I was a little late to the Harry Potter bandwagon. Everyone around me seemed to be reading them in middle school, so naturally, I avoided them. I’ve always been reluctant to jump on the really shiny bandwagons. I was late to the Game of Thrones party, too, and Dresden and Hunger Games and Firefly and Buffy…and now I’m in danger of losing my nerd card. Sometimes, when I do get on board, the thing fails to meet my expectations (see: Twilight) and then I get to sit up on my highest of horses and say “I told you so” in the singsong-iest of voices.
Sometimes, though, I end up kicking myself for not joining sooner. I felt that way about Harry Potter. I finally got the books at the start of high school, right before the first movie was about to come out. I remember Barnes & Noble was having a sale of the first two books in paperback so I shrugged and figured “what the heck?” If I ended up hating them, I’d only be out a few bucks.
I finished Sorceror’s Stone that same day.
I gleefully dove headfirst into the world JK Rowling had created. I finished the first three books in a matter of weeks. I explored the world of online fandom on MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron under the handle CaputDraconis (10 house points if you know the reference). I slowly savored Goblet of Fire as I had learned that the fifth book had no publishing date in sight. I’m a visual thinker so I spent a lot of time getting the perfect mental image of Gryffindor common room, the Great Hall, of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and all the characters. Once the movie came out, I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the casting choices. Harry’s eyes looked too blue, Ron wasn’t tall enough, Dudley wasn’t blond – I had a bone to pick with them all. Except for one: Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.
Alan Rickman perfectly matched my mind’s eye of Snape, but he still managed to change the way I understood the character. In the books, a lot of of Snape’s dialogue ends with exclamation points, which I naturally interpreted as shouting. Alan delivered those same words in that trademark baritone and gave them whole new meaning. In the later films, he managed to steal scenes with just a single word. One of my favorite bits of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is during the montage of Umbridge’s slow creep takeover of Hogwarts. He answers her question with a simple “Obviously,” but he drawls it out, dripping with impatience, disgust, and condescension. Even his body is radiating disdain even as he hardly moves, doesn’t face her, and heck, his mouth barely opens. I had to find the clip online because describing it doesn’t do it justice.
For years, I was a card-carrying member of the “Snape is Evil” camp. I mean, the man KILLED DUMBLEDORE. (If that was a spoiler, then you really just shouldn’t be reading this blog. I mean, at all.) I was so sure that he was Team Voldemort, I made an embarrassingly profane Facebook page asserting my claims. Once Facebook opened up to the internet public outside its original college base, I had to beg the admins to take it down. Anyway, I had pages and pages of evidence from the books supporting my side. There was, however, a single image which kept a small flicker of doubt alive in my mind.
It was Alan-as-Snape jumping in front of the trio to block them from Lupin the werewolf in the third movie. This scene never occurred in the books yet it seemed so deliberate. Why do something so wildly out of character…unless it wasn’t? Turns out, it wasn’t. I was wrong. Snape wasn’t exactly one of the good guys, but he certainly wasn’t evil.
Fans will remember Alan Rickman for so many of his roles: Colonel Brandon, Hans Gruber, Metatron, the Caterpillar, Alexander Dane, Harry, Judge Turpin, the list goes on. For me, he will always stand out as Severus Snape and one of the best cinematic and literary examples of the power of enduring love.
This is why we’re fans. This is why we’re nerds. This is why we make up screen names, join forums, learn made-up languages, and buy t-shirts with catchphrases. We latch onto those moments of storytelling which tell us something meaningful – something that gives us hope and inspiration for how the world could be. We are grateful to the writers who create those stories for us and to the actors who bring them to life. Thank you, Mr. Rickman, for giving this gift to the nerds.