I do not remember my first Alan Rickman film. It may have been the original Die Hard since I tended to watch movies like that at a young age with my parents. Of course, given my (almost) life long obsession with Harry Potter Alan Rickman has always been Severus Snape in my mind. In the books when Snape died I did not cry. I felt intrigued, sad, and a touch indignant. My brain swiftly traced back through the previous books to connect the dots between Snape’s confession and the general plot. I felt sad for him, not because of his unrequited love exactly but because he never allowed himself to see beyond his ‘One True Love.’ He never moved on and that made me indignant because no matter what he went through justifies his treatment of Harry. Although as the saying goes it takes two to tango, Harry was just as much to blame as Snape.
On the same level though Snape serves as a reminder that being the victim of bullying does not make you less of a person. Regardless of his abusive home life and his position as a social outcast at school, the latter of which still makes me feel extremely disappointed in Hogwarts for its lack of care, he became someone. He pursued his passion for potions. He devoted himself to teaching the next generation of witches and wizards. He cared deeply for his students even if it was not obvious. He protected Hogwarts even when his colleagues and his students saw him as the enemy. In the film Snape only uses defensive spells when he ends up duelling Minerva McGonagall in Deathly Hallows Part 2. In this scene he even uses his last spell to take out the vicious Carrows behind him before he flees the duel. In a way I love his character. He is complex and I cannot hate him.
However, this post is intended to discuss Rickman and the larger social role that actors, artists, and musicians play in our current society. I am not here for a Harry Potter debate today. I want to pay tribute to Rickman in my own way. It was his portrayal of Snape that helped me to sympathize with the character. Yes, I felt deeply saddened when the final film premiered and he died on screen. His portrayal was masterful and no one else could ever had played him with as much depth or emotion. He made me feel connected to Snape. He was talented and thank goodness some of that talent (which I believe was probably magnified tenfold on stage) is immortalized on film.
This past Monday when my Instagram feed was full of David Bowie images I must confess I did not feel torn up inside. While I am aware of Bowie’s significant contributions to the music scene and I appreciate his music along with his other achievements I am not a Bowie fan. Several of my professors though made a specific mention of the impact he had upon their lives. One of my professors cited Bowie as his hero while another had not heard the news until after our class and so sent out an email to all of us about her sadness regarding his passing. I understand their reactions now though. This morning though when I heard of Rickman’s passing I found myself caught between crying and laughing because I was feeling so much emotion. I was in the Humanities lounge with a friend when we heard the news and thankfully we both were in a similar state upon hearing the announcement.
No matter what some people may say artists, actors, authors and musicians can be heroes – many of them already are. Celebrities are not shallow by virtue of being celebrities. They are in a unique position with the media constantly covering their every move. They have the choice and the opportunity to use their lives to send a larger message to their fans and followers. They are not gods, make no mistake, they are human but they are humans gifted, usually, with talent. As Rickman once said, “Talent is an accident of genes – and a responsibility,” and he carried that burden of celebrity gracefully.
For some reason we identify more with creative people than with politicians, businessmen, or academics and celebrities have taken notice. Perhaps we see them as succeeding where we have not or perhaps we appreciate them because they give life to ideas that we would never otherwise see reflected in society. There is something magical about people who make a living being creative; they are living the dream. In turn they inspire us to pursue our own dreams. They remind us that we are not alone.
As I write this I am reminded of the lyrics to the X AMBASSADORS song “Renegades” which state “So, all hail the underdogs / All hail the new kids / All hail the outlaws / Spielbergs and Kubricks“. We exist in an amazing time where the avenues of creativity are seemingly infinite, especially due to technological advances. Sometimes we need to draw upon those that inspire us in order to become the people we want to be in the future. I admire Alan Rickman. Yes, I am using the present tense because despite his passing I still admire him. I admire his choices and what he represents. I do not remember my first Alan Rickman movie but I will remember him.