RIP Robin Williams: How The Media Reacted
- Michel'le Donnelly
The death of Robin Williams sent social media into a frenzy, with a mixture of well wishers and trolls. Michel'le reflects on the reaction of the media after the untimely death of the Oscar winning actor
I was shocked to hear of Robin Williams’ sudden death on Monday morning. The legendary comedian was revered amongst his peers and whilst he started out as ‘the funny man,’ he certainly knew how to grapple with our hearts and pulled off some inspiring dramatic performances.
His sudden death was made even more tragic by the reveal that the 63 year-old had committed suicide. The loveable, manic, man-child we all loved had for years battled many demons and according to his publicist had been suffering from severe depression of late.
Like any celebrity death, social media was ablaze with statuses mourning his loss. People who seemingly loved his work as much as I, filled my Facebook feed with mini-obituaries. It was comforting to see all these people who felt the same way as myself. His battle with depression sparked dialogue on mental health and highlighted the fact that only 1/3 of people with common mental health problems get any treatment in the UK. Those who had no idea who Williams was before his death certainly knew who he was now.
Whilst of course there are many positives to social media, especially in a case like this where everyone is able to share their intimate thoughts on the issue there are also negatives.
Exploitation. While we can look at Buzzfeeds’ copious amounts of lists as something great one can also wonder just how many lists can be written up about one topic! I’m presuming the fact that the website will receive millions of hits is motivation enough. Mainstream media have just about covered every single angle of Williams’ death, in what looks like a desperate plea for ratings.
The open dialogue on mental issues which Williams death has brought seems to have backfired, with one Guardian commentator writing: “The media doesn’t care about our deaths unless we’re famous, and then it will pore over every gruesome detail regardless …”
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse. Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda, was driven off Twitter after receiving malicious messages from trolls. @PimpStory and @MrGoosebuster tweeted Photoshopped images of the actor that “appeared to show him with bruises around his neck, as if he were in a morgue.” @PimpStory also tweeted “look at what he did to himself because of you” and called her a “heartless b****”. Whilst their accounts have since been suspended, it is absolutely appalling to know that they were able to use a social media platform to inflict damage and pain on someone who is going through such a horrific ordeal.
I personally don’t agree with all the articles that have been churned out with regards to Williams, his depression and his suicide. He was a great actor, a force who changed the landscape for comedy and who brought about a contagious madness. Can’t we all just remember the entertainer he was and how he made us feel rather than delving deep into his past addictions and struggle with depression?
Each of us had our favourite version of Williams, whether he was your Genie, your Mrs Doubtfire or your Mork, we all had a sense that Robin Williams belonged to us.
For me Robin Williams will always be John Keating in Dead Poets Society. He introduced me to the works of Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau. He challenged me to open my heart, to love words and poetry. He inspired me to seize everyday. “O Captain! My captain” – may you rest in peace.