Why Robin Williams’s Passing Affects Us

I’m not usually fazed by celebrity deaths. Usually at the most I think, “That’s a shame. He or she was very talented.” I call to mind their movies or songs. And then I usually move on with my day. After all, I didn’t know the celebrity personally. Of course, we always feel like we know them because of the familiarity on our TVs and radios.

I was walking somewhere when I saw the headline that Robin Williams had passed away. I stopped. I paused. I started walking again, mechanically, and a few minutes later I realized that something was different.

Robin Williams was a huge part of my childhood. I know I’m not alone in that. My social media feeds have exploded in ways I’ve never seen before. With him gone, childhood feels so much further away.

I think the reason his death feels so real and painful isn’t because, like all deaths, it’s a reminder of our mortality. The reason is because, in some ways, his passing represents the passing away of our collective childhood. The word “childhood” is the one I’ve seen associated most with this brilliant man in everyone’s tributes.

His filmography is so vast I won’t even try to mention every role. But I will mention the ones that come to mind, for me, most immediately.

Despite being a great comedic genius, a lot of his work felt heartfelt and genuine. Maybe it’s because most of my friends are my generation that I’ve seen so many postings on Facebook and Twitter about him.

"O Captain! My Captain!"

Robin Williams, through his characters, was a surrogate parent for many of us. He was a father figure… and famously a mother figure as well.

In Aladdin, he was a ‘90s update of a fairy godmother, Al’s genie godfather. His impact wasn’t the fact that he granted Al’s three wishes—The impact was that he genuinely wanted Al to be happy. (Images of Genie and Aladdin hugging are all over social media right now, unsurprisingly.)

He was the therapist in Good Will Hunting and the teacher in Dead Poets Society. In Jumanji, he was the grown version of a young boy trapped in a board game. He came to the rescue of two children playing a game they didn’t understand. In this role, he was simultaneously a child and a leader—Sound familiar yet? In Hook, he was Peter Pan grown up, a man out of touch with his past and with his children. He rescued them of course. Perhaps most poignantly, he was a recently deceased man searching the afterlife for his wife and children in What Dreams May Come.

"Think one happy thought, and you'll fly like me..."

“Think one happy thought, and you’ll fly like me…”

He also took on roles that in less capable hands would’ve been completely farcical or downright offensive. Not many actors could have brought both camp and sincerity to the gay father in The Birdcage. (I suppose all those years ago Robin Williams taught us that you could be a gay icon without actually being gay or a diva.)

And don’t pretend you could imagine anyone else in the role of Mrs. Doubtfire. A key part of a good disguise story is—If you met someone you knew and loved and they didn’t recognize you, would they grow to love you? Would your appearance matter, or would they connect with the person inside? 

I’m rambling, but Robin Williams through his characters sent any kid who watched these movies an important lesson. His characters, those surrogate parents, would love their children unconditionally and despite any odds: I will encourage you to follow your dreams. I will trek through the jungle or fly across the island to save you. I will disguise myself as a British woman just to be near you. I will help you win the princess’s heart. I will pretend to be straight so you can marry the princess. I will go through hell, literally, to find you and reunite our family.

tumblr_m105h7zU6X1r3ra3ro1_400

“Help is on the way, dear!”

This is why people are so touched by his passing. I think the more movies you’ve seen him in, the more heartwrenching this is. A man who brought such great joy to so many might have passed away in such a tragic way. His death is confirmed but what is suspected – not yet confirmed – is that it was a suicide. Please, if you are facing depression, don’t go through it alone. Seek help from your loved ones or professionally if necessary.

I know I’m not the only one watching Robin Williams movies this week or searching clips on YouTube. He has left us. But he has left behind so many moments of joy and laughter, and in those, we can take comfort. Thank you for everything, Mr. Williams.

You ain't never had a friend like me.

You ain’t never had a friend like me.

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The author and the streetcar

Why I Hate New Orleans: a transplant essay

I hated New Orleans from the first moment I set foot in it. I hate Tulane for giving me a scholarship. I hate the Newcomb girls for being so ugly and overdressed all the time. I hate the all-night bar in the basement of the school’s university center. I hate that friends who stayed active in Greek life remained friends with ones who never joined it. I hate not attending a party school, and, more importantly, not living in a party city. I hate that my mom convinced me to visit and that my dad also fell in love with the city once he visited. I hate that my baby brother went to school next door after he visited during spring break.

I hate that I moved here over ten years ago, tried to leave, and came crawling back. I hate that it took me this long to write a “transplant” essay like the insightful ones I’ve seen in the New York Times and in Esquire Magazine.

I hate the weather (except the occasional hurricanes). I hate endless summer and tropical afternoon showers that make for good naps. I hate coming back… every, single, time after EVERY, SINGLE, STORM. I hate that Katrina didn’t Sodom & Gomorrah this place off the map. More than anything, I hate the evacuee puppy my family adopted right after the storm whom I brought back to her home when I moved back to NOLA.

I hate that this is the most well-organized city in the United States and the least well-organized city in the Caribbean. I hate that this city gave birth to jazz. I hate all the books, photos, poems, and art inspired by here. I hate that there are no shitty clubs like in Los Angeles. I hate the music scene and bars that have live bands with no cover.

I hate working in the CBD of the fastest growing city in the nation. I hate that my boss likes to go out in the French Quarter on work nights and then power through the morning afterwards. I hate my coworkers. I hate that some of my former coworkers are some of my best friends. I hate all the bars, free concerts, and restaurants walking distance from my office. I hate that every hour is happy hour.

I hate both the historical buildings and the new green housing developments. I hate the mismatched homes and their gardens, intentional or not. I hate the architecture everywhere.

I hate that all my closest friends live here, visit as often as possible, or are scheming to find ways to move back. I hate friends who work in the service industry and that all their regular customers become de facto friends. I hate that everyone is so friendly here; the residents are the worst, and even the tourists want to learn what “Where y’at?” means.

I hate “Who Dat.” I hate that I moved here ready to root for a losing team. I hate that the Saints got surprisingly good, and I hate that they restored this city’s faith after a hard time. I hate that they party with their fans and still set a good example for kids. I hate that the Saints won the Super Bowl. (I hate the iconic Beyoncé Blackout Bowl too.) I hate that there’s a WHO DAT NATION now. I hate all the players and all their charity work.

I hate “The Hollywood of the South” and the tax incentive filmmakers get here. I hate that we’re a city that location casting can’t replicate in another city. I hate that celebrities walk in and out of my life and are just regular people here. I hate that locals don’t bother them. I hate that I worked for Treme and got to meet some of the coolest cast and crew around. I hate that chefs from all over come down here for inspiration. I hate that Top Chef decided to have a season here.

I hate that bars close later than 2AM. I hate drinking on patios and balconies by candlelight. I hate the unpretentious bartenders who have worked in prominent bars elsewhere yet still sling drinks at dive bars. I hate that some bars stay open during hurricanes because everyone needs shelter from the storm.

I hate that every time you turn around there’s a holiday, a parade, a festival, or just random musicians playing in the street. I hate the St. Charles Streetcar. I hate wearing locally designed and produced t-shirts that reflect all these cultural aspects.

Mostly I hate the food. I hate how affordable fine dining is here. I hate the mom’n’pop poboy shops. I loathe Popeyes. I hate all gulf seafood. I hate that the cuisine here is the only true, regional cuisine that the USA has. I hate that “eating locally” isn’t a trend here—It’s just the way we’ve always done it. I hate that we have more signature dishes than every other American city and state. I hate that here, pop-ups and food trucks become brick-and-mortar restaurants. I hate that chefs are humble and ask “Was it good?” I hate them because they’re the ones who serve things ranging from great to near perfection. I hate the blend of Caribbean, African, Spanish, French, Creole, Cajun, and southern recipes.

I hate the way this city welcomes all immigrants. I hate the Vietnamese, Irish, Italians, and everyone else who’s brought their food here and merged it with local ingredients. I hate Catholicism, voodoo lore, and hedonism. I hate that you can move from neighborhood to neighborhood and no one judges how you look or how you dress. I hate the gays and the way they thrive here. I hate that straight people are so accepting of them here. I hate that people like to wear costumes and that – on Halloween – if you’re not in costume, you’re the “freak.”

I hate Mardi Gras. Obviously.

I hate that I will probably die here with a smile on my face.

Feel free to comment with why you hate New Orleans, or hit me up on Twitter at @ndrewmarin. #whyIhateNOLA 

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movie calendar

I’m going to start posting movie suggestions to match the time of year. Three movies I think you should watch this Halloween if you haven’t already:

Halloween (1978)


Hocus Pocus (1993)

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

They just happen to be in chronological order. Also, that Hocus Pocus trailer is misleading. The witches are less friendly and more evil.