Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Robin Williams

It was odd to me that I did not learn about Robin Williams death on Facebook, which I now regard as the #1 news source of celebrity death in America today.  It’s almost as if everyone that you know is in a race to try and post some sort of flimsy RIP as if they will be personally affected by the recent passing of someone they watched on TV or listened to on record every once in awhile.  For example, I was at first genuinely shocked to see the number of James Garner RIPs that cascaded by me after his death until I remembered all the times I have been invited over to people’s homes for “Rockford Files” marathons.  And how many times have you heard people recently say, “That Leonardo DiCaprio was good in “The Wolf of Wall Street”, but he was no Jimmy Garner!”?  James Garner factored into each one of our daily lives, of that there is no debate. 

Now that we have Robin Williams death, I find it interesting to watch the reaction of the general public.  Stories of his humane acts are populating websites dedicated to selling cheap cost per thousand impressions.  There’s nothing like trolling people’s interest in celebrity death while serving a $6 cost per thousand for a razor ad on Buzzfeed dot com.  This morning at every shitty website like that, staff meetings were held with directives like “Get as much Robin Williams material on the site as possible!  That stuff is gold right now and we need to keep our traffic up!”  (FYI, most websites make money by selling ads on their site and charging by the thousands of site visits.  The more traffic to the site, the more money they make.  This can lead to some rather flexible morality on staff much like those loathsome human beings on TMZ.  There are ghouls trying to find crime scene photos of the Williams house as we speak so they can “drive web traffic”.)

This morning on the Today Show, “The Tragic Death of Robin Williams” (said almost as one word) was intoned right before launching into a greatest hits of his comedy clips and a quick dismissal of the circumstances of his death with a wave of the hand.  It is the collective look of sorrow from the cast that quickly turns to that morning news chippiness I find most nauseating.  They all look mournful at the camera and make a remarkably quick emotional 180 to dump into the next segment.  “Oh, he brought so much joy to people!”  He sure did!  Now let’s take a look at the weather and what it means for your weekend!  (Big smile!)  


I suspect I might share the opinion of many people.  Robin Williams was clearly a talented but troubled man. He seemed to be one of those guys that had a God given gift and unfortunately had that other side of the coin with depression/mental problems.  David Foster Wallace, Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis…  Maybe a level of genius accesses something else in the brain that just can’t be controlled.  Who knows?  Williams definitely had a gift, and there was always the vibe that something wasn’t just right.  He was always shot out of a cannon like he couldn’t stand to just be by himself in the silence.  When he would show up on talk show appearances to shill his latest movies it always seemed that the hosts would look at him with that patient “OK, I know your thing is to babble like crazy until you say something funny and I am supposed to wait it out, but maybe we can have a normal exchange here?”.  He had some terrific high water marks.  Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, and The World According To Garp come to mind.  Those were a long time ago though, 15 years+ for the last big critical/box office hit.  That’s a lifetime in show business.  For me at least, Robin Williams had retreated into the background.  I wasn’t exactly pining for “Night At The Museum 2”, and I’ll bet you weren’t either.  Sorry.

The focus on his death has been less on the shocking suicide, or trying to understand the black hole of clinical depression.  It’s almost like he had a heart attack or got hit by a bus.  No one was mentioning he hung himself with a belt in a closet.  Damn.  Think about that for a minute.  That’s a guy dealing with some pain he desperately wants out of at all costs to go down that road.  Oh well…  Let’s brush that all under the table and watch that “Mrs. Doubtfire” clip!  Look at the funny thing he said at the Awards Show in the late 1980s!  HAHAHAHAHA!  Then come the Facebook and Twitter messages of deep personal loss from people that never met him, would never meet him, and knew him as that guy in “Patch Adams”.  Whew.  What a blow.

I have a suspicion.  I think that the response to Robin Williams death is less about our collective feelings about the loss of him as a comedian/actor, and maybe more about our own fear of the unexpectedness of death.  Holy shit… Robin Williams is dead?  And he did what?  He always seemed so happy and like a good person.  Does that mean I could do that?  If he lost it, does that mean I could too?  Am I going to die?  Soon? 

Williams was in the suicide risk group of men 60+.  For men in American society, the years of being needed and having purpose appear to be over.  After the “best years”, what is left?  Toss in a chemical dependency, and that’s a bad situation.  Robin, I’m sorry you felt so much pain that you couldn’t take it another moment.  You made people laugh, made them forget their problems for a moment, and probably made yourself forget yours too.  I’m not mad at you.  Just these damn TV shows and social media posts…  


At August 13, 2014 at 1:33:00 PM EDT , Blogger Nikki Sexton said...

Amen. You've perfectly explained here what I have been feeling since hearing of his death. I learned about his suicide as I was leaving the hospital. I sat all day with family and friends after a friend rolled the dice with a risky neurosurgery to save her life. Fortunately, her gamble paid off. So, as my friend was fighting for her life, Williams was taking his. Add to everything you mentioned - everyone now has a psychology degree and is offering up advice on how to deal with depression and suicidal feelings. For some reason, his death has made me realize how silly social media can be sometimes.

At August 13, 2014 at 5:37:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...



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