I don't think I need an intro here. By now you almost certainly know that comedic genius Robin Williams passed away earlier this week. It's been the subject on everyone's mind for the past three days. So here I am, typing a blog post to pay my respects to a man who brought far more joy to far more people than most of us can ever even hope to.
The most interesting thing I've seen the past few days is just how universal Williams truly was. Everyone, everyone, has been talking about him. You've probably seen this video of Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, and Will Arnett learning of his death while recording Late Night. I was listening to the Giant Bombcast from this week, which was similarly being recorded as they found out. People have been talking about Williams death on forums I go to like Observation Deck, to every subreddit imaginable, everything from /r/Movies (obviously) to /r/TheLastAirbender (Zelda Williams was recently in an episode ofThe Legend of Korra, and Dante Basco, who voiced Prince Zuko, also played Rufio in Hook), and even to/r/PCMasterRace (Williams was, after all, a well known gamer).
Blizzard has announced some kind of memorial to be put in World of Warcraft, remembering him. Zelda fans have begun asking Nintendo to do the same (Zelda Williams, after all, is named after the Princess, as Nintendo's Ocarina 3D ads are quick to remind you).
My point here is that, while most actors, even talented ones, only manage to speak to certain groups of people, Robin Williams transcended that. This week, regardless of how young or old you are, you're probably mourning the death of a person who made you laugh, in your own little way.
Don't get me wrong, I can't begin to compare how Williams' fans feel with what his family and those who knew him personally must be going through right now, but it's a strange gut punch when you hear that someone like Williams has died.
I keep going back to last summer, when Ryan Davis passed away. If you're unfamiliar with Davis, as I'm sure a lot of people are, he was a writer and personality for the video game website Giant Bomb, who died unexpectedly last July. While he certainly wasn't as famous as Williams, Ryan Davis was a man for whom I had the utmost respect. The Giant Bombcast helped me get through a tough time in my life, and when Davis died it really hit me.
The strange thing about all of this, about when people like Robin Williams or Ryan Davis die, people who you've never met (although my parents have told me a story of us running into Robin Williams in San Francisco when I was two, and how I briefly played with Zelda Williams), who don't know you exist, and yet whom you've formed this very bizarre one-sided yet intimate relationship with, is that you don't feel like you have the right to mourn their passing. I didn't know Ryan Davis, I didn't know Robin Williams, and yet at the same time, I cried when Ryan Davis died, and I cried when Robin Williams died.
I had listened to Davis every week for years, literally for hundreds or thousands of hours, and I had watched Williams speak through his art since I was younger than I can remember, so in some weird way you feel like you do know them, or a part of them at least. It's not just a sadness or regret that you won't get to see more art produced by someone you admire, it's that these people who brought you joy are now gone. Again, I'm not comparing it with the emotions those who actually knew these people must have felt when they passed, but it is a legitimate sadness, and one I never felt I had earned the right to feel.
I think we all have a moment where the rug is pulled out from under us, when someone we'd never even thought of as mortal is taken away all too soon. For me, it was Ryan Davis last year. Maybe for you it was Harold Ramis earlier this year, or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, or Paul Walker last year, or someone I've never even heard of who was important to you, personally, without having ever met them. We build these people up as something more than just that, people, and when they die like any other person, it's hard to understand, or comprehend.
Monday night, I watched two Robin Williams movies. Hook, which holds up better than I expected, and is just a legitimately great film, and World's Greatest Dad. Look, this isn't a World's Greatest Dad review, I don't think I'm ever going to be qualified to review that film fairly because of the circumstances I watched it in, but I am going to be talking very specifically about the film's plot for the rest of the post, so if you don't want to have it spoiled, stop reading here, and just know that I thought it was a very good movie, and one that is important to raise awareness toward at this time especially.
When I chose to watch World's Greatest Dad on Monday night as it rolled into Tuesday morning, I knew very little about the film. I remembered seeing a few trailers here and there in '09 when it came out, and I'd heard that the trailer was pretty misleading, but I really just wanted to see something he had done which I hadn't seen before.
Here's the spoiler, though. World's Greatest Dad is a film about suicide. ...Kind of. About a third of the way into the film, Robin William's terrible son dies in an embarrassing accident, and Williams character stages it all as a suicide, to try and avoid embarrassing his son's memory, and himself. He ghostwrites a suicide note for his son, and it winds up essentially going viral, and actually helping a lot of people, as well as causing his own dreams to start being realized.
While World's Greatest Dad falls firmly into the territory of dark comedy, it's also a very very difficult film to watch now. Because here's the thing, I don't want to talk about Williams death here, I want to talk about his life, but watching World's Greatest Dad, and seeing scenes like the one in this gif,
it's just so poignant, and so relevant, that I can't even tell whether World's Greatest Dad is actually a really good movie, or if I just liked it so much because I was watching it just a few hours after his death. Look, I'm not a crier when it comes to media. I can count on one hand the number of books, movies, games, or whatever that have actually managed to bring me to tears. I can certainly get emotionally invested, and that's not to say I don't get sad when bad things happen to characters I like, but I just hardly ever cry at media. World's Greatest Dad brought me to tears precisely because of the context I was watching it in. Give the movie a look.
So I suppose that's what I wanted to say. Robin Williams was a comedic genius, and he will be missed by people all over the world. I know it's a cliche, but let's not remember him for how he died, but for how he lived. Let's not think of him in a moment of darkness, let's think of him as the person who brought so much joy to so many people. Even when I didn't like a movie Robin Williams was in, you could tell he always gave it his all. I've never seen a movie where I thought, "Robin Williams is the problem with this film." Never. There's not many actors you can say that about.
So yes, it's a cliche to say that we should remember his laughter, and his energy, and his smile, but sometimes we need cliches. Sometimes we need laughter. We need people like Robin Williams, though they are few and far between.
Originally posted to Whereinirant.com.