tw: abuse mention
I was just talking to somebody about Severus Snape and I realized one of the biggest issues I have with how his story is written is that Snape survived an abusive household and went on to perpetuate abuse (and abuse dynamics on different scales which is what I would consider the anti-Muggle genocidal bigotry he supported), which should either be acknowledge in text as such or overcome. But what JKR actually does is say he is forgiven for his own abusive behavior because he loved Lily (in a way that is itself… really, really fucking hazardous? I’m not going to address the continuation of the abuse legacy in the way Dumbledore treats him, but dear god). When she does this she fails to hold him accountable for years of child abuse and also portrays his “redemptive” love as pure and healthy and not itself really dangerous and self-centered in the worst way, all of which she does in a way that ignores and even overwrites the fact that he is this way because of the abuse cycles he lived through and perpetuated.
You say, “This behavior of his was okay” and now he is not responsible for it and neither are the people who were responsible for that. It is just an entire chain of abuse apologism.
Actually, in general, I think that is the way JKR addresses all abuse in her books and that’s the reason I don’t like HP anymore.
I understand your point but Snape isn’t forgiven because he loved Lily, he’s forgiven because he collaborated with Dumbledore and played a significant role in Voldemort’s defeat and died doing that. Whether Snape’s redemption arc was sufficient is certainly a matter of debate but it’s a lot more complex than “he loved Lily”.
I get what you mean, but the books frame his redemption arc as such:
– Snape looks shady for numerous books, Harry always thinks he’s the Bad Guy, and he’s not. Harry eventually is told by Dumbledore that while Snape used to indeed work for Voldemort, he has absolute, ironclad proof that his turn to the good side is sincere.
– Snape appears to murder Dumbledore. Everyone asks Harry how in the fuck Dumbledore trusted him and Harry’s like “Dumbledore swore he felt really bad.” and everyone is like “WHAT??? THAT’S THE REASON???”. Explicitly, nobody can possibly believe Snape was anything but a mole for Voldemort all these years because no one can believe that Snape “felt really bad”. (I don’t have physical copies of these books anymore so I can’t go digging for any of the actual dialogue, I’m sorry.)
– Finally, Snape dies while an undercover agent for Voldemort, and his dying wish is to give Harry his memories so that Harry will know his story, and to look into his eyes, which are a reminder that Harry is Lily’s son. Suddenly, it makes sense that Snape genuinely turned against Voldemort out of remorse – the woman he loved died, and his own actions brought her death. I don’t think that Snape is forgiven for the fact that he was cool with James and baby Harry dying so long as he could have Lily afterward, I don’t remember how explicitly that’s addressed but I feel like I remember Dumbledore being disgusted with him (Deathly Hallows is the book I’ve read the least). But what I do know is that knowing that because he loved his mother, his turn to the Order was sincere, Harry forgives him for everything else he’s done enough to name a child after him.
And I have a problem with that?? Snape IS redeemed by love. “How could Dumbledore have ever trusted Snape?!” IS a major plot point from the end of HBP to the moment we learn his reason in DH, and “He was in love with Lily” is the reason for that trust. Lily is – her death, his guilt in it – the only reason Snape turned away from the dark side. His love for her is why he does the things you say redeem him, and I don’t think that they can be compartmentalized. The revelation that he was in love humanizes and redeems him by confirming he really was a double agent for Dumbledore all along beyond any shadow of a doubt, as well as giving him one of the first solid glances of humanity he’s had in the whole series.
I’m not coming at this from the perspective of somebody who self-righteously hated Snape for abusing kids for 7 books and was disgusted that that was completely elided in favor of focusing solely on his wartime career as a double agent for the Order of the Phoenix, absolved forever by his love for Lily Evans-Potter. I actually really liked Snape’s character until Deathly Hallows, at which point I became aware that JKR doesn’t do shades of grey. I don’t like that that chapter is framed entirely around this all-consuming love in such a way that it overlooks and overrides everything else he’s ever done, and it can’t be divorced from the rest of her series and how she handles love every time it comes up. Love is always a redemptive force, unless it isn’t. For some reason, love isn’t enough to redeem Merope Gaunt, probably because she’s a rapist and she couldn’t will herself to live through childbirth even though she managed to bring her dying body over to an orphanage to give her son a shot at some kind of a family life. Love is explicitly the magical crux of the Harry Potter universe?? It is repeatedly held up as the source of the greatest goodness and the most powerful magic, just like the fact that Voldemort apparently cannot love (confirmed, iirc, by JKR to be because he was conceived under a love potion, lmao thanks JKR, I don’t even want to pick apart the gross layers of this) is the source of his evil. So we get a lot of this nonsense. The other really offensive version of this is when Narcissa Malfoy lies to Voldemort after learning from Harry Draco is alive, thus the Malfoys evade capture and imprisonment as war criminals for a second time. There isn’t a real life equivalent of that! Just because they were held prisoner in their own home didn’t erase that they wanted to commit war crimes and were merely kept from doing so by Voldemort’s anger at them.
It became apparent to me against the general backdrop of how JKR has framed love for 7 books – as well as how much momentum the “how can we truly know Snape isn’t evil?” question gained over the course of those 7 books – that Snape’s love for Lily was meant to be the deciding factor of his entire life. It is his motivation – his only motivation – for redemption. And it seems clear also that he never took that love and felt any empathy for anyone else because of it; loving Lily didn’t prevent him from loathing her son by James, or Hermione Granger, who has a startling lot in common with Lily and whom he PERSONALLY subjected to nasty, nasty bullying. Yet as soon as it is learned, he is forgiven. He is redeemed by loving Lily, both in the sense that the confirmation of that love is all Harry needs to forgive him and in the sense that he only betrayed Voldemort and came to work unfailingly for Dumbledore for all of those years because of her. Those other things that make him a complex character – the fact that loving Lily didn’t make him a better person in those other ways, the fact that in so many ways the remorse he felt was separate from the anger and hatred for James Potter such that he continued to inflict pain because of that anger and hatred nearly until he died – are all kind of washed away because love is just so awesome and humanizing I guess! Look, I get that you can argue that HP is a children’s series, but I think by the time DH ended, we had progressed beyond childish black and white thinking and that we needed the complexity of these situations to be addressed. I would be fine with the Malfoys getting a lighter sentence and a possibility of parole after their actions (well?? really just Draco and Narcissa’s, Lucius getting off is the main thing i’m mad about) but to be like “yeah they got off, same as last time” was really awful. Snape has every single thing about him washed away in the wake of this revelation. He’s almost replaced by an entirely new person by the end. This great redeemed guy who loved Harry’s mother and carried this secret with him nearly into the grave. There’s no room for Harry et al to process their feelings about him because his sacrifice is on such a huge scale that it looks more important than him abusing children he had institutional power over.
If this had been framed differently, I’ve no doubt I would have enfolded it into the complex Snape I already liked (I already kind of had a hunch a Lily crush was in his backstory, but I didn’t expect it to be the childhood friends type of deal that it was), but instead it ended up being a hot mess of abuse apologism Love Is The Best Ever actually kind of revisionist nonsense in keeping with JKR writing a lot of similar nonsense into the last two books and it was the death knell for my enjoyment in the series. For a long time I just felt… confused, not sure of why I didn’t feel the same way that I did. But the more I’ve come to understand that I was abused growing up the more clearly I see that JKR has a consistently awful approach to writing abuse that perpetuates abuse culture. This is more evident in how she writes Snape than in any other character, because she peppers his childhood with instances of abuse to make you sympathise with him a little more, without addressing like, any of the reasons this was a problem or the effects it had on him beyond making him perpetuate abuse when he was in a position to do so – and then NONE of that EVER gets addressed because he loved Lily (and went on to do stuff for the good side that was genuinely brave and risky, yes, i know, I get it! But it doesn’t wipe out the bullying and abuse he committed while teaching!), so Harry forgives him enough to name a child after him.
tl;dr I take abuse culture and child abuse very seriously, JKR is overrated, the way Snape is framed is more my problem with Snape than his actual actions, and you cannot speak for all Snape fans, but a lot of them are real heels and I’m Over It.
All true (God, do I hate Snape. The Malfoys, too. Why the hell do they get off so easy?!) but I always wonder how much JKR herself being a victim of abuse* ties into it. Because I always feel like that must play a part in what she wrote about Snape, but… I don’t really know how to analyse or make anything coherent out of that.