A flourishing line of photographs and flowers lay beneath “Parrish Shoes” downtown in tribute of the man who chased monkeys around the rotary.
The first words of Robin Williams I heard were, “Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck,” as he furled out of a small lamp in the form of a blue-cartoon genie.
I’m a 90s baby, so I was absent for 15 years of Williams’ career. While other generations grew up with his appearances in “Mork and Mindy” or “Good Will Hunting,” my first taste was “Aladdin.” I fortunately had time in my life to experience Williams’ appearances in classics as well as newly-produced films, though I never thought I’d live to hear of his suicide.
When people create a façade in the celebrity spotlight it can be difficult to remember that there is a human behind it. The loud and hilariously erratic person Williams thrust upon the screen distracted the public from what was a troubled man.
I have found myself in a similar situation in the past; giving people someone I wanted them to see and swallowing my pain instead. Williams was a man in pain and unfortunately he saw no other way to mitigate it. However, his talent kept him here long enough to act in 106 productions including movies, television shows and stand-up comedy routines. He showed the world what he could do. Although I knew him from cartoons, his on-screen movies became my favorites. The 1991 movie “The Fisher King” follows a radio host whose narrow-minded rant inspires a club shooting, killing the wife of Parry, Williams’ character, and pushing him into a catatonic-state that melts into textbook insanity. The movie focuses around the redemption of the radio host as well as Parry’s acceptance of his tragedy. Though the movie sounds sad, Williams’ manic humor pokes in and out. His ability to bounce between Parry’s psychological frailty while keeping it lighthearted impressed me.
In “Dead Poets Society” Williams balanced serious matters and humor as well. He played a boarding school English teacher who introduced his students to spontaneity through the arts. As a journalism major and studio arts minor I receive criticism sometimes for the unlikely stability of my future.
This movie reignited my passion to draw and paint alongside other academic studies. As his character stated, “Medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Of course, “Mrs. Doubtfire” makes the list. After an unexpected divorce, Williams disguises himself as a housekeeper for his ex-wife to spend more time with his kids.
This comedy was my dad’s go-to film to watch on rainy days. My parents are also divorced, so I related to many aspects of the movie even at a young age. While the film shed light on the dynamics of divorced families it also kept audiences laughing straight through. It became the centerpiece of Williams’ comedy career as soon as he plunged his face into that frosted cake.
Although Robin Williams chose to leave this place, an archive of his brilliant talent remains with us, not soon to be forgotten.
The Genie has been set free.
Allie Baker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org