The Films of Robin Williams

Critical Essays

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About the Book

From his first appearance as Mork from Ork on the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, Robin Williams was heralded as a singular talent. In the pre–cable television era, he was one of the few performers to successfully transition from TV to film. An Oscar-winning actor and preternaturally quick-witted comedian, Williams became a cultural icon, leaving behind a large and varied body of work when he unexpectedly took his own life in 2014.
This collection of new essays brings together a range of perspectives on Williams and his oeuvre, including beloved hits like Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning, Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, Dead Poets Society and Aladdin. Contributors explore his earlier work (Mork and Mindy, The World According to Garp) and his political and satirical films (Moscow on the Hudson, Toys). Williams’s darker, less well-known fare, such as Being Human, One Hour Photo, Final Cut and Boulevard, is also covered. Williams’s artistry has become woven into the fabric of our global media culture.

About the Author(s)

Johnson Cheu is an assistant professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University in East Lansing. He has published work in disability studies and popular culture, as well as poetry and creative essays.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Johnson Cheu
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 242
Bibliographic Info: filmographies, notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6733-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3563-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword: Robin Williams—It’s Complicated (David Misch) 1
Introduction: Robin Williams and the Weight of Representation (Johnson Cheu) 5
Part 1. Laughing Heroics: Essays on Comedies and Heroes
“Can I call you Al?”: Robin Williams’s Genie as Subversive
Countertext in Disney’s Aladdin (Tom Prasch) 12
Carnival, Free Play and American Horror: Mashup in Joe
Johnston’s Jumanji (Sue Matheson) 26
Transference and Translation: A Roosevelt/Williams Guide
to Museum Space (Prajna Parasher) 41
Hot Flashes and Heroes: Mrs. Doubtfire as Threshold Figure (Elizabeth Leigh Scherman) 51
Generations of Men and Masculinity in Dead Poets Society (Andrew Slade) 62
Cold War Culture in the Films of Robin Williams (Michelle Catherine Iden) 74
“Fosse! Fosse! Fosse!”: Robin Williams’s Queer Performances (Gael Sweeney) 85
Part 2. Dark Spirits: Essays on Politics, Everyman and the Universe
“Watch out for the terrible, the ugly undertoad”: The World’s End According to Garp (Philip L. Simpson) 100
Toying with War: Exploring the Connection Between Militarization and Education (Kenya Wolff and Ludovic A. Sourdot) 116
The Face of Robin Williams and the Enigma of Stardom (Rebecca A. Umland and Samuel J. Umland) 131
“I like New York in June”? Terrors of the City in The Fisher King (Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper) 145
Psychological Trauma and the Quest for the Grail: Supposed Redemption in The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting and What Dreams May Come (Stacy C. Parenteau and Eric J. Sterling) 157
The Final Cut: Death, Memory and the Past as a Contested Zone
(Lori L. Parks) 173
“Caught in a ­freeze-frame”: The Afterlife of Robin Williams (Lisa K. Perdigao and Alan M. Rosiene) 185
Coda: Robin Williams—The Millennials’ Mentor (Kathy Merlock Jackson) 202
Films Referenced 217
About the Contributors 221
Index 225