Thursday, January 14, 2016

RIP Alan Rickman

(BEWARE: Spoilers abound.)

I became a Harry Potter fan because I was forced to. I mean that literally. I, unlike many Potter fans, was an adult when the first book came to the United States in 1998. I was twenty-one at the time. I don't remember precisely when I first heard about the Potter phenomenon, but to me it was for kids. I couldn't get why all of these adults were reading this kids book. I was never going to do it. Then, I met this new girl (that I later married and eventually divorced) and she loved it... and there was still no way. She had a degree in Elementary Education and a collection of Captain Underpants books as well. I was now CONVINCED that this was kids stuff. Then a funny thing happened.

I lost my job less than two weeks before Christmas. I had no money saved. I was screwed. My only activities involved searching for a job, reading and sleep. Nicole got me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for Christmas. I still wasn't going to read it, but I liked this chick. She bought me this book for Christmas and I wasn't working, so I didn't have an excuse. I figured I'd try to gut my way through the first ten pages and call it a day. I mean, she can't be mad if I at least TRIED, right? Then another funny thing happened.

I loved that book. I was sitting at her house one day while she was at work when I read it. When she got home from that work I was about halfway through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I had taken it off of her bookshelf. I was also really hungry because I had forgotten to eat lunch. I'm a three-hundred pound man. That just doesn't happen. By the weekend I had read all the way through book four. That was as far as the series went at the time. I saw the first movie that weekend (at a second run discount theater) as well and the second one the following weekend. I was hooked.

Harry Potter is, of course, a work of fantasy. Fantasy does not work without a good villain. There has to be something to fight against to move the plot. The ultimate villain is Voldemort, but in the first few books - really until the death of Cedric Diggory - the more immediate villain is Snape. He hates Potter with a passion. Snape wants to fail Harry not because of his classwork but out of sheer Jealousy. Snape is an evil prick. If you don't want to slap Snape in his arrogant, overbearing face at least once you're not a Potter fan. I found out about Snape's good guy status much later, just like the rest of you but I'll never truly LIKE the character in the way I like Harry, Ron or Hermione. Respect, sure. Pity, yes. Hell, I'd trust him at my back in a battle, but I wouldn't want to have a beer with the guy, ever. I'd end up freaking out at the guy and walking out.

The movies cemented that opinion for me. Snape was an evil bastard. There was no two ways about it. Alan Rickman didn't just play that character. When the lights were on and the camera was rolling, Rickman WAS Snape. Seriously. How many of you out there can read those books and not HEAR Snape being a cocky, condescending, smarmy asshole in Rickman's voice. There may have been better actors from a technical standpoint as relates to some aspect of the craft that I have no clue about. I have never seen an actor so completely become a character though. I don't know if another actor anywhere in the world could have sold me so completely on Snape's face turn. This was the guy who had performed the Unbreakable Vow charm on Draco and killed Dumbledore. Somehow though, some way he got me through it as he sat on the floor dying and remembering his long-lost unrequited love. In like thirty seconds Rickman, through Snape changed my entire perspective on a character I had been following for years at that point. Rowling's writing hadn't managed that in the book. Rickman's performance did.

And today, I woke up on my day off and found out that we had lost Alan Rickman overnight. I posted a quick Facebook status about it and had planned to go on about my day. I've got stuff to get done, right? I mean I've got groceries to get, an apartment to clean and a head to shave. I haven't eaten yet today. We've lost countless famous people over the years and many who have had more influence over than Alan Rickman. Right? I mean, I just realized that Alan Rickman is one of my favorite actors but he's just an actor. Right? Well...

Not only am I a blogger, I am also an as yet unpublished writer of fiction. I have some well defined and measure goals and some that are quite subjective. One of the subjective goals is to one day write a character like Severus Snape. A character who can act like a villain for an entire series and then turn on a dime at the end and make the reader re-evaluate everything they know about him. A character that a member of the audience may have hated for years and then consider in an entirely new light at the end. Snape is one of the greatest characters I've ever read. Period. Dot. END OF SENTENCE.

And yet, it's not Rowling's words on a page that I remember when I think of Snape. I mean, she clearly deserves a ton credit for conceiving and writing the character. For me though, it was Rickman's voice, his facial expressions and his skill that really makes this character for me. When (if) I manage to hit that milestone and reach that goal it won't be Rowling I'll be thinking of and comparing myself to. It will be the performance of Rickman. He did it right.

So rest in peace Alan Rickman. Be assured that your fans will never forget you. I will never forget you. You will live on through your legacy of only God knows how many characters, most of which had nothing to do with Harry Potter. Yet, at the end of the day, you'll always be Snape to me. He was your greatest and meant the most to so many. Farewell and Godspeed.

Some Harry Potter titles are available at the links below:

No comments:

Post a Comment