Revisiting Dead Poets Society: A Tribute to Robin Williams and Creativity

I loved the late actor's critically acclaimed film. Here's why it resonated with me.

Growing up, I loved going to the movies. My dad always took me to the movie theater near our house to see whatever I wanted. The big screen, the numerous previews for upcoming films and delicious popcorn are some of my favorite childhood memories. 

But as I got older, my love for films faded a little. Constant film reboots and remakes along with rising costs kept me away. The last film I was ever excited to see at a theater was Inception during its opening weekend in 2010. Some recent movies have piqued my interest, but not enough to get me to a nearby theater to see for myself. I soon shifted to catching movies on television from classics like The Wizard of Oz to personal favorites including Mulan, Twister, The Blind Side and Something’s Gotta Give. I also enjoyed watching original movies on the Hallmark Channel.

So what does this nostalgia about seeing movies as a child and how that's changed relate to Dead Poets Society starring the late Robin Williams? Well, when I finally got a chance to watch the movie two years ago, I felt my love for films change again for a deeper reason.

During my final two years of college, I found myself on campus during the January interterm. Having free time on my hands, I decided to go to one of the four libraries to check out some DVDs. I found movies I always wanted to see but never got the chance to check out: My Week with Marilyn, Memoirs of a Geisha, Enough Said and the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera. Eventually, I snagged Dead Poets Society

As I watched it, I was not disappointed. I laughed, was close to tears and moved by the acting. Plus, Robin Williams's character, John Keating, was an English teacher who taught poetry, so for an English major like myself that made the movie more enjoyable. Also, one of the students named Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke, was shy like me. How Mr. Keating inspired his students, his unorthodox methods to teach them about creative expression, words and ideas and seizing the day and their dreams left me empowered and grateful for the amazing teachers and professors I've had over the years.

Robin Williams certainly got everyone’s attention with his comedy, but he also gained respect and much-deserved recognition when he took on more dramatic roles. Dead Poets Society gave me a newfound appreciation for the actor, especially after his death on August 11, 2014. Like many fans, I was devastated by his passing. I literally wanted to fall to my knees, crying, when the news broke on TV. For months, I couldn’t watch any of his films, particularly my personal favorite, Mrs. Doubtfire. I’d attempt to watch it on TV but would last about five minutes before I had to change the channel. Besides his famous role as the Genie in Aladdin, I've seen other films over the years including Hook, Jumanji, Flubber, What Dreams May Come, RV and the first Night at the Museum. I would also watch Good Will Hunting in college, the first film I watched after his death. 

The day after his passing, I was watching The Tonight Show as host Jimmy Fallon took time to pay tribute to the late actor. During the tribute, he showed an old clip of Williams making his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I was trying so hard not to laugh too loud because it was absolutely hilarious. As actor Billy Crystal said during his Emmy Awards tribute to Williams, "He made us laugh." At the end of the tribute, Fallon got on top of his desk and proclaimed, "O Captain, my Captain!" from, you guessed it, Dead Poets Society. Many fans also reenacted that famous scene in the days that followed. It was because of that tribute that I wanted to look for that film, and I'm thankful I was able to track it down. 

Dead Poets Society is more than just a drama. It's a story about a passionate teacher inspiring his students to unlock their true potential, find what they really want out of life and making time for creative expression. We all should strive for our true dreams, not what is expected of us by family or friends. We see that scenario play out with another character, Neil Perry, played by Robert Sean Leonard when he goes after his discovered love for acting against his father's objections. The role of authority is also explored through Headmaster Gale Nolan, played by Norman Lloyd, who disapproves of Mr. Keating's teaching methods. 

As an artist, this film helped me appreciate my creativity and gentle spirit. Sometimes we just need someone to guide us to where we need to be and then carry on with our passions from there. Robin Williams certainly made us laugh, but I think he also made us cry too, helped us think, and made our lives just a little brighter when things were tough.

Check out Dead Poets Society. Never stop believing in your true potential. 

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