Tribute to Robin Williams

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It is with great sadness that I write this review, yet it also brings great joy, as to write about the works of one of the most cherished actors of all time is a privilege, I only wish it was in better circumstances. Robin was one of my greatest childhood heroes and his passing has given me great sorrow, but has also provided me with a chance to reflect on the many memories he has given me which I will remember dearly forever. He was a man of many talents, originally wanting to be a dramatic actor until his professor in college stirred him in the direction of comedy. It was this that allowed him to appear on our screens in 1978 as Mork in the TV Series Mork & Mindy. It has not yet been my pleasure to witness him in this role which made him famous, as he transcended both ages and generations. I was a child of the 90’s and it was this decade in which his exuberant ability to place joy in the soul of young children shun its brightest.

I shall begin with Spielberg’s Hook (1991), and his amazing role as an adult Peter Pan as he presents to us the agelessness of imagination. As children we learned the sometimes harsh realities of being an adult with a character usually remembered as a child, fighting for the right to be a child in a world gone wrong. Robin is reminded of what it is to be young, joyful and happy, and allows us to learn a lesson which we still hold onto today. We may be adults now, but we will always be children as well, for to be a responsible adult is to remember the joys of our childhoods and be children when we need to be (#Disney Society and #Johto University, keeping the joy strong in a confusing world). Did anyone else picture Julia Roberts as the Tooth Fairy or was that just me? Losing my baby teeth while watching Hook might have been to blame…

“Remember, be yourself” In 1992, Robin made two animated films which are still two of my favourites, and hold special places in my heart. In Aladdin (Clements and Musker, 1992), he portrays the wonderful Genie of the Lamp! A spectacular, joyful, humorous character whom you just want to hug and he will solve all your problems with the click of his magical finger. He thought Al to be himself and helped him take on the mighty Jafar. He brought out the generosity in the already kind hearted Aladdin as he sets him free, and thought us always to be ourselves even in the harshest of situations in which we are afraid of the outcomes. Robin plays Batty in FernGully: The Last Rainforest (Kroyer, 1992), another character you just want to hug; a bat who has been experimented on humans. In this film, he teaches us the realities and the evils of animal experimentation, while also joining forces with Zak and Crysta to save the rainforest from being destroyed. These images of environmental disasters are presented in a period where concern for the rainforests was beginning to take off, even before the similar portrayals in Pocahontas and Avatar.

Robin taught us lessons about childhood, identity and the environment but he didn’t stop there in the 90’s. In the much loved Mrs. Doubtfire (Columbus, 1992), he presents to us a man willing to do anything to spend time with his children, by taking on the role of their nanny after he loses a custody agreement. He uses his humour, his voice talents, and his kind heart to play the role of a character still dear to our hearts, and taught us that gender is only skin deep for the love of one’s children knows no such categorization or boundaries. He also introduced the world to another of my childhood heroes, Mara Wilson, with whom my heart is with, in this confusing time as she struggles with the passing of Robin herself. He played the role of Alan Parrish in my favourite of his films Jumanji (Johnston, 1995). If I could pick a film that defined my childhood, this would be it. A young man who stood up to his father after learning that to be man is standing up for what you believe in, and learning that this comes with time even if one is still growing in the ability to do this. Love is timeless even in the most dire of situations, adventure is life and growth (you don’t have to have a lion chasing you to be having an adventure), and bravery comes when you least expect it but when you most need it. Friendship is also ageless and timeless. Jumanji, Jumanji…

In Jack (Coppola, 1996), I learned that life is short and appearance doesn’t necessarily define age or maturity, to treat others with the same respect you think you deserve yourself, and to be a friend to anyone, regardless of appearance or situation. In Flubber (Mayfield, 1997), fun is the world I use to describe this film. Bicentennial Man (Columbus, 1999), Robin asks what is human, what is technology, can machines love and feel emotion?

If we take Robin’s dramas, we have Dead Poets Society (Weir, 1989), a classic much loved film about identity and trying to be who you are. Learning that being who you are doesn’t come without obstacles, and having teachers who instil this in their students are, for use of a better word, awesome, but reminds us of the harsh struggles of the freedom of identity. I have yet to see The Birdcage (Nichols, 1996), but Robin tackles LGBT rights and issues in this film in a period still developing in its attitudes towards this community. What Dreams May Come (Ward, 1998) tells us of imagination, but mainly the realities and sadness of death. I hope you found your image of heaven Rob, and won’t linger here too long to watch us grieve for you. Go find your paradise and don’t look back…

O Captain. My Captain…

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