One of — if not the most — iconic reaction to Robin Williams’ tragic passing was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Aladdin-inspired tribute to the comic legend. Surely, you’ve seen it:
Like any major news story, Williams’ death has spawned a veritable ecosystem of sideshows and distractions (an ecosystem to which I admittedly love to add).
One such offshoot revolves around the Academy’s tweet, which has come under some criticism for allegedly aggrandizing Williams’ decision to take his own life. According to one widely-shared piece in The Washington Post:
More than 270,000 people have shared the tweet, which means that, per the analytics site Topsy, as many as 69 million people have seen it.
The problem? It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide.
“If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.”
I’ll readily admit Moutier might have a point. Suicide is not something that should be encouraged.
But here’s the thing: a lot of people might have shared the same tribute before the cause of Williams’ death became clear, of simply without knowing the circumstances surrounding his passing. Take, for instance, the very first time* “Genie, You’re free” appeared on Twitter Tuesday: