Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

Celebrity deaths almost never affect me much. They almost never mean much to me to begin with, even if I'm familiar with them. I'd like to think it's because I'm not that impressed by celebrity, and that might be the case. However, after today I think perhaps the biggest buffer between myself and the death of a celebrity is that those other ones who died didn't have a large effect on my life before they died.

That was not the case with Robin Williams. So, I'm going to dedicate this blog to remembering him.

I think the first thing that endeared Robin Williams to me was the fact that he reminded me of my beloved grandpa, my mother's father. They both entertained me greatly as a kid, and they had these smiling eyes that were so inviting to a kid who's so used to adults looking very serious all the time. My grandpa was a man I felt I could look up to emulate (and still do), and that impression transferred right on over to Robin.

I don't remember the first time I saw him. I want to say it was from a live action performance, but I honestly have no idea. Regardless, I was pulled in early on with Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Fern Gully, and Good Morning Vietnam. The cartoons, of course, were perfect areas for me to get familiar with him, though even in Mrs. Doubtfire Robin was basically a cartoon character. Early on I had a definite preference for cartoons over live action, so naturally the only actors I grew attached to were people like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, both of which brought a cartoonishness to their live action work.

The odd man out there was Good Morning Vietnam, which was the first relatively serious Robin Williams film I grew attached to. It was a sort of middle ground movie, featuring plenty of jokes yet turning deadly serious at times, and I believe I started recognizing the value in non-cartoonish movies at that point.

I was 13 when I saw Bicentennial Man in theaters, and I honestly enjoyed it a lot. It was probably the first movie I ever watched solely because of an actor involved, and I wound up enjoying the movie despite its break from what I came to expect of that actor.

As an adult, one of my favorite movies of all time is Good Will Hunting, and I have a deep appreciation for Dead Poets Society as well. I believe my appreciation for these two movies will far outlast any of the things I enjoyed as a kid.

Although I'm aware of many of the roles Robin had before I was born, the only one I'm really familiar with is a movie called Moscow on the Hudson, in which Robin plays a Russian musician who defects when his band is brought to New York. It's funny, though, that I actually didn't know until a little while ago that the movie was released in 1984, 20 years before I caught it by chance on TV 10 years ago.

I've seen many of his movies beyond the ones I've mentioned so far, but one that I haven't seen but want to see is a movie called The Fisher King, which has been on my list ever since I started looking into Terry Gilliam movies.

I was plenty endeared toward Robin long before I ever discovered that he enjoyed things like D&D and video games. I'd like to say that when I heard that we shared a few interests that it endeared him to me more, but that's not true. Rather, I took the fact that we liked similar things as a validation of my interests, which in hindsight is a rather self-absorbed reaction.

As it turns out, Robin wasn't perfect, either. Despite his charming demeanor, he was an alcoholic that suffered from depression. As a stand-up comedian he's been accused of stealing material, though it was clear he's plenty brilliant enough to make his own.

That said, form all reports he was a kind an generous person, happy and helpful to everyone he's ever worked with. As someone who's never met him, though, I don't know what he was like in person.

Whether or not it was who he truly was, though, I learned a lot from who he pretended to be. Thank you, Robin Williams. Rest easy knowing you left the world a brighter, happier place than you found it.

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