By now, everyone’s seen it: the tweet that the Academy of Motion picture Arts and Sciences sent out shortly after Robin Williams’ death. It shows Genie cradling Aladdin in his arms. The tweet reads, “Genie, you’re free.”
Of all the social media messages regarding Robin Williams, this one was the most shared. Many people cried. I did, too, but for a different reason. The message was no doubt well-intentioned. But, speaking for myself as a suicide survivor, it was a horrible message to send out.
It promotes the idea of suicide as a relief. That’s a dangerous idea to give to someone who may be contemplating suicide. The image was all wrong, too. In reality, Aladdin wouldn’t have Genie around to hug him. And my guess is, he’d say something like, “Why, Genie? Why?” Even that’s being diplomatic.
My guess is that this tweet was created by someone who was trying to be kind, but they have no clue what mental illness is really like. I face this kind of thing all the time—dealing with the well-intentioned, but clueless. It’s frustrating, but if one good thing can come out of this tragedy, it’s the opportunity for understanding and education.
So, to anyone who thinks this message is appropriate, I’m telling them why it’s not. Robin Williams was a smart, curious guy. I think he would have liked that.