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03 October 2013 @ 06:52 pm
I know what you are probably all thinking- Snape, a hated character? He was voted Favourite Harry Potter Character in numerous polls, how can you say he's hated?

But honestly, I can't go to a single corner of the net without people writing essays about how Snape is irredeemable, evil, a Nice Guy(tm), a creeper etc etc. People even make up things the character hasn't even done! I'll get to that in a minute.

I'd also like the point out that there are other corners of the net that annoy me for wholly different reasons: where people completely go the opposite route and woobify Snape to hell and back where he can do no wrong, where all his bad points are completely erased and he is completely unrecognizable as a character. The same people write screeds about how J K Rowling is a "bitch" for acknowledging Snape's bad points. Apparently saying a character is made up of shades of grey means you "hate" them. I fail to see how Rowling "hates" Snape when she not only made him the catalyst for the entire book series, she also had Harry admit in the epilogue that Severus Snape was his hero.

I will argue that Snape isn't a wholly good character, and that he does have bad points, but that doesn't make him wholly UNLIKEABLE. There are sections of the net where it's practically criminal to admit that you like Snape even if you acknowledge his bad points. So people either despise him or erase all those bad points in their heads so that they can feel better about it. To do either, I think, does the character a huge disservice. I will also argue that for all his faults, Snape ultimately undergoes a change in the later books, and becomes a good man, though the clues are so subtle they are easy to miss.

First, I'm going to acknowledge Snape's bad points. He is, in the words of J.K. Rowling: "mean, spiteful and bully" to his students. There aint no excuse for this- he is. To some extent I can understand (but not condone) his aversion and anger towards Harry Potter, becuse of what Harry repesents, but his behaviour towards Neville and Hermione seems to stem from pure spite.

Not gonna lie though, I really enjoy reading the parts of the books where Severus is being a jerk to the class, because he reminds me of a Roald Dahl villian- and I think he was deliberately written that way to throw us off the scent (Dahl's villians, while fun to hate/read remained mean and spiteful to the end and lacking further character development).

Snape's other bad points obviously all come from his younger days. He stupidly got involved with a crowd of people heading towards being members of a hate group and it cost him his friendship with Lily, the only person who ever cared about him. No one is to blame for this but himself. Lily tried to talk him out of it and he wouldn't listen. He didn't realize how royally he had screwed up until the very power he thought would ultimately impress Lily wanted her dead. This almost completely mirrors Dumbledore's youth, which I will get to later on.

I don't think Snape qualifies as a "Nice Guy"(tm)- he is a lot more complex than that (I'm actually so sick of seeing arguments about this subject. Why do all unrequited feelings in stories now equate to the bloody "friendzone/Nice Guy" trope??). He also doesn't hate Lily when she stops being his friend- something such people tend to do. He never hates her. If he fit the nice guy trope I imagine he would take all of his bitterness out on her directly, go Death Eater and never look back.

I also think it's a misconception that Snape completely favours Slytherin students. I'm sure there is SOME favourtism, but that's because he is head of house. I think it's more that he favours MALFOY. The reasons for this, I think, are that Lucius is a friend from schooldays and they are close. Then of course there is background political pressure from the Death Eaters to appear as if their children are superior to other houses and Snape's promise to Narcissa to look out for Draco. This passage from OOTP supports my theory that Snape didn't particularly like any students:

I have no idea. Potter, when I want nonsense shouted at me I shall give you a Babbling Beverage. And Crabbe, loosen your hold a little, if Longbottom suffocates it will mean a lot of tedious paperwork, and I am afraid I shall have to mention it on your reference if ever you apply for a job.

Bam. He not only deflects Umbridge's question he subtly insults Crabbe in the same fell swoop. I still don't know how Crabbe and Goyle ended up in Slytherin...they aren't terribly cunning.

I think Snape's shift into becoming more mature comes with the revelation that he has to kill Dumbledore. He's completely alone at that point. Everyone on the good side hates his guts and believes him to be a murderer, and everyone on the bad side is being fooled by him. He has no where to turn to for solace. His only mentor is dead, and the Boy Who Lived believes he is a coward.

One of the passages that really solidifies that Snape is trying to overcome him bitterness and be a better person (beyond his obvious feelings for Lily) is this scene from The Prince's Tale in the final book- and it's amazingly easy to miss because everyone is focusing on his love for Lily Evans :

‘You will have to give Voldemort the correct date of Harry’s departure from his aunt and uncle’s,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Not to do so will raise suspicion, when Voldemort believes you so well-informed. However, you must plant the idea of decoys – that, I think, ought to ensure Harry’s safety. Try Confunding Mundungus Fletcher. And Severus, if you are forced to take part in the chase, be sure to act your part convincingly … I am counting upon you to remain in Lord Voldemort’s good books as long as possible, or Hogwarts will be left to the mercy of the Carrows …’

Then what does Snape do?

Now Harry was flying alongside Snape on a broomstick through a clear dark night: he was accompanied by other hooded Death Eaters, and ahead were Lupin and a Harry who was really George … a Death Eater moved ahead of Snape and raised his wand, pointing it directly at Lupin’s back – ‘Sectumsempra!’ shouted Snape. But the spell, intended for the Death Eater’s wand hand, missed and hit George instead –

He doesn't even have to THINK about it. After all he and Lupin have been through, after his rivalry and bitterness towards the marauders he disregards Dumbledore's orders to play his part and saves Lupin's life at the risk of being exposed and the entire plan going to hell. He does the right thing without pause. I've seen people say Snape cursed George's ear off on purpose (this is what I mean when I say people who hate him invent stuff he hasn't even done) because they are so determined to paint him as a completely black and white evil character.

Then there's this quote, which is really important, because it shows that Snape is risking his neck to HELP people that have nothing to do with the greater plan:

Dumbledore opened his eyes. Snape looked horrified. ‘You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?’ ‘Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?’ ‘Lately, only those whom I could not save,’ said Snape.

Everything is revealed at that moment. Dumbledore has been a master manipulator and been using Snape and Harry for the "greater good" (Heck, HE should have been in Slytherin! What cunning!) His ideas/beliefs are noble, his methods aren't.

I also find it interesting that Snape is hated for his past but most people do not even acknowledge Dumbledore's. Once he fell in love with Grindelwald he was all for the idea of Wizard Supremacy. As Rowling states: "He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrustful of his own judgement in those matters so became quite asexual. He led a celibate and a bookish life."

The same thing happened to Snape. A lot of people argue that Snape would have never gone turncoat had it not been for Lily being targeted by Voldemort, and that's likely true. But Dumbledore didn't reject Grindelwald's dangerous ideas until his sister Ariana was killed.

Wiki sums it up nicely:

Soon afterward, a young Gellert Grindelwald arrived in Godric's Hollow to live with his great-aunt, Bathilda Bagshot, author of A History of Magic. The two young men took to each other immediately, and together they dreamed of a world ruled by wizards over Muggles by uniting the legendary Deathly Hallows. They believed that if they were forced to destroy a few along the way, it would still be "for the greater good", and the sufferings and losses would be rewarded a hundredfold in the end.

Snape and Albus are very alike when it comes to their past, but Dumbledore is nice on the surface and manipulative underneath. Snape is nasty on the surface but ultimately does have morals and struggles to do the right thing, despite his Death Eater past. Dumbledore is still fixated on the "greater good."

I'm not saying we should all hate Dumbledore, I just think I little perspective would be nice.

I could carry on forever, but I suspect that entire tomes could be written about the character and I do not have time to write tomes.

Bottom line: I do not think Severus Snape is a nice man, but he is a good man, and he became a better man as his mission got harder. I think this is absolutely incredible, as it's an extremely hard thing to do- To hold onto bravery, loyalty and love when under such incredible stress, when everyone hates you, when you cannot confide in anyone.

I think the character deserves better than either complete scorn or complete woobification.

If you'd made it through this essay (and hopefully enjoyed it), I have a bonus for you, A Severus Snape song list:

Gravedigger's Song by Mark Lanegan Band (The death of the Potters/Snape grieves over Lily/Snape defects to Dumbledore)
Lights in the Sky by Nine Inch Nails
Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd (Because Snape IS a bastard to his students)
Man in the Long Black Coat Bob Dylan cover by Mark Lanegan (Narcissa goes to Snape for help/the Unbreakable Vow)
Hand of Sorrow by Within Temptation (Snape has to kill Dumbledore)
I would for you by Nine Inch Nails (Snape's memories)
Current Mood: tiredtired
sleepherealone: free as my hairsleepherealone on October 3rd, 2013 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this post! It doesn't really bother me if people personally don't care for Snape because we all have our different opinions, but the constant beating a dead horse of what an irredeemably awful person he is and all the reasons why make me go crazy because it feels like just one step from people saying they judge you if you like him even if you don't woobify or excuse his actions, and it's so exhausting. You can like characters and find them fascinating without thinking they're good people! It also bothers me because it seems like HP fandom tries to find the good points of literally almost every other character in the series but NO SNAPE IS REALLY HORRIBLE YOU CAN'T LIKE HIM.
if it bites it's probably interesting.: squidletginasketch on October 3rd, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
because it feels like just one step from people saying they judge you if you like him even if you don't woobify or excuse his actions

Yesss! This exactly. And it was the same arguments over and over. And people acting like 9 year old Snape was some kind of creepy sexual stalker because he hid behind a bush before working up the courage to speak to Lily. I mean...just...what??
sleepherealone: free as my hairsleepherealone on October 3rd, 2013 11:33 pm (UTC)
Well OBVIOUSLY he was bad from the beginning and every single thing he does is awful so that makes sense! Except not. And it wouldn't bother me as much either if it was just random people across fandom yelling about how much they hate him and how bad of a person he is, but it can't help but hurt my feelings when friends of mine reblog almost every single one of those anti-Snape posts. It's fine if people don't like him and they're free to express their opinions but idk, it's just common courtesy to not always scream about why you hate someone somebody else likes right in their face.
if it bites it's probably interesting.: pppginasketch on October 3rd, 2013 11:50 pm (UTC)
I just got tired of seeing it on my dash over and over. It was like a broken record. Also, I find it telling that we can acknowledge Snape's bullying of students is wrong but anti-snape people think he deserved to get bullied by the Marauders. Agh. No, it's all wrong, people!

I know what you mean about feeling personally attacked. Everytime I see someone say Snape deserved his bullying and that "it wasn't that bad" I think of my own experiences at school and how strongly they can shape you as a person. Not cool.
ringing_phone: Here's Fawful!ringing_phone on October 6th, 2013 12:53 am (UTC)
Pardon me for being off-topic, but Impossibly Cute Squid Alert. :)
if it bites it's probably interesting.: Potoooooginasketch on October 6th, 2013 10:17 am (UTC)
Always happy to discuss cute animals, especially unconventionally cute ones!
ringing_phone: Here's Fawful!ringing_phone on October 6th, 2013 01:01 am (UTC)
Nice defense; I especially like your point that you can be a fan of Snape and still acknowledge his character flaws. He was my favorite character, and most of that comes from his constant air of ambiguity; from his first appearance onward, he's never been exactly what he appears - and that always makes him more interesting. Neither Harry nor I knew when he was going to show up, or whether his arrival meant help or obstruction. And yet on top of all that, he was still a consistent character who never lost that distinctive voice of his no matter what he was doing. I don't ask that characters be nice so much as interesting, and damn, was Snape interesting.
if it bites it's probably interesting.: troll cassowaryginasketch on October 6th, 2013 12:21 pm (UTC)
The fact that people are still arguing about him now proves he is an interesting character. 100 years from now people will probably still be arguing about him.