[Content note: Suicide and mental illness]
Yesterday, after a long battle with depression, Robin Williams took his own life. He left behind a family that loved him dearly and a legion of fans who loved having someone to make them laugh and cry and think, even as he himself was so frequently in a dark place. He made kids’ movies with jokes that only adults would get, he made movies for adults that made you forget he was the genie from Aladdin, he made a few zany comedies that possibly made you stupider just by watching them but were so entertaining that who cares, and he made people feel better. He gave joy. Maybe he gave so much of it away that he had none left for himself. It’s not ours to speculate.
Williams was, by accounts including his own, at times a deeply unwell person. That he was actually willing and able to seek help, and supported in seeking help, is a surprising thing. Men are taught to never show anything but strength, to laugh through pain, that seeking help is a sign of weakness. Women, for that matter, are taught to keep our problems to ourselves and never burden anyone else with our feelings. Depression is frequently mischaracterized as feeling really, really sad or dismissed as overdramatic, self-indulgent self-pity. It’s something one is meant to snap out of, because it will get better, when the very nature of depression makes it well-nigh impossible to believe that “better” exists. And even in a life as filled with joy as Williams’s appeared to be on the outside, and might well have been the vast majority of the time, sometimes it defeats you. And then the world is just a little bit worse, and it’s sad.
My sympathy goes out to his wife and children, and to his many friends and colleagues who knew him personally in a way that his fans weren’t able to. And my sympathy goes out to his fans, who have lost a defining entertainment personality for a generation.
A note on commenting: We all consume media differently, enjoy different things, and feel different ways about things we consume, and we all have the right to feel passionately about the things we feel. That said, comment as you will, but please try to keep it respectful.
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