to ever walk the earth. A man who was so quick and energetic and hyper, you had no choice but to pay close attention. A man whose performances and comedy lit up and shaped my childhood. A genius.
Normally, I don’t care about celebrity deaths all that much. Sure, it was sad when Heath Ledger died and Michael Jackson died, but neither of them truly impacted me in the same way as Robin. I mean, I enjoyed dancing and singing to “Black and White” and “The Man in the Mirror,” and “Will You Be There” from Free Willy may have been belted in the car and end credits for an entire year, but the King of Pop didn’t shape my life. Robin did.
Robin taught me to fly as a kid, and as an adult, the messages in Hook are even more prevalent. Peter Pan has always been, even before Harry Potter, one of the most defining stories of my childhood, and Hook is one of my absolute favorite versions. Robin’s Peter and Dustin Hoffman’s Hook are iconic to me, and I will never not love that movie. I was taught that even though we all have to grow up, even Peter Pan, there’s a way to embrace the magic, as long as we don’t forget it.
My parents divorced when I was six, and I can remember receiving a VHS copy of Mrs. Doubtfire from my Dad’s parents for Christmas sometime around then. I always kind of thought it a bit too nail-on-the-head, as the parents in the film resembled my own parents, and my Mom had custody… but I loved that movie. Sure, it’s cheesy and ridiculous, but I loved it. I laughed and laughed, which is probably the precise reason it was given to me, and to this day I still love it. I mean, what’s NOT to love about Robin Williams dressing up as an elderly Scottish nanny? Especially the scene where the fat suit starts coming off in the restaurant…! Hilarious. Robin taught me that although divorce is a nasty business, it’s okay to laugh.
While Aladdin was never my all-time favorite Disney movie, the Genie was my favorite sidekick. How awesome is he!? I gotta tell you, Disney’s tribute to Robin, along with the Academy’s, who also referenced the great Genie, moved me to tears. I can’t even think about it now without getting choked up.
And finally, Dead Poet’s Society. I watched this movie as a kid at my Dad’s house (I always suspected my Dad wanted to sort of be Robin Williams, maybe with a mix of Jerry Garcia and Gandalf) and every time, found myself crying. And not just because of the death at the end, but because of the respect the students had for Mr. Keating. I won’t say this movie influenced my decision to become an English teacher, for there were a great many factors, but AS an English teacher, I want nothing more than to be Mr. Keating.
While there were many other great, great films and roles had by Robin: Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, One Hour Photo (which haunted me for a while), Jumanji, etc… these four were the ones that impacted me the most, the ones that I will never be able to watch again without a tear glistening in my eye as I shout BANGARANG!
Robin’s humor was one that often presented itself in dark places, helping us cope with our own demons with a little laughter. It is a shame that his own darkness consumed him, and it is something to remember when confronting life. Everyone needs laughter, even the Jester, so fill your days with smiles and incite the laughter in others.
O Captain, My Captain.
You will be missed.