I haven’t felt much like being funny since I heard of Robin Williams’ passing. Beyond his massive talent as an actor and comedian, he was a mainstay of the world I have always lived in. Until this week, I have never been a resident of a planet that wasn’t blessed with his frenetic, insightful and joyous energy. He was a constant, and now that he’s gone I feel his absence in a way that I had not anticipated. Robin Williams was like a song that everyone you’ve ever met knew and loved. He was a unifying force for happiness in an all too often harsh and confusing world. The fact that he was unable to find his own happiness in the very world he made so much brighter is so fantastically unfair.
There are only a handful of movies that honestly changed my life; that made me a different person than I was before I saw them. When I read about Robin’s death, I started to list them off and realized, of that handful, four were his films. I posted this list and these quick, gut reaction thoughts on Twitter and Facebook within moments of reading the news, and I want to share it with you here now.
Dead Poet’s Society, Bicentennial Man, What Dreams May Come, & The Birdcage were all films that changed my life forever, for the better.
Dead Poets Society was the first time I thought about being true to yourself over doing what was expected of you.
Bicentennial Man was the 1st time I thought about what makes a person a person. The parts we’re born with or the impact we have on the world?
What Dreams May Come was the 1st time I questioned the concept of an afterlife that I had been raised to believe in. It took on a far more profound meaning for me after I became a father. Reduces me to a sniveling mess every time.
Seeing The Birdcage at 15 was the very first time I even considered that gay people were… people, and not monsters like I’d been taught. It was the first time I’d been presented with a positive view of homosexual love and saw how similar/same it was to what I knew.
There are maybe 12 movies that make me cry EVERY SINGLE TIME and these are 4 of them. Thank you, Robin Williams.
Our lives are ours to do with as we choose. Robin chose to do a great deal of good with his. He made the entire world smile, he made much of the world think and he was notoriously generous with his time. He gave and gave until he gave in to the depression that was assaulting his mind and the Parkinson’s that had begun to assault his body, and then he chose to stop being alive. That’s one choice I wish he had made differently.
I almost changed the title of this comic at the last minute for two reasons. One: The original quote from Bicentennial Man was last said by Andrew Martin (played by Williams) when he felt defeated and reduced to something less than human by the world he lived in. I thought this might mirror the circumstances of Robin’s death too closely. And, Two: I did not want to imply that Robin was, indeed, glad at the end of his life. I don’t know how he felt. Then I rethought what, “One is glad to be of service,” meant throughout the film, not just at the end. At the beginning of the film, Andrew said this to the Martins because he was programmed to. Later, after becoming self aware, he said this because he loved his family and he genuinely was glad to serve them; to make their lives better. From everything I’ve read from Robin’s family, his loved ones, and those that knew him professionally, he was happiest when he was making us laugh. The world was his family, and he loved us and, at least when he was performing, he WAS glad to be of service. I thank you for that service, Robin. Now I’m going to go make sure I have Hook and Jumanji to show my daughter, because she isn’t quite old enough for the existential explorations of the films illustrated above. Rest assured that, when the time comes, I will share those with her as well. Robin Williams’ light may be extinguished, but his service to all of us continues.