Remembering Robin Williams: JACK
I first became aware of the larger than life personality that is Robin Williams by hearing him scream across my parents television “Gooooooooood Morning Vietnam!” when I was only 11 years old. Who was that guy? Why was he so loud? And why were my parents laughing so, so much? You see, Good Morning Vietnam was airing on HBO, a channel I was not allowed to watch without parental supervision at that age; but boy, I could sit in my bedroom with my door open and try and sneak a peak or a listen at whatever my parents were watching on a Saturday night in the Shrader household. And that night unto me Robin Williams was introduced, and he would eventually change they way I view the world.
But at that time, to me, Robin Williams was Popeye the Sailor Man, a larger-than-life cartoon character that Williams had brought to life right in front of my eyes. It was then that I realized that this man was an actor (I was 11, I didn’t know a thing about Hollywood…what do you mean this guy is in other stuff?!), portraying all kinds of different people on both TV shows and movies, and subsequently blowing my mind in the process.
But it was the film Jack where Robin Williams connected with me on a human level.
Robin Williams portrayal of a child with an aging disorder taught me so very much. He showed me so much about myself as a human being, from how cruel we can be, to just how compassionate we can be as well. It was a film full of laughs, full of tears, and full of warmth.
When Jack came to home video, I was only 20 years old. Fresh out of my teenage years, I still believed myself to be the typical indestructible child of youth. But Williams changed all that, by showing me just how quickly life can pass us by, and how important it is that we treat others they way we want to be treated. Jack was an outcast, most kids were afraid of him and didn’t understand the person he was; it took time for them to learn what it was he was trying to teach them. And Robin Williams gave that character such accessibility and such a humanity that you could not deny the compassion that he stirred inside you…that he stirred inside of me.
But Jack grew old, far faster than his friends. And by the film’s end, you knew he was going to pass away, and soon. And for me, this was the first time that I realized within myself that my life was not forever, and my youth would eventually pass me by, too.
But Robin Williams as Jack made me feel like that it would all be OK. He went from being the funnyman in Mrs. Doubtfire to being so much more. His versatility as an actor had not been on display in such a way since Dead Poet’s Society, and his turn in Jack reminded us all that not only would everything work out in the end, but also that there was so much more to Robin Williams the actor than just making us all laugh.