I can’t believe it’s been five years already. I don’t… really know what the point of this post is. I just feel like I can’t let an anniversary like this pass by without paying my respects to one of my favorite performers of all time. I loved him. His death hit me harder than maybe any celebrity death of my lifetime. It was like a family member had passed. I still miss him. There will never be anyone else quite like Robin.
Growing up as a kid in the 90s, I guess it was kind of inevitable that I’d form a fondness for Robin Williams. I was introduced to the guy at a super young age. He gave what I consider the best performance in an animated movie ever as Genie in Aladdin. I remember instantly being drawn to that character. I was amazed how he could jump from one joke to the next so quickly, while still having real heart and emotions. Even as a kid, I knew I was watching something special every time I’d pop in that VHS. What I didn’t realize was that I was starting a lifelong admiration for one of the greatest comedic minds ever.
I was amazed to realize that the Genie’s sensibilities wasn’t just limited to that character. Robin, in a lot of ways, was the Genie. That energy carried over to his live action roles as well. Before I knew it, I was watching movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji on repeat. I can still revisit those two and get a laugh. And, there was a lot of heart there too. Yes. In Mrs. Doubtfire, it’s funny because he dresses as an old lady and his boobs catch of fire. But, I don’t think it would’ve worked with anyone else. He had to both sell the wackiness of a dude in a lady costume and the heartache of a father who just wants to see his children. To this day, I consider that one of the best comedic performances of all time. And, in Jumanji, he really felt like a kid who’s stuck in an adults body and just wants the torturous game they’re stuck in to stop. And, sure, he gets to act funny as a giant (horribly outdated practical) spider comes at him. He was never afraid to be himself. Whether he was cracking a joke or showing legitimate emotion. And that stuck with me as a kid.
But, you know what might have been my favorite live action performance of his as a kid? Hook. I know that a lot of people older than I am do not agree. For whatever reason, they don’t find it as charming. But, for me, it really captures both the spirit of the original Peter Pan and who Robin Williams is as a person. At the beginning, we see that Peter has outgrown his life in Neverland. He’s essentially done the exact opposite of what he wanted to do. But, as the movie progresses, we slowly start to see him come back to that childhood innocence. He learns to believe in magic and himself again. The sequence where he remembers who he is and flies around Neverland is one of my favorite in cinema history. It’s such a good message. Don’t take yourself too seriously. There’s a child in each of us. Don’t let that magic die. Have fun. Live life. When I think of Robin, these are the lessons I remember first and foremost. So, when I’m tasked at picking a scene to sum up what he means to me, I’m going to go for this one.
Of course, another truly great thing about Robin was that you could never outgrow him. There was stuff like Aladdin and Ferngully to entertain you as a toddler. He’d make you smile more as an older kid with Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji. Then, when you’re old enough to understand more complex emotions, he’d hit you with two absolutely amazing performances in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. In both of these, he plays a teacher who is motivating our protagonists to be their very best. He’s not perfect but he’s trying to get them to be. But, in all honesty, he might as well have been breaking the fourth wall. He could’ve been talking to me in those moments. And, I took those lessons to heart too. If I’m ever feeling down on myself, I can just think of what Robin would’ve said. Watching these, you legitimately get the feeling that he was out there rooting for you. Williams wanted everyone to seize the day and to follow their dreams. He wanted you to be the best you could be. He just wanted you to look outside and enjoy life. That’s why I love him so much.
Hey. I think I found the point of this post. If you’re ever feeling down, pop in a Robin Williams movie. Mr. Rogers gets a lot of credit for telling people they should be loved no matter who they are. Rightfully so. But, I’d put Robin right up there with him.
The only unfortunate part is that Williams apparently didn’t feel the love back. I think that’s why his death hurt so much. He taught me so many life lessons. Be yourself. Seize the day. Don’t let that childhood wonder die. Yet, he struggled to take in those messages himself. That’s maybe the most human aspect about him. Depression is a very real thing. It lives inside a lot of the seemingly happiest people on Earth. So, be there for each other. Reach out to your friends. Make sure they’re doing all right. And, don’t just tell them to suck up their feelings. Really listen and talk to them. Make sure they know that your world would be a worse place without them in it. That they matter. That you love them. You’d be surprised with how much it helps.
Thank you, Robin. Thank you for the good times. Thank you for teaching me to be myself. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for not letting us take ourselves too seriously. I miss you. You will never be replaced. The world isn’t the same without your smile.