We lost several stars this week, the firmament has been shaken for a moment. The trickster rockstar, David Bowie, had an idea of his import; go watch Blackstar if you haven’t already. His last video is a declaration of impending death, cognizant of the impact he has had over the decades, yet also clearly embedded in the briefness and anonymity of this life. His was a persona that provided a newly christened bending of gender roles for a million kids who had no other place to understand their newly-felt identities. I carried no such burden, to me, his music was amusing and well-executed, but I listened to it for no other reason than to shock my father. I was too young to understand Bowie’s intelligence, message, or ground-breaking iconography.
Another passing occurred a mere three days ago, it seems forever now, I’ve given it so much thought. Alan Rickman, Shakespearean actor, purveyor of the arch-villain with the dark-colored voice, passed quickly from pancreatic cancer on January 14th.
He is perhaps best-known for his portrayal over eight films of Severus Snape, the nemesis of Harry Potter, or so we thought, until the very last film. Snape was the ultimate cypher of loyalty and unrequited love. Few of us can imagine holding such an ideal in our minds and hearts for as long as Snape toiled for his long-lost love, Lily Potter, and then for her son, whom he detested.
Make no mistake, despite his sacrifice, Snape was a bully, he had no qualms about emotionally torturing Harry for years on end. He danced with the soul-defiled devil, Voldemort, and you were never completely sure where his allegiance lay. He reviled his human heritage, identifying only with his mother’s magical blood, hence the name he called himself secretly, the Half-Blood Prince. He remains one of the most complicated characters of recent literature, only revealing his true colors upon his imminent death. On first glance, emotionally, he little resembles the man who depicted him.
Of course, a legion of young fans of the series burst out with an outpouring of grief on hearing of Rickman’s passing, as the last of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, was only released in 2011. What also followed was a series of heartbroken eulogies from his fellow actors and colleagues, many writing essays of considerable length. His goodness of heart, his friendship, his mentorship of young actors were all expounded upon. You could easily read the pain and sorrow they held for the passing of their friend. Oliver Wood, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Emma Thompson, JK Rowling, many others, all spoke of his giving heart and his bottomless, lifelong loyalty to others. Wood in particular, described the countless times Rickman promoted him, helpfully critiqued his work, selflessly cared for him.
I wonder if there weren’t more similarities between Snape and his wizard in this world, Alan Rickman, than is clear at first glance. Both were defenders of those weaker than himself, the children, one with a scowl and in secret, the other with a smile and a giving heart.
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare