The tragic death of screen legend Robin Williams strikes a deeper chord with young professionals than other untimely Hollywood deaths as of late.
1. He’s been the “funny guy’ since we were kids.
As kids, Robin Williams was probably the funniest guy we all “knew.” We can clearly recall watching his performance as a Mary Poppins-esque female British nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire on Friday night sleepovers for the 10th time… and still thinking it was as hilarious as the first time we saw it (who could ever forget that infamous cooking scene?). On a serious note, the film also allowed us all to process the ramifications of divorce.
2. Aladdin remains one of the best Disney films.
Aladdin is made complete with Williams’ performance as the colourful and over-the-top genie, and the film remains a favourite Disney choice of countless YPs – as does the soundtrack. Williams’ performance marks the first time that an A-lister voiced a modern-day animated film, apparently improvising a big chunk of it.
3. He opened our imagination.
Our young imaginations and sense of wonder were fed by Williams’ roles in films like Jumanji and Hook. As you may recall, in Jumanji he plays a kid who finds himself trapped within a Tarzan-like adult body in a dangerously adventurous board game. This visually stimulating film definitely made us all wish our own family board game night was more exciting. In Steven Spielberg’s Hook, he won us over as the grown-up version of Peter Pan.
4. We get The Birdcage in a way our grandparents didn’t.
The Birdcage was one of the first films with gay heros, and none of us had a problem with that. In a hilarious performance (which is one of his finest, in our opinion), Williams plays a gay cabaret owner who has no choice but to play it straight with his drag queen boyfriend (Nathan Lane) when his son, his new fiancée, and her painfully conservative parents come to town.
5. His work offered a lesson in history.
In Good Morning Vietnam (for which he was nominated for his first Oscar), Williams plays a fast-talking radio DJ in a film that’s rich with both humour and depth. Aside from the jokes and his unforgettable radio sign-in of a straight-from-the-gut, drawn out “Good Morning, Vietnam!”, the film also served as a lesson in history that was far more entertaining than the contents of our text books.
6. He taught us to ‘seize the day’.
In Dead Poets Society, Williams plays a beloved English professor in a prep school in the 1950s. The term ‘carpe diem’ is something we’ve thrown around in conversation ever since. Who could forget Williams urging the students to “Listen, you hear it? Carpe – hear it? Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” Most of us can recall that one professor who shaped our lives… or wished we could have had once as cool as Williams.
7. He gave some great love advice.
While most of us were yet to enter our first relationship or were knee-deep in a high school sweetheart situation, Williams offered the advice of a trusted father figure in as his role as a therapist in Good Will Hunting. You know the scene we’re talking about – one the park bench with a young Matt Damon, where he offers seasoned love advice that many of us took to heart. And his Oscar acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor at the 1998 Academy Awards was as funny (and heartfelt) as you would imagine.
8. He makes movie night easier.
From over-the-top children’s films to the more dramatic, heavy stuff and everything in between, the fact that Williams didn’t fit neatly into one genre or with one audience makes him widely appealing. Even your parents have been fans since his run as an alien on the late 70s TV show Mork & Mindy.
9. We all know how real mental health issues are.
On another serious note, Williams’ untimely death serves as yet another reminder of the silent battle suffered by countless people. Hollywood legend or not, mental health issues don’t discriminate. As pressure-ridden, pavement-pounding YPs can attest, life can get tough. Mental health is as serious as cancer, and it’s time to finally remove the stigma.
RIP, Robin Williams.