Note: This retrospective will be strictly told from my POV, especially in discussing my age in comparison to his filmography. (which always seems weird and self serving to make someone’s death about yourself, but can be an almost universal reaction for situations such as these.) So if you’re not a Gen Y’er (ages18-28) this may make even less sense then my usual ramblings of nothingness. Promise the next posting will be filled with more cheer, back hugs, and presumably Koreans.
Back in western pop culture mode, unfortunately it’s in reaction to the horrible news of Robin Williams untimely passing. Girl‘s Hanna Horvath once said that she could be the voice of the her generation. Well apologies to Hanna and her severe case of narcissism, but a voice well known to my generation (especially my youth) is none other than Mr. Williams.
I still recall a certain “serious” school bus conversation (because as we all know, every discussion between two 8 year olds is the most important at that point in life), where we discussed among other things our knowledge of “adult actors”. The ones I recall us both as knowing: Robin Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Now Whoopi probably has as much to do with the memorable name and the fact that my mother had a similar hairstyle, but Robin was something different. In the 90’s he had long past transitioned from Mork (more on that in a bit), and into family movie superstar, though he obviously wasn’t pigeonholed into one genre and still excelled in many dramatic performances. For this child of the 90’s, his “kiddie” movies were equivalent of a sugary sweet soda your mom only let’s you have on weekends. Which only makes you crave it more.
Much like hit songs, I can imagine my age and place during childhood strictly based on his movies. Starting with Aladdin, with perhaps my favorite V.O. performace of all time and going through Jumanji , Flubber, Bicentennial Man, Jack, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Hook.
His films were ostensibly movies for kids but they didn’t pander or dumb themselves down. Mostly because with Robin that isn’t an option. His improv and manic energy that proved infectious through the screen wouldn’t allow it .
One thing about being very much pre-pubery in 1998, Brad Pitt meant nothing to me, In fact most of the “sexy superstars” I couldn’t pick out of a line-up but Williams was like hanging out with the funniest uncle/dad imaginable.* When I was a kid he was simultaneously a hero, my imaginary other dad, an escape, and a larger than life figure.
*Which isn’t to say Robin Williams was not attractive. Oddly the film that did it for me was The Birdcage (Irony bomb, I know).
In middle school and beyond I showed my first interest in boys, films, and Matt Damon (because he is no boy), so I of course happened upon Good Will Hunting, a perfect coming of age/psychology film where I remember being blown away by Williams subdued, touching, and contemplative performance. It paralleled my own journey by transitioning from an ADD addled youth with no inhibitions, to a quieter, internal individual, with seeds of self doubt.
High school = full-on self conscious mode, finding myself either being absolutely crazy and spastic with a select group of friends, or completely shy, introverted, and in my my own head. Which meant Dead Poets Society and The Birdcage during this time.
The number of Williams films I saw decreased dramatically afterwards thus his previous importance and impact on myself was forgotten, much like with ones parent during transitional times into adulthood.
It’s hard to grasp a situations as this, because not only are you mourning someone you liked and grew up with, but it reminds us of our own age, mortality, and how devastatingly human our species is. Which can be something to take away from I think, no matter if you are an A-list superstar, an kid from a small village, and Israeli, or a Palestinian, we all have a certain foundation which makes us of the same species – people who can be effected by disease mental and physical, no matter your status, affiliation, or income, which may be a sobering thought, but is oddly unifying in some small way.
On a lighter note here is my patented tonally misplaced top 5 for Robin Williams films (I’ve seen).
5.Jumanji (Just can’t help but love it. Sorry #not sorry)
3. The Birdcage
1. Good Will Hunting
* It’s very weird but if you think about it, the people I remember being involved in kids movies the most in the 90’s were a eclectic group. Besides Robin, you had Rosie O’donnell, Eddie Murphy, Rick Moranis, and even Sinbad. Nowadays the only one that comes to mind is muscles on muscles Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Perhaps this is just due to today’s more kid centric kid movies, and I could be off the mark all-together (not many children’s movies are on my must-watch list). I feel kids films benefit from having a seasoned, if not classically attractive adult actor at the films center. It meant having personality and character which is much more entertaining than your looks, especially when your 6.
*In a random bit of happenstance, I discussed Mork and Mindy in relation to You Who Came from the Stars in a previous top 5. If you scroll down to the bottom you can see the show’s opening credits, which is only important because….
Because I just so happen to live in the town where his first memorable character (From the sit-com Mork and Mindy) lived. So before work I decided to hop on my bike and take some pictures. The show may have been before my time, but this town certainly wouldn’t forget a pop-culture icon like the Mork and Mindy house (which was only used for external shots and opening credits but….details, and makes an excellent site for a make-shift memorial)