To kick off Harry Potter Week, I’m going to dive right into controversy: is Snape good or bad? He may have fought for the good guys, but I still don’t think that makes him a “good guy.” Here’s why.
I never liked Snape—and I feel like I’m in the minority here.
A very good friend of mine is a huge Snape fan. I think she sees him as a tortured soul, someone to be pitied more than feared or hated. Someone we might need to work a little harder to understand, but someone who has depths to share once he is understood. Lots of Snape-lovers smugly point to the Pensieve interlude in Deathly Hallows, in which Harry experiences Snape’s memories of Lily Potter, and say, “See? He loved her. That’s why he protected Harry and fought against Voldemort. He’s good after all.”
Snape’s love for Lily isn’t as redeeming as Snape’s fans like to claim. Here are a few reasons why:
1. He obviously suffers from “nice guy” syndrome. What is more annoying than a self-proclaimed “nice guy” who whines constantly that none of his female friends—who he is soooo nice to and soooo supportive of—want to have sex with him? Nothing, that’s what. This is what Snape’s relationship with Lily amounts to: that male friend who you love, platonically, but who constantly denigrates your taste in men in order to puff himself up by comparison. And when she rejects him, he lashes out—as most “nice guys” do—and calls her a Mudblood. That’s not the way you treat someone you love. That’s the way you treat an object you covet.
2. He’s pretty much a sociopath. I understand, sort of, Snape’s dislike of Harry—having a student in your class who is a constant reminder of your old romantic rival who got the girl while you’ve spent your life alone can’t be fun. Fine. But instead of putting on his grown-up pants and acting like an adult, he constantly torments Harry with little to no provocation.
But it doesn’t stop there. Snape doesn’t just torment the son of his former romantic rival; he torments anyone who isn’t a Slytherin. He favors his house heavily over all the others—not just Gryffindor—and this begins well before Harry even gets to Hogwarts (when Harry is first sorted, someone—a Weasley twin?—points out Snape at the high table and mentions that Snape is the head of Slytherin House and always favors his own students). He even openly discriminates against Muggle-borns.
So Snape’s mad at the world, fine. But why would you put such an objectively horrible person in charge of teaching children?
3. He only grudgingly protects Harry after Dumbledore scolds his selfishness. After hearing Voldemort’s interpretation of the prophecy, Snape begs Voldemort to spare Lily in exchange for the lives of her son and husband! The only reason he goes to Dumbledore in the first place is because he doesn’t entirely trust Voldy’s word (rightfully), and the only reason he agrees to switch sides in the war is so that Dumbledore will help him hide Lily. He wouldn’t have cared if Harry and/or James had been killed, as long as Lily lived. And then, when she’s killed anyway, Snape only reluctantly agrees when Dumbledore suggests that the best way to keep Lily’s memory alive is to help protect Harry when Voldemort inevitably returns.
That is not the thought process of someone who deserves pity. That is the thought process of a man who is so gripped by his utter obsession with a woman that he doesn’t care if the two most important people in the world to her are tortured and killed by the darkest wizard of all time, as long as she remains alive. I’m not saying he should want her to die with them, of course, just that he should appreciate—and he obviously doesn’t—that her life is happy with James. And if you love someone, shouldn’t you want them to be happy, no matter the cost? That, in my opinion, is true love: wanting the best for someone, even if it hurts you. Snape doesn’t want what’s best for Lily. He just wants Lily, no matter the cost to her or to anyone else. And then when he loses her, you’d think he’d take comfort from the fact that her son, her legacy, is alive—but instead, his hatred of James actually overrides his love for Lily. And though he grudgingly protects Harry, he is never once kind to him, as I’m sure Lily would have wanted him to be.
4. HE’S A [BLEEP]ING DEATH EATER. Guys…did you forget that Snape was a Death Eater? He didn’t agree to work for Dumbledore/against Voldemort because he had a change of heart. He’s still a racist sonofabitch who thinks Muggle-borns are inferior to pure-blood wizards (despite his own half-blood pedigree). He still participated in who knows how many atrocities. Holding a candle for a pretty girl he had a crush on as a schoolboy doesn’t make him a good person. It adds a certain dimension that I wouldn’t have expected, sure, but his apparent capacity to love doesn’t absolve him of all manner of sins.
Besides, what he feels for Lily hardly qualifies as love. Desire, obsession, lust—sure. But if he loved her, he would have honored her memory by loving her son, which he refuses to do.
There’s no doubt that J. K. Rowling wrote Snape as an intriguing, well-rounded, exceptionally human character. He does have to get some points for fighting the good fight, even if he did so reluctantly. But his utter lack of empathy and the obvious pleasure he takes in humiliating non-Slytherin students leaves me unsympathetic to his plight. So many people lost so much more than Snape did in the course of the books and handled it so much better, Harry included. And we’re supposed to feel bad for Snape? I don’t think so.
Are you Team Snape or Team Snape Is A Douchebag? Why? Let me know in the comments!by