Blogger’s Note: When I started to thinking about Secondary Character Saturday somehow Alan Rickman kept coming to mind. He’s been around for a long time, he’s been in a LOT of great movies, and he’s almost always in the secondary character spot. He’s PERFECT for this blog segment. But WHICH Alan Rickman role to feature on Secondary Character Saturday? Ah that’s the rub. He’s done everything from rom-com, to Shakespeare, to comic science fiction, to serious drama. Which side of A.R. do I show? Frankly, I couldn’t decide. So I’m claiming the month of MARCH as Alan Rickman Month! (He’s also one of my all time favorite actors so I wont mind spending a month researching him and maybe re-watching a few movies!)
Who: Professor Severus Snape
From: The Harry Potter series
By: J.K. Rowling wrote the fabulous and engaging books. The movies were directed with varying degrees of success by different people. For my money Alfonso Cuarón saved (the movie) franchise from generic blandom with his wickedly good HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and David Yates brought the magic in HP and the Deathly Hallows 1&2.
Released: The character of Severus Snape first appeared in June of 1997 when Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Great Britain. We first got to see A.R. as Snape in 2001 with the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Pros: He’s brilliant, of course. He’s got fantastic wand skills and is so fab at potions that he literally rewrote the book. He’s inventive, hard-working, intuitive. He protects Harry even though he can’t stand him. He teaches Harry Occlumency so he can keep Voldemort out of his mind. He’s acts as a double agent for Dumbledore. And he’s loyal to Lily, his one true and unrequited love. Having made both Lily and Dumbledore (and Narcissa Malfoy) promises he stops at nothing to keep them. He’s the perfect Slytherin.
Cons: Well… he’s mean. He’s REALLY mean to Harry! And that’s just not right! (OK I’ve got that off my chest. But lets face it, Snape isn’t the meanest one of the lot. He’s got nothing on Umbridge.) He’s a bully and he takes out his resentment for what James Potter did to him on Harry. He’s spiteful, malicious, angry, bitter, resentful, and cruel. He always favors Slytherin . He’s a double spy for Voldemort. He’s a Death Eater. And he KILLS Dumbledore! He’s the perfect Slytherin.
Still from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Snape rushes in front of Harry, Ron and Hermione to protect them from a werewolf. Maybe he’s just being a good teacher/adult. But I doubt whether some other teachers at the school would have done the same. [Image courtesy: Warner Brothers]
Most Shining Moment: I agree with Harry Potter Blog Spot who picks Dumbledore’s Death as Snape’s Shining Moment “For to honor Dumbledore’s wishes and protect Harry’s (and Draco’s) life, Snape risked the damage his own soul that this horrific act would bring.” [Harry Potter blog spot] It is the crowning action of commitment, loyalty and self-sacrifice, while on the outside (and to the reader) it looks completely the opposite.
Least Shining Moment: All the times he was meaner than he had to be to Harry and the other students who weren’t in Slytherin … and when he killed Dumbledore.
The Mary Grandpre illustration of Half-Blood Prince.
Yeah, I know I sound schizophrenic, but things with Snape are COMPLICATED. And nothing in the books was more complex and, dare I say, misleading, than Snape’s killing Dumbledore. When it happened it was THE WORST THING EVER in the HP universe and I didn’t think I could ever forgive Snape. Up until then Rawlings had given me enough ammunition to forgive away his nastiness towards Harry. But this? How could he be redeemed from this? Hmmmm. Things have changed.
He remained true to himself by remaining loyal to Dumbledore and his lost love. As the stakes and danger increased for him, and Dumbledore pushed him to greater acts of spying and risk, Snape met these challenges bravely, even if irritably, to protect the son of the man he loathed and thereby preserve the memory of the woman he loved. [Ibid]
Something clearly resonates with Snape. He was the top pick of for favorite character in a poll done by the H.P. British publisher Bloomsbury. He received 20% of the votes in the poll that asked readers to rank their favorite 40 characters. (Hermione came in second. Harry was a distant 5th!)
Not to take anything away from the Snape Rowlings painted on the page, but Alan Rickman’s nuisanced performance as the greasy haired potions professor had a lot to do with that high rating. He’s delightful to watch throughout the series. (He makes the first couple of movies bearable with his dark, snarkiness). And as Snape’s story arch progresses Rickman’s performance builds in a measured, restrained, mysterious pace. He respects the character enough not to give anything away. He’s multidimensional in a very limited scope of dimension, many shades of black, as it were. And he’s fun to watch … right up to the moment he makes you cry.
Sorry the text is small in the comic:This is what it says…
Snape wakes from the dream to find his daughter at his bed side.
She asks “Are you awake?”
He reaches out to touch her red hair — she looks so much like Lily “Yes.”
She smiles “Mommy says pancakes are ready.”
Life is good.
Frankly… (if you haven’t guessed) I’m not a big fan of the HP movies. (LOVED the books — so don’t kick me out the club — but he movies… for the most part … eh.) But Rickman was always worth watching.
So which other A.R. characters should we tackle this month? We’ve got 4 more Saturdays in the month so get your votes in!
- Hans Gruber (Die Hard’s evil bad guy)
- Alexander Dane (Galaxy Quest’s classically trained science officer)
- Dr. Blalock (the life saving doctor in Something the Lord Made)
- Judge Turpin (the evil judge in Sweeny Todd)
- Steven Spurrier (the wine snob from Bottle Shock)
- Alex (the grief-stricken stranger in Snow Cake)
- Jamie (the cello playing ghost in Truely, Madly, Deeply), or
- Col Christopher Brandon (from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensiblity) — Yeah, I’m doing Branon.
To see how Rickman “elevates the role of a villain from the plain ol’ bastard to a bastard coated bastard with bastard filling.”…go to the excellent blog The Many Faces of Alan Rickman.