I've wondered for a while now which celebrity I was sincerely attached to would pass away in my lifetime first. Philip Seymour Hoffman was halfway there. His acting was thoroughly impressive. I'd enjoyed his reemergence into my line of sight with The Hunger Games. Twister, in which he played the outlandish "Dusty" has always been one of my guilty pleasures. If I had a dime for every time I've watched that movie, I'd be retired, which would be slightly embarrassing, but it doesn't matter, because fuck you, I'm retired.
But Robin Williams.... Despite his struggles with addiction and depression, I think it was just something too sad for me to even imagine.
I avoid the evening news, because the world is sad enough without shoving its horrible violence down one's throat any more than you absolutely have to, which is what most mainstream media in America seems to pride itself on.
As a result, last night, while the world was mourning the loss of a brilliant actor and comedic legend, I was playing video games, brushing the cat, convincing myself that cheese cubes and cranberry juice were a sufficient dinner, and watching Hook for at least the 100th time. This is probably literal. In my varying states of depression or anxiety, I find repetition very soothing, and tend to watch the same movies over and over, for the background noise and familiarity.
Hook was one I never became tired of, because it changed with me as I grew older.
As a child, it was simply and naively a movie about Peter Pan. The food fight was, of course, the best part of the movie, and I watched it with extreme envy every single time. I loved Captain Hook and his fabulous, curly locks, the majesty of which were surpassed only by his larger-than-life personality. He was everything I loved, and still love, in a good villain. Even now, I would argue that he outshone even Peter Pan himself, driving the plot with his passionate agenda, and forcing Peter Pan back into the world he'd long forgotten.
Tink growing in size and kissing Peter Pan, the death of Rufio, the entire first half hour or so of the movie- these were just transitional, unimportant filler scenes to me. Potty breaks. Snack times. My childhood self knew where the real story was, and it wasn't in these boring, confusing moments.
|Childhood wonder, manifest.|
Of course, when I grew older and began to re-watch my childhood favorites, I began to see things in a new light, as we all do. But Hook stood out for me among the rest. Hook was one of a very finite number whose meaning and entire story line did a complete 180. I felt almost betrayed by Peter and by the Lost Boys as I realized just how sad the plot actually was for a majority of the film.
Peter Pan wasn't glad to be back in Neverland at all. The place he had lived and loved for so many years had turned into a frightening and dangerous obstacle course. He had no playful vendetta against Captain Hook, no desire to tease and torment and humiliate him, and worse than that, was now at his mercy. The Lost Boys had looked up to him as their leader, and he had deserted them. He deserted his people, his paradise, his Neverland, only to come to earth, become an adult, ignore his own children, abandon his beloved Wendy for decades at a time, and obsess over money. As Dame Maggie summarized it best in the film, "Peter... You've become a pirate."
The movie ends well enough, but it's still very, very bittersweet. Tink and the Lost Boys have lost their leader once again. Peter Pan will live with the memory of his beautiful, magical Neverland, as well as the curse of never returning to it. Captain Hook, the great villain, is dead.
It's a poignant and heart-wrenching analogy for truly growing up. Neverland is the light inside us that the world will do it's level best to extinguish. We abandon our dreams, and our inner children. We forget our own brilliance and let our hearts take a back seat to simply surviving.
It's so hard to imagine a man like Robin Williams forgetting his brilliance. It's unfathomable. When I was young, he was my genie and my Peter Pan, my friend trapped in the jungle and my cross-dressing British nanny. As an adult, he was my bearded mentor and my tour guide through the hell, my inappropriately-mourning father and my captain. Even what some would consider his lesser films seemed to shine just for the mere fact that he was in them.
In his dramatic roles, Robin Williams would smile this smile... It's the kind of teary, wincing smile you wear when smiling is the last thing you want to do. It was so sincere. It was sincere in a way that only someone who regularly made the world laugh through extreme inner turmoil could portray. I think he so excelled in those cinematic moments, because he felt it in his own life. Maybe, in those moments, he wasn't even acting.
For however much I noticed it before, I know I'll never be able to see these moments the same way again.
I feel it appropriate to mention that Kevin Pollak is currently post production with a documentary called Misery Loves Comedy, which I'm sad to see does not list Robin Williams among the cast members. He summarizes his film as follows:
"If you’re a fan of stand-up comedy, and those who perform it, you’re no doubt aware that a staggering percentage are truly miserable. We’ve lost number of great comedians to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. How can they be so entertaining to strangers and so filled with sadness and/or rage with family and friends? The main goal of this film is to shed extensive light on this bizarre dichotomy.
... It’s gonna be a hoot."
I wish Robin Williams had been interviewed. I hope he knew he wasn't alone. I wish he'd been able to find some sort of relief for himself that involved breathing, and I know it wasn't for lack of trying that he never did. He smiled as long as he could. Maybe for some people, anything is better than living with the extinguished flame of Neverland.
For my own sense of coping, I choose to believe that Robin Williams, heartbreaking as it is for those left behind, has found relief. He deserves relief. I choose to envision him in beautiful fields of painted flowers, enjoying his own laughter as much as the we did, in a place that will bring him more peace and happiness than he found here with us... somewhere past that second star on the right.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams. Your legacy will outlast us all.