Robin Williams in Los Copa

After Robin Williams died, I read an article that tried to combat the idea that suicide is selfish. Check out the headline and accompanying photo:


Williams looks seriously weary in this well-chosen photo. He looks like he might be arguing, postmortem, with angry loved ones who would accuse him of selfishness. But outside this calculated repurposing of a head shot, Williams has given voice to the other side of the argument.

When I think on the actor's death, I recall a monologue he did in The Birdcage. In the film, Armand (Williams) has gravely offended his long-term partner Albert (Nathan Lane), to the point where Albert leaves for Los Copawhich has nothing but a cemetery. Although Albert isn't suicidal, he is threatening to permanently exit Armand's life. Armand catches up with his despondent partner and speaks his mind, equal parts anger and affection.
Albert (Lane) and Armand (Williams)
Armand: “My cemetery’s in Key Biscayne. It’s one of the prettiest in the world. Lovely trees, sky is blue, the birds... The one in Los Copa’s really shit. What a pain in the ass you are. It’s true – you’re not young, and you’re not new, and you do make people laugh. And me? I’m still with you because you make me laugh. So you know what I gotta do? I gotta sell my plot in Key Biscayne so I can get one next to you in that shithole Los Copa, so I never miss a laugh."
You can watch the scene here.

For me, all this talk of cemeteries suggests deatheither from an early end (the ugly Los Copa, Albert’s purported destination) or natural causes (the beautiful Key Biscayne, Armand’s chosen resting place). For me, the monologue articulates the bitterness that can arise when a loved one lands in the shallow ditch of suicide rather than the deep grave of a life fully lived.

Robin Williams was a really funny man and an impassioned actor. Mrs. Doubtfire helped me understand my parents’ separation when I was little (the ending is practically a PSA on the topic), I delighted at being introduced to Mork & Mindy, and I still count The Birdcage among my favourite films. I’ve got nothing for him but thanks.

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