When I first heard that Robin Williams was found dead by an apparent suicide I was in immediate shock. I was nearly in tears (if you ask my wife she would say I did shed a tear). I’m not real sure why it had such an impact on me. I have literally never felt such remorse for any number of Hollywood deaths that were all too soon. But this one was different. I had a hard time figuring out why.
I’ve thought about it for a day or so, and the best answer I can come up with is that his movies came to me at a very specific time in my life. I could watch over again and again some of his movies that were made during my childhood and teenage years. What Dreams May Come, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society and Patch Adams are some of my favorites. However, two in particular come to mind.
I absolutely love Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” in which Williams portrays a grown-up Peter Pan who travels to Never Land to fight Captain Hook and rescue his children. I have seen it more times than I can count. I love the fact that it is a traditional children’s tale with a modern twist. In the film Williams’ character must relearn all of his Peter Pan ways including how to fly, how to fight and how to crow. Finally, when it all comes back to him Peter and the lost boys exclaim “Bangarang!”
The other Robin Williams movie that will always be embedded in my mind is Chris Columbus’ “Ms. Doubtfire.” Williams plays a divorced father who dresses up like a elderly British female nanny in order to see his children every day. The montage of Williams busying himself with his nanny duties to the tune of Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” is unforgettable (especially him playing the air guitar on the broom.)
After thinking about Williams’ life and those two movies in particular, I think I’ve come to the conclusion of why his death affected me the way it did. You will have to allow me to express some of my daddy issues. Both of these movies depict a desperate man who will do anything to rescue and be with his children; whether it be traveling to Never Land or dressing like a woman. In each movie his children are his utmost priority. They weren’t always. He was a busy lawyer in Hook. He was a selfish dad in Ms. Doubtfire. But he had an epiphany somewhere in the movie and got his priorities in order.
I have always longed for my father to fight for me. Instead he left when I was 4 and my brother was an infant. Now, he didn’t leave in the sense that I never saw him again, we saw him plenty. Every weekend, special holidays, the usual. But I never saw him fight for me. I don’t think my father would travel to Never Land to save me from Captain Hook. I don’t think he would dress up like a British nanny to be with me everyday. And so, whether I knew it or not, I longed for Robin Williams (at least in those movies) to be my father.
Don’t hear me say that I hate my father or anything like that. I don’t. I love my dad. But he is a flawed man who is a sinner in need of a Savior.
And I think that is where the irony of all of this lies; Robin Williams has left his own family behind. He was the child who needed to be saved. He needed someone to travel to the second star to the right and straight on till morning for him. Instead, he apparently fell into a deep spiral of depression, and one of the funniest men alive took his own life.
I can’t help but think of the correlation with the gospel. The gospel says that God so loved us (His children) that He sent His own Son to rescue us. He did travel to a far away land. He did put on the flesh of man. And He laid down His life to save His children. Way better than Peter Banning or Daniel Hillard. And I’m afraid that Robin Williams never experienced that kind of grace and rescue.