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In Memory of Robin Williams

It's been a week now, but you still can't go anywhere near social media without seeing tribute after tribute to Robin Williams, who died on August 11 at the age of 63.

As I scrolled through status update after status update, tweet after tweet, I began to notice something: these tributes, memories, and expressions of shock and sadness were coming from people representing all walks of life.

People my age (mid 30s) were posting.

My friends who are currently in college were posting.

People my parents' age were posting.

My geeky friends were posting.

My sports-loving friends were posting.

People who enjoy extremely differing forms of entertainment...and who spend more time than they probably should vehemently defending their choices...were mourning the loss. In other words, no matter what your tastes are, Robin Williams somehow satisfied them.

I think one of the most interesting things about Robin Williams is that, while we all know and loved him, few of us can remember exactly when/how we were introduced to him. 

Seriously, think about that.

Did you first catch him as the voice of the Genie in Aladdin when you were a kid?

Or maybe you watched him on Mork and Mindy?

Perhaps you were a little older and were thus able to appreciate his roles in fare like Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets' Society, and The World According to Garp.

For me personally, I was introduced to him via one of his best-known roles.

With the manic on-screen presence of Jim Carrey still a year or so away, it was of course Williams' high energy that drew me to his performance. The more that my younger sisters and I re-watched Mrs. Doubtfire, however, I found myself appreciating the numerous talents of Williams: he had reserved, dramatic moments, he could be scary and authoritative, he had an amazing range of voices.

Little by little, I made my way through Williams' extremely extensive library, appreciating him in everything from powerful starring roles... small voice cameos

to, of course, his manic stand-up.

It's a terrible shame that he is gone, but this fact isn't what upsets me (as well as many others). I mean, he was born in 1951; people my age and younger knew that we would eventually see his name in the obituaries. But we figured that it would be in another 20 years or so, kind of like Lauren Bacall or Walter Matthau.

Most upsetting is how he died.

It is now official that Williams' death was a suicide, the tragic end result of years upon years of deep depression. To the average person, Williams would be the last person they would expect to have depression; after all, he is a beloved--and rich--comedic genius, an icon. Wouldn't that place him on top of the world?


As someone who has suffered depression myself, I can, at the very least, understand what the man was going through on an emotional level. At some of the darker points in my life, depression has made me feel utterly emotionless, unable to lead my everyday life simply because I could not see a point in doing so. After all, why get out of bed to do the same tasks and associate with the same people that have already proven to dead-end into such a dreadful mental state? 

And keep in mind that this was MY life. My extremely pedestrian, boring existence in and around Philadelphia. An existence that, outside of my family members and friends, is otherwise pretty meaningless and certainly nothing resembling legendary.

Look at what Williams had to deal with.

Being a cultural icon--and living a daily life that forces you to uphold that legacy--isn't exactly a walk in the park, no matter what you're getting paid. I'm sure that Williams was loving the high points of his career: reveling in the laughter, everything.

But during the low points of his career, things were more magnified than they ever will be for you or me. Let's say someone makes fun of you in school. Who witnesses it? A handful of students who will probably forget about it as time goes on?

When people bashed Williams, it was permanent. Critics' reviews are always able to be retrieved. Major studios lose money, co-stars and production crews are affected. And all of this was happening on a very public stage. Imagine having to deal with a mentally and emotionally crippling disease--and then also have to deal with lengths of time when it feels like the entire world is shaming you because they literally are doing so?

We'll naturally remember Williams for everything from his TV and film work to his USO appearances to even his geek tendencies. With news of how he died being circulated just as heavily as the fact of the death itself, hopefully it will raise awareness of the seriousness of mental illness. 
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Vaporman87 Posted on Aug 19, 2014 at 02:54 PM

He was a great talent that knew how to mask his pain. TV and film won't be the same without him.

Benjanime Posted on Aug 18, 2014 at 09:33 PM

No matter where I go, whether it's Facebook, Yahoo or anywhere else, Robin Williams will be mentioned. I apologize for sounding so harsh, but it just gets more depressing each time I hear about anything related to him.

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