O Captain! My Captain!

I normally avoid writing posts that are too personal. While I have a genuine passion for all the topics I have covered on this blog, I made a conscious choice to cover “world issues” – whatever that might mean – here. Today, I am breaking that rule and I sorely wish it was for a different reason.

The first time I recall seeing Robin Williams on screen was in Flubber. Unbeknownst to me, I had already experienced his work as the Genie in Aladdin. I was too young to understand how voice acting worked. I was also too young to realise that Flubber was CGI. But, in this particular case, I didn’t care. Flubber might have been the protagonist and the plot, but it was Williams’ Prof. Brainard that held my attention.

Like so many others, I have been an avid fan of his work. Hook remains one of my most beloved childhood films and I still tear up when Peter Pan consoles Rufio at his passing. The sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire had just been announced, with Williams at the helm, and it was a sequel that I was actually intrigued by, simply because of his performance in the first. Patch Adams might have criticised by many, but I like it. No eloquence there; I just love his work.

But, for someone who is known for his comedic chops – go check out the episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? he was in to get an idea of his improv skills – it was his dramatic range that earned him most of his career accolades. Good Will Hunting and Good Morning, Vietnam are two of the finest performances ever committed to film.

For me, it was Dead Poets Society that actually influenced my life. In that film, I saw the determination of all the teachers who inspired me, whether at school or at home. I saw, for the first time, a need to be true to yourself, to stand by your principles in the face of adversity, to live. How tragic it is that these lessons are flashing through my mind as I mourn his death.

Over the past few weeks, Robin Williams returned to my life in a big way. I had spent a week in Edinburgh with my cousin and had suggested showing Hook to her lovely boys. I wanted them to enjoy its magic the way I remember doing when I was their age. A while later, a couple of my friends came to stay and we watched Aladdin, commenting throughout how much of an awe-inspiring creation the Genie was. We might proudly monopolise a generational obsession with another magical protagonist, but it was Williams’ work that helped shape our early imaginations. I appreciate that so much more now.

His passing shows how easy it is for us to accept someone’s cheerful facade as proof that depression might not be such a big deal. I feel so much for his family; I have experienced depression first-hand. I cannot imagine losing someone to it in such a tragic way.

I don’t know whether this rambling can rightfully be called a “tribute”. I don’t care. I just wish I could say to him, “O Captain! My Captain” I just wish he wasn’t gone.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
(Poem O Captain! My Captain! by  Walt Whitman)



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