As a twenty-year-old millennial, I am proud to be a part of the Harry Potter fandom. Many consider my age bracket to be the Harry Potter Generation, growing up with the book and films as the backdrop of our childhood. Throughout the release of the franchise, ‘Potterheads’ like myself experienced so many breakthroughs in media and technology that allowed us to immerse ourselves even further in the wizarding world. The internet allowed us to discuss theories with other fans; series author J.K Rowling even launched Pottermore, a website providing us with more details about our beloved world of magic. YouTube gave us the amazing gift of parodies such as Potter Puppet Pals and A Very Potter Musical to laugh at. We even got to take the immersion a step further when Universal developed its first Harry Potter theme park. With so much content to digest, it’s only natural that fans enjoy sharing opinions on the Harry Potter franchise. However, one character has definitely split the fandom in two: Severus Snape.
Yep, that’s right; Harry’s greasy-haired, hook-nosed potions teacher. It seemed like Snape really hated the kid, and soon readers really hated him too when he seemingly back-stabbed Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (and the entire wizarding world). However it was revealed at the end of the franchise that he was working for the good side the whole time because of his still-prevalent romantic feelings for Harry’s long-gone mother. Need a refresher? This video of Snape’s infamous scenes in chronological order seemed to break Harry Potter fan’s hearts when it began circulating around the internet after the release of the franchise’s 8th film.
Throughout the fleeting friendship between Snape and Lily (Harry’s mother), it is evident that the two were intrinsically different people. To start off with, it’s pretty clear that Snape isn’t kind like Lily, which is probably why he was so drawn to her. Snape had an interest in the dark arts, and had a clear sense of elitism when it came to muggles, ostracising Lily’s sister Petunia for not being a witch. Because of Snape’s creepy obsession with the dark arts, he became an easy target for schoolyard bullying at Hogwarts, particularly by James Potter (Harry’s father). When Lily eventually found romantic interest in James in her later years at Hogwarts, Snape was obviously unhappy with her choice. I’m not defending James for bullying Snape, both students behaved out of line in their teenage years. In attempt to resurrect their dying friendship, Lily tries to comfort Snape after he is roughhoused by James, only for him to call her a mudblood– pretty much the worst thing you can call someone in the wizard world! It’s clear that Snape was still pretty obsessed with Lily, and the act of pushing aside and name-calling her because he was jealous of James is a classic example of a creepy and attached crush who feels oppressed by the barriers of the “friend-zone”.
After high school, Snape joined the Death Eaters (the baddies of the wizarding world), and Lily and James joined the Order of the Phoenix (the society aiming to stop death eaters). This is probably the biggest indicator of how different the two grew to be, the only thing they shared was living in a dusty and decrepit town as children, becoming fast friends because they both held magical powers. In Snape’s work as a Death Eater, he came across a prophecy which suggested that Harry (who was an infant at the time) had the magical power to take his cult-leader Voldemort down, and vowed to Dumbledore that he would do “anything” to keep Lily safe. Snape had no interest in saving the two most important people to Lily, the so-called love of his life, just in saving Lily herself.
The fact that Snape had no desire to fight for what Lily loved and cared about shows that she was merely an object of his romantic fantasy, rather than the subject. If Snape had truly loved Lily and respected her, like he said he did, wouldn’t he hold her family in high regard as well?
Apparently not, because years after Lily’s death, when Harry began attending Hogwarts at age 11, (where Snape worked), his bitter feelings towards James Potter were brought out on the poor orphan. A lot of Snape’s behaviour towards his students showed that he really was a terrible teacher. One of Hogwart’s main ways of rewarding their students is through the earning points for their Hogwarts houses, and reinforcing student’s positive behaviour with rewards is a system proven to have positive effects on learning. Professor Snape abused his power as a faculty member, deducting points from Harry’s house, Gryffindor, unfairly throughout his schooling. In Harry’s third year of Hogwarts, students discuss their greatest fears, and classmate Neville Longbottom mentions Professor Snape. In a world with dragons, goblins, giant snakes and more, for a 3rd year student to be terrified of his teacher he must be doing something wrong.
A lot of Harry Potter fans think that Snape is not a bad person by nature, and his behaviour is simply a result of his poor home life growing up and being bullied at Hogwarts. Considering his behaviour as a teacher, it’s pretty easy to classify Snape as a bully. But when you take into consideration that he was also bullied, it makes a little more sense (even though that still doesn’t make it okay). Unfortunately, most of us have been on the receiving end of bullying, which gives Snape an extra dimension as he was someone who Potterheads could relate their experiences to. Ultimately, people can relate to someone who was marginalised, and most people can relate to a one-sided love story. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been through one of these hardships in our lives, and reading about something we empathise with makes an audience drawn to a character on an emotional level.
Taking all of this into consideration, it’s hard to pinpoint whether Snape is a good or bad person, and each Potterhead has the right to their own opinions regarding Professor Snape. Personally, I think he was a brave man who sacrificed a lot for the wizarding world, but his intentions behind this were misplaced. J.K Rowling, said it herself, morally Snape can’t be black or white, he is gray. The combined talents of J.K Rowling and Alan Rickman have brought fans a character who, despite his terrible qualities, is someone that anyone can relate to on some degree.