In lieu of my usual post today (and because this has taken up much of my thoughts), I’d like to just take a moment to remember Alan Rickman.
In many ways, I can’t believe he is gone, because for those of us who grew up loving Harry Potter, his face is iconic and heart-touching in an unbelievably powerful way. It seems impossible to believe someone who helped to create a universe we never want to leave has left ours.
Alan Rickman was known by all as a fabulous character actor, one of the greatest, in fact. He played one of the most iconic and controversial characters for my generation- Severus Snape. My mention of his role as Snape is in no way to diminish his other acting accomplishments, which I understand were brilliant, but Severus Snape had an effect unlike any other. I’ve seen so much written about this character, especially on Tumblr. On the one hand, Snape is the greatest of unexpected heroes. He reminds each and every one of us that true goodness can be hidden inside of anyone, and sacrifices are made by the most unexpected of people for the most unlikely of reasons. He is the light in the darkness, as JK Rowling’s famous line reminds us:
“Remember, Harry, that happiness can be found even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
On the other hand, Snape made some very questionable decisions contrary to his great sacrifice, including playing out his personal vendetta against James Potter by antagonizing Harry and his cruel treatment of Neville Longbottom. These complexities have ignited much conversation. Is someone good because of one great sacrifice, or millions of tiny acts of goodness added up?
Much of this brilliant complexity is due to the wonder that is JK Rowling’s writing, which manages literary greatness and children’s entertainment in one stroke. But so much more of Snape’s further reach, of the truly iconic status of his character, is due to Alan Rickman. Rickman was the only person on the set of all the Harry Potter movies (until Deathly Hallows came out) to be trusted with Snape’s entire character arc from the beginning, and he played him flawlessly, combing the evil we all loved to hate in the early books with the complexity we love to investigate. No other actor could have done a better job at playing Snape, arguably the most important character in the Wizarding World, then Alan Rickman. He brought Snape to life in every possible complexity, and we Muggles owe him.
Alan Rickman’s most important contribution though, was as a fan. Harry Potter saved my generation. It brought us back to books, back to debating great ideas and fighting evil, and Alan Rickman understood that perhaps better than anyone. This quote, famously attributed to Rickman, encompasses the entirety of what Harry Potter has meant and will continue to mean.
Though recently it has come out that Rickman was not, in fact, the one who said this, I think it is a fitting tribute to the man to remember these as his words. After all, he is, and always will be, Severus Snape. And after all this time, he can now always get the respect he deserves.
Rest in Peace, Alan. I hope you have gone to a good place. I know all of us Muggles wish you well.
Everyone, please turn to page 394 and remember Alan Rickman. Always.