Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

Reading blog posts, tweets, and Facebook status messages about Robin Williams, I am struck by the fact that I have nothing new to say about his death. I could assemble an entire blog post about my feelings and memories cobbled together from what other people have said:
like you, I was allowed to watch some things with Robin Williams that were maybe over my head or a little racy because my mom loved him, probably from his time on Mork and Mindy
(I think I saw World According to Garp around puberty, when the focus on penises and what to do with them seemed totally reasonable);
like you, I had a tape of some of his comedy and could do many of his jokes from memory; 
(for me, even more than my Comic Relief cassette, it was the soundtrack to Good Morning, Vietnam--"What is a protective dike anyway? Is it a large woman that says 'Don't go near there!'?"); 
like you, I remember him for his hilarious comedic performances and for those other movies he did: the dramatic, the quirky, the little oddball roles that he could bring real depth to, the movies that no one else but me liked--except now I'm learning that you liked them too; 
(sure, Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Toys, but did you see him as the mad anarchist bomber in The Secret Agent, with his "I myself have no future. But I am a force" speech?, oh, fuck I'm crying again); 
like you, Robin Williams's struggles with addiction and depression and suicide call up other struggles, both in my own life and in the lives of my loved ones;
and like you, Robin Williams's death hits me hard--harder than I expected.
I wanted to write something about him and about his death, because it shocked and still shocks me. But now I'm struck by how common the responses are, how my feelings and thoughts are pretty widely shared. Usually, that's the kind of blog post or tweet I run from. But now, when so much of our culture is geared towards novelty and (the illusion of) originality, it seems important to recognize how much we share.

Robin Williams could make us laugh together and he could make us cry together.

Maybe that's why one of the shared images that got to me was Robin Williams on the picket line of the writers' strike.

Because here was a man who seemed to understand the importance of solidarity, of charity, of offering a helping hand to the person on the step below you; a man whose work brought and still brings many people together, whether laughing or crying; a man who even now, in our grief, is reminding us of what we share.

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