Offbeat 14 August 2014
The idea of constant happiness is counterproductive and unrealistic. It wants us to constantly live a lie and present a pleasing facade to everyone.Robin Williams is dead. He hanged himself. There are heaps of very boring Facebook posts with schmaltzy motivational sayings attributed to him. Personally, I preferred his early stand-up lines, the ones that won’t show up in picture posts. I seem to remember something about killer lesbian dwarfs with tomatoes. Anyone remember that? I thought not.
Depression can be rough and, in brutal honesty, I have to say that suicide can be a solution, even if it is an abysmally wrong one: it ends the misery along with the life. I have a couple of friends, a couple too many, who chose that route and now live on in painful memory.
Suicide, as a function of psychological illness, is inevitably cruel. It leaves a trail of hurt among the people who live on, loved ones and friends who are left clutching at barbed-wire straws as they try to figure out what cues they missed, and what they did wrong, either by causing hurt or by the omission of love and friendship, whether that is valid or not.
If you consider suicide, consider that you are inflicting a lifelong hell on everyone around you who believes they love and care for you. Then suck up your misery and carry on until things change. Things always do change. There will always be another smile and, if there isn’t, you need to be more conscious of the people around you. Get therapy to tide you over.
I am not here to speak ill of the dead though. I’ll talk about Robin Williams and American movies.
The small amount of stand-up I have seen from Robin Williams was wickedly funny. It was edgy in the extreme. All seems to have changed with his abandonment of cocaine and alcohol. That was undoubtedly for the better. You can’t be entirely human if a substance is doing the thinking for you.
At a certain point Williams began to adopt more wholesome roles. I am sure you know the movies with the kindly smiles. Those smiles, and the movies they featured in, made me uncomfortable, felt a bit ersatz. I think the only real exception was ‘The Fisher King’. It’s worth a watch and will probably show up on shelves again, at a higher price than it had when it was in the bargain bins. Death will always put a smile on the face of marketing.
I know that Williams’ smiles were forced. Real smiles have a way of using facial muscles that can’t be replicated by forced smiles.
Here’s a simple statement for you to digest and absorb: I am almost entirely certain that Robin Williams did not feel, could not associate with, the roles and emotional moments that he acted out in the movies.
Depression and American movies don’t sit well together. American movies – romcoms, sitcoms and junk drama – show a happy, sparkly life with pretty smiles and pearly white teeth. The problems are minor, solved with template emotional intelligence. Depression is the exact opposite: brutal, raw, exhausting and confusing.
Those happy American movies are damning for people who live with the occurrence of neurological depression, whether regular or irregular. They are a template against which depressed people judge themselves. “Why am I abnormally unhappy? I’m not like the people in movies. I must be a freak.”
There is a reciprocity to it as well. American shows are a template by which ‘normal people’ judge people who live with depression. “You don’t have a radiant smile. You have the emotional intelligence of a fruit bat. Go get yourself medicated.”
What, in hindsight, is the value of the movies Williams appeared in? They may have made normal people feel happy inside, but how much self-doubt did they inflict on people with greater emotional depths? The idea of constant happiness is counterproductive and unrealistic.
It wants us to constantly live a lie and present a pleasing facade to everyone. It does not help us to cope with unhappiness and depression, which is normal in the lives of everyone, clinically depressive or just finding too much challenge in average lives.
Perhaps Robin Williams had the last laugh by proving the lie. I doubt he felt it though.