Robin Williams, Sad Clowns and the Media

August 11, 2014. I wake up. It’s 41C outside – I’m in Death Valley, California, on a road trip around the west coast of America with my family. It’s urgently hot, uncomfortable. Rolling over to check my phone, I wondered why I’ve been inundated with buzzes that morning. The world, just like me, has awoken to heartbreak. Robin Williams has committed suicide.

A few days later and we’re in Los Angeles, walking down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Robin Williams’ star is adorned with flowers, candles, tributes, goodbyes. It’s hard to process. Globally irreverent, Williams’ taking of his own life shocked us all; yet in an age where many comedians suffer from depressive thoughts, dubbed the ‘sad clown’ syndrome, perhaps it shouldn’t have at all.

It might seem a little strange to dwell on Williams’ death, two and a half years after it happened. However, although losing all faith with the UK media in general, I’m particularly fed up with its, and society’s, attitude towards men showing emotion. Male suicides have been found to be 3.5 times more frequent than female suicide, yet men are belittled more for having these thoughts or even outwardly showing emotion.

The Daily Fail, 2016

It’s hard to comprehend that a man who brought so much joy and laughter to people’s lives was himself shrouded in unhappiness. In literature, comedy and tragedy can come in a pair; Charlie Chaplin once said that ‘to truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.’ And whilst academics have found tenuous links between the area of the brain that provides the quick-thinking necessary for comedy and schizophrenic and bipolar disorders,  it still remains a seemingly senseless phenomenon. Instead of attempting to guess what ‘was wrong’ with Robin Williams, media attitudes need to change so that men aren’t afraid to get help without being belittled by the media. Not that it is necessarily as simple as that, but it’s certainly a start.

Robin Williams was and always will be one of my favourite actors, (who stars in my favourite film), bringing light to every role he took.

The Birdcage
DEAD POETS SOCIETY, Robin Williams, 1989
Dead Poets Society
Good Will Hunting
Good Morning Vietnam
Mrs Doubtfire

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