At my age, I cannot remember a time when the entertainment industry was not endowed with the comedic and dramatic force of Robin Williams. Evenings spent with my head lolling, television flickering, slowly drifting off to sleep only to be jerked back to consciousness by my father and mother's laughter at this bizarre alien character in rainbow suspenders. Nanu nanu, my older brother taught me the Ork handshake. It was my first pop-cultural touchstone, and even though I was only 5 when new episodes of Mork & Mindy stopped, I remember this family favorite clearly.
In the wake of his death, so much has already been written about the many roles played by Williams that it would be redundant to list them all again. I will say that my favorites were often his more serious roles, and one in particular that I really enjoyed was that of Dr. Malcolm Sayer in Penny Marshall's Awakenings. This was perhaps the first time many of us saw a different side to a man who had built his reputation as a boisterous comedic actor. Even in earlier serious roles like that of John Keating in Dead Poet's Society we saw smatterings of his comedy style come through. This was completely absent in Awakenings, which it could be argued, is one of his most subdued and subtle performances. Perhaps it is directly because we had been conditioned to see Mr. Williams as such a gregarious and volatile character that when he turned down the dial, the merest hint of that bubbling chaos under this reserved character's facade was enough to keep us glued to the screen.
The child in me will remember fondly his family fare. Much of it is not looked upon well by critics, however all of it was fun. Aside from his role as the Genie in Aladin, which is one of his most noteworthy roles overall, my favorite of his lighter fare would have to be that of Peter Banning in Steven Spielberg's Hook. Obviously, Banning was a misnomer and the character was in fact the true Peter Pan. While Hook may or may not have stood the test of time, I still can find the original spirit of friendship, imagination, and healthy rebellion that it represented to the fourteen year old me. Robin was perfect for the role of a Pan who had forgotten to remain young, and his transformation at the end was completely believable because we had seen the real man, the public side of him at least, mature before our eyes. It was a pleasure to see him remind us to always save a portion of our youthfulness. It was a lesson he continued to embody in many of his future roles. A lesson that I will take to heart.
Robin Williams was a slew of walking contradictions. It is rare that an actor have noteworthy roles in such a varying degree of genres from Family Animation to Psychological Horror! He was wholesome and profane, comedic and tragic, kinetic and subdued, magical and mundane, generous and (if it is true) ultimately selfish. I must admit a certain pang of anger at the news. How could this person who had played a doctor in several films, who had the adoration of so many, let slip his mental health to the point of suicide? Obviously playing a doctor in film only changed my perception of him to someone who is healthy and in control. The reality was, like many of us, he often was not. It deeply saddens me that he was unable to get the help he needed, but perhaps I am the selfish one who just wanted more. None of us, but his closest friends and family knew his pain or his inner struggle. We only have an inkling of the true Robin. And I am glad for what he was able to give of himself, which was truly phenomenal.
There is no doubt that Robin Williams' absence will be deeply felt. His legend will continue to live on in the many films and TV episodes he left behind.