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Death of a Celebrity
A student teacher visiting from a nearby college asked my English class a question the other day:
Why does it affect us so much when celebrities die, even when we didn’t know the person?
I couldn’t give her my entire answer right then and there, because I have a very specific example of one of my favorite celebrities, so here it is.
Usually when celebrities die it doesn’t affect me, at least not a lot. I mean, they’re all people, but I don’t personally know any of them. Usually I’m a bit shocked and then I move on.
This was not the case with Robin Williams.
I cried when Robin Williams died. I didn’t cry like I do when my family dies, but I did cry.
Robin Williams is and has always been my favorite actor. When I see him on TV, I try to stop for a second and listen to him, no matter what I'm doing. One of my favorite movies when I was little was “Jumanji”, and every time I saw Williams in another movie I would go, “That’s the jungle dude from my movie!” My little sister and I would rewind the part where he was messing with the monkeys in the cop car a million times, until we were laughing so hard we were crying. I also loved “Hook” and “Night at the Museum”. In those three particular movies, Williams always managed to create this wonder, this awe in me, a hope and dream telling me that I could grow up and become anything. I don’t know why exactly; maybe it was the subject of the movies themselves that made me think of Williams like that. It must be a psychological thing, because even when I watched “Artificial Intelligence” and didn’t know he was in there, the Einstein hologram he played the voice of still gave me that awed feeling.
Because of those movies, Williams became a symbol of the above-mentioned emotions in any movie I saw him in, be it “Patch Adams” or “August Rush”. Yeah, he made me laugh, too. But mostly he inspired me. (I never did watch “Aladdin” or “Good Morning Vietnam” or “Dead Poets Society”, although I want to, but I already know he’ll still give me the sense of wonder he did in the other movies.)
When I learned he died, I was a bit upset. When I learned it was apparently a suicide, I was completely shocked. I know many of you reading this probably felt the same way—you expected him to be the same enthusiastic, outgoing, always-hopeful man you saw in the movies. I guess that wasn’t the case in real life. According to the media he was actually pretty depressed in real life. This made my mind churn. My symbol of dreams and hope (besides Jesus), depressed and suicidal? It was a little painful to realize that he was a real person outside of the movies.
And that’s why sometimes people are hugely affected when certain celebrities pass on. That particular actor or singer or even author is an icon of hope, or laughter, or deep and penetrating thoughts, or peace, or wonder. I personally think Lady Gaga is overdone and ridiculous, but there are people out there who look to her as a symbol of laughter or hope and think Robin Williams was overdone and ridiculous. That’s okay; everyone has opinions. Williams’ death didn’t affect everyone, and that’s fine. It affected me, and that why I’m writing about him at 12:32 in the morning when I should be asleep.
I'm not good at endings. I hope Robin Williams' family is getting to be at peace by now. Good night (morning, really), everyone.