Professor Snape gone?
Well, actually it’s Alan Rickman. But to millions of people he will always be Professor Snape. This is not a eulogy about the actor, though he was extremely talented and from what those who worked with him say, he also possessed a truly remarkable character.
His passing was all over social media with the outcry of fans commenting, “Noooooo!”
There is a shock and a sadness that comes to readers when our bubble is burst and we receive news of the passing of a beloved character from the real world.
For a moment, we are bitterly reminded of the parallel between the actual and the made-up. That the imaginary world that we love and hold onto so dearly, doesn’t really exist. We of course know this on a cognitive level, we aren’t totally loopy. But still… somewhere deep inside, we hold onto a possibility that maybe it could exist.
With good characters, and I mean good, as in their persona somehow becomes so familiar they are like family, we immortalize them. The fictional world and the characters don’t change, they don’t age, and they don’t disappear…ever.
That is the power, promise and hope that every reader feels as they reach for that new book. We seek entertainment and escape, but more importantly, we are always searching for that validation that what we imagine does all secretly exist.
We deeply care about the people in stories. Don’t believe me? Ask a Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, Twilight, Anne of Green Gables, or Narnia fan, which character is their favorite. Who do they love? Who do they despise? Who do they think or worry about while doing the dishes?
When author, Stephanie Meyer, tried to rewrite her Twilight book as a tenth anniversary gift to her readers, and switched the main characters and their roles, it was a complete flop. There was an outcry from her fans that was simply, “Don’t mess with Edward and Bella. Ever.”
Why? Because Edward and Bella are real to a lot of people. Don’t mess with their names, family members or town, because in doing that you are altering the image people have burned into their mind. As readers, we are unabashedly loyal.
Hogwarts does exist. True love will triumph. Edward and Bella do live happily ever after. Strength and Integrity will always win out over the evil.
These imaginary worlds take us away from the challenging or painful parts of our life, or serve as a creative surge in the mundane parts that we must trudge through. The piles of laundry, trips to the grocery store, and the endless trips back and forth to school, while in between mopping the floor and clearing away the kids’ clutter is totally doable with the reward of stories at the end of the day.
These stories become an integral life line in surviving the real world. So when news of a beloved character reaches us, there is that brief moment, when we have to face the harsh realization that it didn’t all happen.
We stare at the newspaper, computer screen or TV, confused and muttering, “What? How can that be?”
It is hard to swallow, but there is a ray of hope. When you reach for that book, or watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, that sweeping, all encompassing, first love feeling returns.
The brilliant Alan Rickman may be gone, but Professor Snape lives on.
The fictional and real world will inevitably collide at times. When Maggie Smith dies, the amazing Professor Minerva McGonagall, I will be a blubbering mess.
However for now, I’ll see you in Potions class Professor Snape.
January 16, 2016