Celebrity, Death, Mourning

August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

RANT WARNING: I am tired and I am cranky and I am sad. Long grumpy rambling to follow.

And so, as with every celebrity death, out come the trolls. You might even have one in your  Facebook feed now, some eye-rolling turdbucket who likes to sneer and act superior and say something like, “Sorry, I don’t have time to feel sad about some actor guy I never met. The Real Tragedy (TM) here is Syria/Gaza/Michael Brown/global warming/abortion.” And then you might feel a little bit foolish because you had a feeling for a minute about some dude you never met who voiced a cartoon genie once, when clearly you should be sad about other more important things.

No, no, no. Hold up. This smug fucker only has the ability to have one sympathy a day and he acts like YOU’RE the dick? No. Absolutely no.
First of all, it is entirely possible to have more than one emotion at a time. You can even feel similar emotions about different things, at the same time, or throughout the day. In fact, it’s a little abnormal to only have the one sympathy, and once you’ve spent it, oops, you’re all out of sympathies!
“Sorry, I poured myself a bowl of cereal before I knew the milk was bad this morning and it made me sad, so I don’t have any sympathy left to offer for the loss of your grandmother. Next time you have a family tragedy, please let me know first thing in the morning, so I can properly apply my one sympathy. Next!”
And why are people only like that about tragedies? That there can only be One Real Tragedy per allotted time. Why not with happiness? If you were to say, “Yay, I’m super excited about Guardians of the Galaxy coming out this weekend,” would they sneer at you and say, “Sorry, I’m too happy about those girls escaping from Boko Haram to care about some silly Hollywood flick,” and roll their eyes? Of course not. That would be silly and rude. Well, so is this shit.
Go ahead and be sad about Ferguson and also get choked up thinking about the “Oh Captain, my Captain” scene. It’s fine. It’s normal. It’s human.

Secondly, celebrities, especially actors and writers, do affect our lives, like it or not. They are often stand-ins for our own issues, selves, and real lives. They specifically play to our emotions. It’s sort of their schtick, you know, making us feel things. In this case, Robin Williams touched many, maybe even most of us, throughout our entire lives. He was funny, yes, and making people laugh means quite literally bringing people joy. That is important. But his roles in many dramatic films were often tinged with a deep sadness; many of his characters, such as in Good Will Hunting, were people who were doing all they could to fight the darkness. This touches people. It affects them. It affects us. Often, it affects us because we can relate, because we too, are trying not to succumb to the darkness. I think it’s clear Robin Williams wasn’t just acting. He was a man who struggled his entire life against unimaginable darkness and pain, and humor was his strongest weapon.
If only it had been enough.

Thirdly. The mental illness. When someone succumbs to their mental illness and kills themselves, you often see people start saying that suicide is the most selfish act possible. Is it? Really? I’m gonna nominate rape and murder for that distinction, yeah?
Yes, suicide affects the victims’ families in one of the most painful ways possible. Absolutely. But it is not an act of selfishness, or of cowardice, or of bravery, for that matter. It is an act of desperation by someone in extreme pain. And dismissing it as cowardly or selfish doesn’t help ANYONE. It doesn’t lessen the family’s pain, and it doesn’t help those who are still struggling with their own self-destructive thoughts. It does not help. So knock it off.

Fourth. I fear somewhere in the back of my mind that I may be guilty of having done this, or something similar. I am sorry. Sometimes, I too am an asshole. We contain multitudes.

There is a lot to be sad about. There is also a lot to rejoice in. We should all try to keep those scales tipped at least slightly towards the joyful.
And when you’re having trouble with that balance, please talk to someone. Me, another friend, or even someone you’ve never met. Remember the effect that just a stranger can have on someone else’s life.
1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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