I’ve been thinking about Robin Williams and wondering why his death seems to have a much greater impact than the many other celebrity deaths that happen on a regular basis. Whenever young celebrities kill themselves (usually via drugs), like Cory Whatsis (that guy from Glee), there is a lot of wailing about lost potential, but they quickly disappear into the vast cultural memory storage box next to the Cabbage Patch Dolls. When very old celebrities—who have long since become obscure—pass away, that is only to be expected. Like Lauren Bacall. But celebrities who have both a lengthy history of accomplishments and a future of more to come…that’s a harder loss.
Consider Elvis. And Michael Jackson. Two very flawed individuals who nevertheless had legions of fans. They still loom large, and Elvis died how many decades ago?
Robin Williams seemed to have no significant flaws. Have you ever heard anyone say anything negative about him? (I mean before he died and the bizarre right-wing pundits started trash talking him for fun and profit.) I think that is partly what makes his death so upsetting. Of course he was depressed. Who isn’t depressed? But if a man so universally beloved couldn’t muscle through it, what hope is there for the rest of us?
One of my favorite movies starred Robin Williams. Hook. When I worked on the kiddie psych unit, that film was in regular rotation, so I’ve seen it about 8 million times. I never got tired of it.
My favorite scene comes near the end, when Robin Williams/Peter Pan is saying goodbye to the Lost Boys. He tells them, “Take care of everyone who’s smaller than you.”
The smallest of the boys asks, “Then who do I look after?”
“Neverbugs,” says Pan. “Little ones.”
In so many ways, that has been the operating philosophy of my life. And I’m proud of that.
Thank you, Robin. Have a good trip. Second star on the right and straight on ‘til morning.