If you’ve reached the age of 30 and don’t personally know someone who has taken his/her own life consider yourself lucky. I’ve known two people who couldn’t cope with their inner demons and took their own lives.
It’s dark. It’s tragic. It’s selfish. And it flat out sucks — particularly to those of us who are left behind.
Suicides happen all day every day, each one (generally speaking) as dark and tragic as the next. So why, then, does it seem darker and more tragic when a celebrity takes his/her own life or dies in a tragic event?
The suicide that perhaps most affected my generation was Kurt Cobain’s. His death was really the first to feel so personal to so many of us born in the late-70s to mid-80s. For whatever reason, be it his lyrics or that punky-grungy sound, many of us identified with Nirvana’s music, and when Kurt died it put an abrupt end to what should have been a future full of kick-ass music.
It’s that abruptness – like slamming 100 miles an hour, head first, into a concrete wall – that makes suicide so shocking and painful. But when someone of Kurt’s stature kills himself, those shock waves seem to reverberate across the world.
An eerily similar dark wave hit the world Monday when news of Robin Williams’ suicide began flooding social media feeds in nearly every country that has a TV, computer screen or movie theater.
Much like Kurt, Robin Williams touched so many more lives with his talents than the average Joe could ever hope to. So many people felt not just connected, but intimately connected to Williams because how believable and convincingly he played his roles.
Being liked by people can be one hell of a driving force for a person. My experience is humor is the key to mass acceptance, and few people were funnier than Robin Williams.
Many of his roles (Mrs. Doubtfire, Adrian Cronauer, Peter Pan, Mork, Popeye just to name a few) were intricate in developing our sense of what being funny means, especially to those of us under 40.
My favorite role of his was his portrayal of Adrian Cronauer in “Good Morning Vietnam.” Though the movie took many liberties with Cronauer’s character (read about that here in an interview with the real Cronauer), it was done in such a way that Williams skillfully blended comedy with the seriousness of the war in Vietnam. I believe few other actors could have pulled this part off as well as he did (maybe Bill Murray?).
With a few days having gone past since Williams’ death, there have been many people sharing their memories of the actor/comedian/father. The two most recurring descriptions of Williams from those who knew him best are that he was overly generous (check out the story here about how Robin bought Conan a bike once), and that he battled some serious inner demons right to the bitter end.
Why does it seem like the most talented, outwardly successful people always have these deep, dark places in their souls that eats away at them until there’s nothing left (see Jim Morrison, Elliott Smith, Ernest Hemingway)? Maybe that’s an ill-conceived notion. Maybe the aforementioned were simply a statistical certainty. Maybe the demise of these icons had nothing to do with the fact they were famous.
Perhaps Williams, Smith and Hemingway would have taken their own lives if they were simple dockworkers, street sweepers or cabbies and had not garnered international fame. There are X amount of people who take their own lives each and every day in this world, and perhaps these people were simply destined to become part of that statistic and just so happened to be famous…perhaps. We’ll never know.
The fact of the matter is Robin Williams joins an all-too-long list of immensely talented people who ended their time on this world much too early, proving, once again, that suicide sucks.
This is what Smitty Sayeth…
*Check out my friend’s take on Robin Williams’ unfortunate death – here.*
With creativity comes great emotion and a constant line that must be walked between the creative person and emotional turmoil.