Robin in Winter

August 18

I generally believe any discussion of a celebrity’s death to be missing the point. Some point. All the points. I don’t know. The main reason is that everybody misapprehends the nature of the relationship.

There is no relationship. We feel like we know the entertainer, but we don’t. A relationship is imagined. Maybe they don’t like us, but we like them! Isn’t THAT real? No. We don’t like them. We like that they entertain us. When they stop entertaining us, we stop caring about them. Unless they die before we feel their entertainment value to us has been exhausted.

And what about the other direction? What are they looking for from us? Love. Love that they don’t feel they have enough of. Looking for love in all the wrong places. And they eventually realize that what we love about them isn’t them, it’s the entertainment thing.

And the exceptions? Oh, there are always exceptions. Didn’t Robin Williams give us genuine heart and vulnerability in some of his roles that touched us in a real way? Maybe. But to the extent that vulnerability, whether in comedy or drama, is real, it also means we have entered the vicinity of the dark place.

Was depression the cause, or facilitator, of his comedy, or drama? Of course it was. If you can’t see that in his performances, you weren’t seeing Robin Williams. His skating along the edge of it so manically was what fascinated us. And entertained us. We applauded it. And then he went over. It’s cheap and facile for us now to act shocked.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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