Friday, January 15, 2016

A Few Things I Learned From Severus Snape (A Tribute To Alan Rickman)

I don't know if you know this, but a few years ago, a genius named JK Rowling wrote a book series called Harry Potter. The series gained a following, Harry Potter became an immortal legend, and Ms. JK Rowling became a success the likes of which the literary world had never seen. In the wake of that success, the books became movies -- movies that gave birth to stars.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were fresh-faced young actors when the world met them as Harry, Hermione, and Ron, but by then Alan Rickman was a seasoned actor with a solid fan base of his own. He was the villain in Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and he won several awards for his performance as Rasputin in Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny.

Perhaps most notably, Alan Rickman was the unimaginably talented actor through whom Severus Snape came to life.

Severus Snape was a complicated character; he was somehow able to turn out as a perfectly seamless cross between villain and hero, and to this day only Ms. JK Rowling can know which side of him was greater. For those who despise him, however few they may be, Severus Snape was a selfish and bitter character who can only be marginally redeemed by the great depth of his story -- especially after his actions in the end of Henry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

But for those who learned to love him ...

  1. It's easy to judge someone ... until you get to know them. It is often unpleasant to walk in someone else's shoes and decide without having all the facts that someone is "good" or "bad," but the truth is, the world just isn't that black and white. It isn't up to you to decide how someone else lives their life. And just like it should be okay for someone else to freely be who they are ...
  2. It's okay for you to freely be who you are. Unless of course, you're a pedophile or a rapist or something, in which case, you should maybe try being someone else because you're messed up. But if you're just a regular person with issues and quirks that make you who you are, with a past that still touches you and problems you probably wish you didn't have, then go ahead and give yourself some compassion. Understand that you are where you are, for whatever the reasons may be, and forgive yourself. Give yourself kindness. Learn to embrace being shorter or taller than most people, learn to appreciate your body for its health, not its appearance. Learn good ways to utilize an overabundance of energy or talkativeness. And if there are things about you that can be improved, improve them with compassion. But stop beating yourself up and listening to people who would make you unable to see the goodness inside you. Be the best you, sure, but be YOU. Because ...
  3. You can't please all the people all the time. It doesn't matter how hard you try, someone is still going to think you're doing it wrong. Either you've overshooting, or you're living under your potential, or you're failing someone, or you're too pushy, or not pretty or smart enough, or too this thing or too that thing. But you know what? Wherever you go, there you are. You're stuck with you, and there's no getting away from that. So the only person you need to truly please is yourself (within the limitations of your local laws and/or religion, of course.) So be a YOU pleaser, not an OTHER PEOPLE pleaser. And because internalizing this one concept will make you so much more true to yourself, you'll be able to ...
  4. Love freely, and love hard. Severus Snape loved Lilly Potter with his whole heart. He loved her so ferociously, it stood the test of time even though she was married to his childhood enemy and had a child with the husband Snape despised. And he didn't try to step in and ruin what she had so that she would turn to him, he was just there, on the sidelines, loving her in the only way available to him. And when he learned that she was in danger and needed protection, he arranged that protection, not just for her, and not just for her and her son, but for her, her son, and her husband. He loved her so deeply and so majestically that what he truly wanted for her was HER happiness, in spite of the loss of HIS. Did it hurt him? Yes, undoubtedly. Just as it will hurt you if you do it. But it's worth it, and I'm sure that when Snape looked into Harry's eyes that last time, he didn't regret one tiny bit of the sacrifices he had made for Lilly's sake.
  5. It's never too late for a second chance. Snape was a death eater. He was a murderer. A liar. A criminal. He was all sorts of horrible things, unspeakable things. But even he had a little bit of good in him, and he had someone in his life who could see it even when he couldn't (and no, obviously it wasn't Lilly). And in the end, all was forgiven as we learned that this horrible, bitter, unspeakably demoralizing character had a backstory that could break our hearts. We hated him for being mean to Harry, and we listened as everyone told Harry how like his father he was, how much he looked like him. Remember, Snape saw that resemblance too. We watched Snape being mean to the students, strict and condescending, and we hated him for it. But we didn't know that he was hardened by so many years of hurting at the hands of others, and that he was using the only coping mechanism he had for self-protection. Most of us hated him when he ... did what he did in the end of Half Blood Prince. But if we were watching closely, we knew why he did it, and as hard as it was, we understood the good behind his motivation. In doing what he did, Severus Snape gave what he had to protect a child who was not yet lost, to save a child from committing a heinous act he could never come back from. And he did it again in Deathly Hallows II. He was a vile, hateful, spiteful, criminal with no compassion and a black, black heart. But he was also such an unforgettable and unspeakably courageous hero that he will always be remembered for his story, his softness, his powerful sense of love and loyalty ... and his sacrifice.

Tonight, my wand is raised for Severus Snape -- and for Alan Rickman, in honor of his flawless portrayal of one of the most complex characters literature has ever seen. I didn't know him, and I won't pretend I did. But my heart hurts for the loss of his life, and for the blow to his friends and family members who now have to continue on without him. I am so thankful for his skill as an actor, for the unfailing kind support he showed to his coworkers always. I'm thankful for the lessons he taught me through his acting, lessons that had nothing at all to do with potions and everything to do with humanity. I'm thankful for his depth of expression, for his realism, and for the dedication he put into making Severus Snape take that final leap from JK Rowling's imagination to mine. Because of him, my heart is forever on ... Page three hundred and ninety four.

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