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There has been very little time since hearing about Robin Williams’s death to truly understand what he has meant to us. So right now let's take some time - forget the Facebook and Twitter meme inferno blazing across the Internet. Close your eyes and think about the first thing you ever saw Robin Williams in. Think about a time he made you laugh or cry. Think about a time he cheered you up after having a bad day, or month, or year. I’ll wait.
image via INFphoto.com
Chances are you spent much more time remembering than you expected you would. For nearly 40 years Robin Williams has brought laughter, inspiration, and tears to everyone. Whether the Cunninghams and The Fonz introduced him as the horizontally striped, suspender clad Mork or as the frenetic and bombastic voice of the Genie, Robin Williams never wavered in the energy and enthusiasm he brought to his performances. His impact remains the same regardless of which performances are the nearest to your heart.
He was always able to bring you wonder and joy even as a radio host for the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. His comic performances brought honesty in the midst of the wildly goofy. One minute his character could be singing song parodies while playing with dinosaur figurines and the next moment he could be imparting wisdom to his own kids while they think he is an elderly British woman. And while all of these performances are indelible and unforgettable, he had the range and breadth while bringing the same energy to roles that didn’t require his silliness.
image via Roger Wong/INFphoto.com
His only Oscar came for his performance in Good Will Hunting as a psychiatrist who helps Will Hunting accept his God given gifts. It almost seems ridiculous for him to win for a role in which his trademark comedy was never utilized. This marked a turn towards the serious and dramatic in his career. While roles in Jack and Awakenings were in the more serious vein, the six-year period beginning with Good Will Hunting was populated with serious roles in dramatic movies, even playing villains in movies like One Hour Photo and Insomnia. These roles showed a darker and more adult side of Robin Williams that the world had not yet become accustomed to. He was always capable of these dramatic turns but he will always be remembered for his comic roles.
Robin Williams spans three generations; each generation being introduced by a role of Williams’ that was new to everyone at the time. From Mork, to the Genie/Mrs. Doubtfire (actually pick any of his early 1990s movies), to Teddy Roosevelt or his Ramon/Lovelace in Happy Feet, Robin Williams has been there for us all throughout our maturation. He has given us the elegance of happiness throughout both his life and ours.
It is hard enough to make your friends laugh, let alone strangers. Yet, Robin Williams was able to do that consistently for us throughout his entire life. When we were feeling down in the mouth he was able to cheer us up. When we were mired in sorrow he was always able to shine some light no matter how dark it seemed. Sadly, Robin Williams’ own sorrow remained hidden from any light. And today we are harrowed, confused, and saddened by the realization that the man who has brought us so much joy could feel so sad himself.
image via ACE/INFphoto.com
We will never understand the depths of Robin Williams. His death is not tragic because he took his own life or because he died only at the age of 63. No, the real tragedy is that Robin Williams did not have his own Robin Williams to do what he has done for so many of us.
Robin Williams has brought us more glee and excitement and whimsy than we could ever fathom – and hopefully he knew it too.