Every time I see #ripalanrickman a little piece of me dies. Harry Potter wasn’t my first introduction to this formidable actor, but it was, without a doubt, the one which has had the greatest impact on my life. I could write an entire novel on how that series and it’s characters and many reiterations have changed me, several in all likelihood, but today I’d like to simply remember Alan Rickman, a phenomenal actor who passed away, on Thursday.
I think it can be hard, as fans of books, films, music and so on, to separate people from their performances. It’s one of the greatest things we can do as artists, to give a little piece of ourselves away in our creations but it leaves our audiences in this awkward middle ground. Can we the fans celebrate or mourn someone we never truly knew with as much validity and emotion as someone who lived by their side over the decades?
Yes and no.
To know someone, and know of someone are very different beasts, and I appreciate that while J.K. Rowling changed my life and those of many of my friends, we will probably never meet her, and that’s okay. We don’t have to meet our idols to experience pain at their passing. My greatest prayers and sorrow goes to those left behind by this man, but I do believe that if you saw the news of Alan Rickman’s death on TV or on Twitter or Facebook, and your heart caught in your chest, your tongue swelled, pins pricked against your eyes, and you made your way to some other source of information to confirm the horrible truth, then yes, mourn. If you felt enough of an emotional upheaval in your day that you took the time to post something, whether it was 140 characters or 2,000 words, then by all means, pay tribute. Please respect the privacy and feelings of those who knew this man personally, but also respect your community, the other fans, whether they come to the circle from Harry Potter, or Die Hard, or any of the other dozens (hundreds?) of other works this great man had a hand in.
Somehow I keep coming back to my Harry Potter background in all of this and the unfairness of death and the tragedy of it all. We are a large community, and that’s something I take pride in. This fandom has hijacked every aspect of my life from the Hogwarts sweat shirt that I’ve had since I was eleven (that I’m still wearing right now, about to turn 26), to the Time Turner hanging from my monitor, and the HP earrings I’m wearing, to the wand sitting with all my pens in a Butterbeer mug on my desk, and countless other tiny things (Leakycon yearbook 2012 anyone). Everywhere I look in my room and my past, Harry Potter has been there and will continue to come along with me and now I feel like some security blanket has been ripped away. Obviously not everything was peachy in Deathly Hollows and anyone who has read the books or seen the films knows this to be true, particularly in the case of Severus Snape, but Alan Rickman’s death feels like something sacred has been broken. Obviously we are all human and by definition bound to die (Timelords and Sherlock excluded) but I’ve never given thought to these actors who have played such important roles in my life dying.
I am one of those HP Generation kids who was eleven when I started the series and was 13 when the golden trio was, and 15 when they were and so forth. I aged as my favorite characters did and I know from my own experience and those of countless other fans that I’ve known over the years, that this had a huge impact on why the books mean so much to me. But I’ve never really considered that Snape and McGonagall and Hagrid and so forth were the adults in my life. Whether JKR intended it or not, these were my babysitters when my parents were busy. They were my nagging conscience as I grew up, made friends, got into trouble, or contemplated it. Granted, I didn’t fight a dark lord for the future of the wizarding world, but I did break out of my dorm a time or two during my years in boarding school, and I did raise my hand too much in classes, and I was a part of some epic pranks, and even a secret club. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the better (best) part of who I grew up to be was influenced by the values presented to me in those books, and for better or worse, Severus Snape taught us all about love, and loyalty, and the shortest goddamn end of the stick. He taught us about consequences, and doing what’s right over what is easy. He taught us that sometimes we make horrible mistakes, and life goes on. He taught us that sometimes one stupid choice can change our entire lives.
I may have learned a great deal from the characters who were my peers in age and wisdom, but I don’t believe that there was another adult character who so greatly influenced me. He’s a cautionary tale of sorts, and more than once he is the villain, but ultimately, we feel for him, and his pain, in spite of everything he did. In the novels Snape’s story touched me, but in the films, under Alan Rickman’s graceful pain and steadfast loyalty, I cried. When I finally left the theater, tear stained and slow, it’s the image of Professor Snape holding Lily Evans’ body while baby Harry watches that I remember. When I think of his character that is the moment I see, closely followed by his own tear stained face as he tells Harry that he has his mother’s eyes (which is a huge fan-film debate for another day). Ultimately, in these moments of acting, this magnificent man brought a piece of my childhood, and my imagination to life.
I’m forever grateful to Alan Rickman for his creations and the fantastic roles he played, and for moving me in every one of them. To the greatest man we’ve ever known. #Lumos
For Harry Potter fans I leave you with these two videos. The first is a song called The End of an Era by a wizard rock band (wrock, look it up, it’s a thing) called Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls. The second is a compilation of all Severus Snape’s scenes in the films in chronological order. You will probably cry. #Sorrynotsorry
If anyone would like to reminisce or just share how they’re feeling please feel free to comment below. I think us fans could really use each other right now.