I, like a lot of people, was raised by pop culture. Growing up queer in a Christian home where my parents were more preoccupied with their own lives than with that of their children, it was pop culture that was always there. Television, movies, books, magazines, music, these voices were the ones that sang me to sleep at night, taught me how to be strong, showed me worlds beyond my isolated religious home. It’s from this interaction that things like this site exist today – I have always understood the importance of visual media in one’s individual life.
I found parental figures in pop culture. I found moms who loved through laughter and toughness and attentiveness. I found siblings who listened and taught and protected. And I found dads. My own father was absent for most of my adolescence, gone to a job he hated, and when he was home, his anger formed a bubble around him that pushed everyone away. In pop culture I found fathers who laughed, who were silly, who disciplined in gentle but firm ways, who thought of their kids first and themselves second. One of the best of my pop culture dads was Robin Williams.
Once our household got a copy of Mrs Doubtfire, I watched it over and over and over, and would continue to watch it repeatedly from ages 16 to 21. I know every hook, every line, every expression in that movie. My brain imprinted the face of Robin Williams in my minds eye, and he became my Dad, just like he became all of our dads. He was silly, and funny, and clever, and above all else, loving. Empathetic to his children’s pain, and willing to do whatever it took to help them. Before this, I thought those kind of dads only existed in movies or on television, but his love, his devotion was so real in this movie, that it became real to me.
I never met Robin Williams. I had a friend who was gaming in a comic book store in Vancouver when Robin Williams walked in, sat down with him and his friends and started making jokes, making them all laugh, and hung out with them for a whole hour, talking to them, asking them questions. This story confirmed to me what I already knew, that he was capable of amazing empathy, that he loved to make people happy and that he was lonely, all things that I feel and have felt very often throughout my life. If I had been able to actually talk to him, I would have thanked him for being him. For showing a little girl that fathers could love, that there was other people like me out there and that above all else, for teaching me the importance of joy.