I have for a long time wanted to write something about the masks we wear but haven’t really known how to start, I knew what I wanted to say but I lacked the inspiration to give it life, but with the untimely death of the celebrated stand up comedian and actor Robin Williams, the words took shape in my mind.
Apart from Michael Jackson’s, I don’t think any other celebrity death has caused so much shock or garnered so much media attention; the world over, as did Robin Williams’. It really shook the world because no one expected him to go out that way or this early. I mean this was a man who had spent a large chunk of his life putting a smile on the faces of millions of people, be it on the silver screen or the stage; he always managed to turn a frown into a smile. So to find out that he had being dealing with depression was a shock to me! His movies such as Good Will Hunting, Jumanji, Aladdin, Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs. Doubtfire brought joy and happiness to our homes and makes me wonder how a man who was able to do that, couldn’t be able to find some of that happiness for himself.
He always had a goofy smile on his face and always came off as a warm character; someone you could automatically connect with, but as I read his autopsy report, it struck me that we all had become used to the mask he wore in public, we failed to look within to find the monster he was dealing with. Robin was a human, quite like you and I, with faults and flaws, but we chose to see him as the characters he played in the movies and not as the man he was hiding behind those characters.
It is no news that he had struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, he made that public knowledge but the world thought he was dealing with it and just swept it under the rug, after all, most celebrities had these addictions and always managed to pull through it.
He died as a result of asphyxia, that was what his autopsy report suggested, it also stated that he had tried to cut is wrist open; unsuccessfully, before he hung himself with his belt! Robin Williams was so desperate to leave this world; he had fought his personal battle with his demon for so long, he took his life just to escape it.
Sad, makes you wonder the demons people you encounter everyday are fighting within behind those smiles and laughter, the swagger, the pride, the arrogance. Those could be masks they wear so people would not see the battle they fight deep inside, like they say do not judge a book by its cover, but who doesn’t? The world obviously judged Williams by what we saw on the surface, we saw him as the brilliant if not odd ball boss and father Mr. Simon Roberts which he played on The Crazy Ones but he was a man who had come to that juncture in his life where he had to face his mortality; depressed and in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
We all wear one sort of mask of the other to keep that which we don’t want seen perfectly hidden, the masks we wear are often our protection, our very own firewall erected to keep our true self securely hidden and impenetrable. But sometimes we wear them for so long we lose ourselves to them, so much so the world sees them and not the man underneath; we lose our identity and become the mask.
Like the sombre image Robin Williams cut moments before he took his life, if only the people around had looked beyond his funny man persona, maybe someone would have being able to offer solace to him. In the end the funny man wasn’t able to muster enough happiness to stay a while on earth.
Robin Mclaurin Williams
July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014