Why are we all so sad about Robin Williams? Why am I so sad?
I don’t know.
It’s a question I’ve read on Twitter and asked myself a lot in the past 12 hours. The best answer I can come up is that maybe because when he died a small piece of all of us died. For me, he is the first TV and movie star I grew up with to have died. Sure, there have been a lot of stars from my childhood (Mr. Rogers) who have passed away. But I left them behind as I grew up. And yes, there have been several stars that remind me of being a kid (Andy Griffith) who have died. But I didn’t grow up with them.
Robin Williams was different. I remember being introduced to him in Mork and Mindy (and later, Jonathan Winters). I was five. I had no idea what comedy was and what I was supposed to find funny but I knew…that guy was funny. I loved the theme song. I loved Mork. I loved watching it on my parents 20” color TV during a much simpler time.
It was a few years later that I snuck into an R-rated movie I wasn’t supposed to – Good Morning Vietnam – that made me realize even though R-rated movies aren’t for kids, you can appreciate good movies at any age.
Then, only two years later, I watched the first movie that had ever left me feeling overwhelming joy and sadness all at once – Dead Poets Society. A movie that had it all including two of the greatest movie quotes/scenes of all time: ‘What will your verse be?’ and ‘Oh captain! My Captain!’
Robin Williams created great character upon great character. Great scene upon great scene. His movies, more than anyone’s, were guaranteed to make you feel some…thing. His greatest roles came when you least expected them. The Fisher King (a homeless guy); Awakenings (a doctor who has dedicated his life to patients in catatonic states); Aladdin (a character he was born to play); Good Will Hunting (a psychiatrist); One Hour Photo (a psycho).
The beauty of being a movie star is that in some sick twist of fate, you are immortal. You just won’t be around to experience it. I will, of course, play a role in that as I continue to introduce my kids to the genius of Robin Williams. His movies, like the characters he created, will go on and on.
But he won’t. And because of that someone who brought all of us such joy in our lives has managed to, ironically, fill us with great sorrow.