I may be late to the races with this one since many others are chiming in, but I’d be remiss not to offer my thoughts and feelings on the passing of the late Robin Williams.
Normally, celebrity deaths don’t affect me at all. I will admit to being emotional this year when the Ultimate Warrior died, mainly because he was such a huge part of my life. In spite of his flaws, it seemed like he’d received closure on life in wrestling.
Robin Williams, however, received no such closure. At least not the kind that you’d want for him after knowing his struggles.
Anyone who lived through the 90s has to know that Robin Williams just about owned that decade on the silver screen. After he broke big with Good Morning, Vietnam in 1987, it was off to the races for him. He turned out several memorable performances during that time, and for many kids, his voice and energy was a staple of their youth.
I remember very clearly going to see Hook around Christmas, and Mrs. Doubtfire years later. In college, the first time I really hung out with my main circle of friends was when we went to see What Dreams May Come at the local movie theater. Every girl in our circle was crying her eyes out afterwards, and with good reason.
Robin Williams had the ability to appeal to a range of emotions. He could be goofy, juvenile, and outright silly. But at the same time he could be earnest, heartfelt, even somber. There wasn’t a single feeling on the spectrum he couldn’t bring out of an audience.
And although he’s most known for his comedic roles, he wasn’t afraid to go dark. His guest appearance on Law & Order: SVU a few years back is evidence of that. You felt genuinely unnerved watching him on the screen, and his performance was nothing if not convincing.
I’ll openly admit to not loving everything he did. I hated Patch Adams, I loathed Flubber, and when I saw him advertised for his most recent sitcom on NBC, I cringed. I just remember thinking, “Man, he’s been reduced to this? He’s so good when he wants to be! He’s better than this.”
And yet in spite of the recent lag in his career, I feel an unquestionable void when I think about his death. I feel that way because even at his worst, there was no denying that Robin Williams was something special. He had tremendous depth as an actor, and apparently as a human being. Countless colleagues have commented on his loving nature, his warmth, and his generosity.
Sadly, we now know that there was severe turbulence beneath that warm exterior.
It hits hard to know that someone so seemingly warm and vibrant could harbor such troubles. And yet it comes as little surprise. Most comedians and comic personalities deal with inadequacy and depression at some level. Laughter is an easy tool on the road to love, and anyone who’s made an audience laugh will tell you that there’s no greater feeling than hearing that sound.
I’ve dealt with depression myself, and I’d be lying if I said that darker thoughts hadn’t entered my head at times. It’s undeniably scary, but I was fortunate enough to avoid self-harm of any kind. But I’m not naïve enough to think that just because I’m lucky, it’s easy.
It’s not easy. And there are a lot of people right now talking about how they hope Williams’ death will increase awareness of depression and suicidal thoughts. It might me trite to just jump on the bandwagon, but yes, there’s no question that it’s an issue. A big one.
It’s more complicated than just a disorder, it’s not really disease, and it’s not an act of selfishness to do what he did. It’s hard to process unless you’ve been through it. And even then it’s hard to articulate what it feels like. There are no easy answers, and solutions take time.
It’s an ongoing process. I hope that in his passing, Williams revealed that we are all works in progress, we all have fears, and we all struggle. Sometimes, some of us struggle worse than others.
I have one phrase repeating in my mind. The infamous scene from Good Will Hunting in which Sean Maguire tells Will over and over again, “it’s not your fault.” No matter how much Will protests, he never stops. “It’s not your fault.”
I want to be able to say that to Robin Williams now. I want to say that to him three days ago. And if anyone out there is struggling on this level, please remember, it’s not your fault. Hang in there.