How Robin Williams Affected Millennials

It is with great honour I present a piece that celebrates the filmography, comedy and influence of arguably one of the most iconic actors to have graced both cinema and television screens alike around the globe: Mr. Robin Williams.

Robin Williams mastered the art of comedy with such precision that he was a beloved household name for decades. One of his most notable performances was in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ (1993), where Williams took on the role of a father who disguised himself as a Scottish nanny, which was hilariously charming, heart-warming and zany all-in-one. This happened to be just a mere sample out of a catalogue of films that showcased the sheer talent and creative genius of Williams himself, a great deal of which was can be best remembered by people of my age group.

As a millennial, I have grown up watching movies starring Robin Williams – the 90s alone featured iconic family hits ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ (1993), ‘Hook’ (1991), ‘Flubber’ (1997), ‘Aladdin’ (1992), and of course, the iconic, ‘Jumanji’ (1995). Furthermore, I have laughed and wept at such films. I appreciate that Williams’ work spanned out much greater than this, but these selections have impacted me greatly, and have since become films in which I will forever cherish, as they are reminiscent of a time when I was a young girl myself; something I believe illustrates how the art of film can resonate with you for an extended period of time. I am currently in the final months of my tenure at university, yet I am still a fan of such films and could re-watch any of them without even a moment’s hesitation, something I believe is largely owed to the genius of the man I am celebrating in this article.

What is great about film, is that you can revisit it at any point. You can re-watch Williams perform ‘Friend Like Me’ in the form of an eccentric animated genie, or rewind and re-view him face-planting a cream cake in a frantic flurry to avoid revealing his character’s real identity in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’. I find that a film, especially any of those that I enjoy, can never grow old or tiresome. I will continue to sing-along to Aladdin or laugh at the multitude of mishaps in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’.

A classic will never lose its magic.

The notion of revisiting such films is that you can appreciate them in greater detail, as when I was younger I missed certain aspects of much of Williams’ work and the movies he starred in, such as in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ which included a variety of hilarious scenes that I did not value enough until watching it again as a young adult. I would say one of my favourite scenes from ‘Mrs Doubtfire’, aside from the iconic ‘cream cake/face mask’ montage, was that of when Daniel’s (Robin Williams) court liaison officer, Mrs Sellner (Anne Haney), asks Daniel “do you have any special skills”, to which the character replies “I do voices”. Williams then gifts the audience with a wide range of impressions which are hilarious and really highlight Williams’ gift for entertaining. It was this very scene that inspired my own adoration for comedy and voice impressions, something that has shaped my character, personality and has become a part of who I am. Moreover, Williams’s talent for impressions was undeniable, as he was a multi-talented actor whose roles were performed with an unequalled precision. Williams’s role as the genie in Aladdin was one of the first times I had encountered his work and I would claim it was one of the most iconic Disney films of the 1990s. I feel rather nostalgic when I think of the film, as it turns 25 years old this year. I was not born when it was released, but I was introduced to it in accordance with the other iconic, (mostly) traditionally animated Disney films, when I was a young child. ‘Aladdin’ stood out to me, as I found myself in awe of how humorous and eccentric the character of the genie was. This is because Williams brought the character to life, and I could not imagine anyone else ever playing him.

Upon re-watching ‘Aladdin’ in my late teens, I noticed all the clever humour posed by Williams, including the pun ‘I feel sheepish’… ‘you baaaad boy’, whilst the genie transitioned into a sheep himself. This idea of transitioning into different identities was conveyed throughout the film, something I always considered must have been exhausting, demonstrating both Williams’s talent and dedication to his role. In my opinion, aside from ‘Mulan’, ‘Aladdin’ was the best of all of the 90s Disney movies, as the humour that was provided by Williams (much of which was improvised) cemented it as being an unquestionable classic.

To conclude this piece, I will leave a quote from Williams, which is rather poignant and uplifting. It makes me happy and sad all at once. Most importantly, I believe it showcases Williams’s wonderful character, and how much of an impact he made upon millennials like myself, as well as the vast contribution he made to the performing arts as a whole. Robin Williams is a talent that should not only be remembered as fondly as he is by my generation, but by older generations and younger generations, too. He is a once in a lifetime performer we should never forget.

“You’re only given one little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it”

– Robin Williams

Image Credit: Parade.com
Catherine Giggal
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Catherine Giggal

Media Studies Student, Coffee Enthusiast, an avid watcher of comedy film and television.
Catherine Giggal
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  • Katie Anna-Louise Doyle

    Oh my gosh thinking about it he has had a massive affect on our generation, i both iwn mrs doubtfire and hook on dvd and i love them. It may be possible, like The Simpsons he may have helped to shapr the humour of an entire generation

  • Joseph Wade

    My mother never really “got it” with Robin Williams, which I found unfortunate. He was always too over-the-top and brash for her, which is something I understand, but I agree entirely with Katie about how he’s likely shaped the humour of our entire generation, and Catherine’s points regarding it being our generation that has been most affected by him is completely accurate. I think that above all he was a fun man who brought out happiness in others and people born in the late 80s and early 90s will always remember him for this. I think the work he did with respect to so-called “serious” acting was evidence of his overwhelming talent as a storyteller too, with ‘Good Will Hunting’ and ‘One Hour Photo’ being notable diversions from his norms. Overall he was a profoundly respected man who shan’t be forgotten.