I find the Snape/Lily narrative to be really horrific, honestly. The fact that we are asked to feel oh so bad for poor little Snape makes me a little bit queasy.
Because, yes, I do sympathize with Snape for having a rough childhood.
But he was a horrible friend to Lily. He ignored her feelings. He screamed racial slurs at her. He favored the idealized version of her he had built up in his mind over the REAL her (I think it is significant that James’ patronus is a STAG, showing compatibility with Lily; while Snape is a DOE, showing a mimicry of Lily). That idealization and inability to reconcile how his own actions contributed to the failure of their friendship literally KILLED Lily.
I understand that we can show some sympathy for him. Watching someone self destruct their own relationships because of abuse and peer pressure and the tribulations of childhood? That’s tragic.
But then he grows up to emotionally abuse Lily’s son for having a physical resemblance to her husband.
And we’re supposed to feel sorry for him? We’re supposed to think it’s lovely and sweet that Harry names his child after the teacher who emotionally abused him for years? Who emotionally abused OTHER children for years as well?
The fans who sit around and cry about how Lily SHOULD have picked Snape, how Snape DESERVED her? How James was a horrible douche and Lily was a bitch for choosing him? Ugh. No. nno no no no on oonononononononoooooo.
I actually think Snape and Lily were terribly unsuited to each other and BOTH pretty shitty friends to each other. Snape’s horrible person cred is well-documented, but Lily struck me as someone blissfully unaware of her own privilege before I even understood the concept. She had absolutely no appreciation for the dangerous and potentially life threatening circumstances young Snape found himself in. He was living in a dungeon full of future Death Eaters. The risk to his health and safety if he didn’t conform was very real. And it’s not like he had any real support system. His home life was shitty, and it’s pretty obvious that the only adults at Hogwarts that ever give a crap about the Slytherin students are the Slytherin heads. And Slughorn, though he learned better after it all, at the time treated his students more as medals of prestige for him to wear than as young people in need of real life guidance. (I could really go into a rant here about how the system is ridiculously skewed against the Slytherin kids as Hogwarts and basically designed to turn them into bitter villains, but other people have done that better than I could.) Snape had pretty much everything going against him, while the world (at the time) was Lily’s oyster. What happened was sadly inevitable.
That’s why it sucks so bad. The breakdown of little Lily and Snape’s honest friendship as they grow older and their societal circumstances pull them further and further apart is so tragic and shitty and painful because it’s REAL. Shit like this happens every day. They’re both to blame in different ways for their falling apart. I think a lot of the problem of people sympathizing way more with Snape and vilifying Lily is that Snape’s fully fleshed out in the narrative as a complex, complicated, intelligent, entertaining, horrible, cruel, damaged, hurting, spiteful, brave, deeply flawed, multifaceted character. We get to know Snape intimately. We can recoil from him, relate to him, sympathize with him, and want to punch his big asshole nose. But with Lily we’re pretty much all tell and no show. All we ever hear or see is how she was so fucking pretty and sweet and perfect in every way, oh gosh, what a glorious martyr, and so sweet to that poor pitiful werewolf Lupin, why can’t everyone be like Lily?
Lily’s fucking boring. She is presented without flaws, and people can’t relate to that shit. The only questionable thing we ever see her do is the whole falling out with Snape and opinion is, obviously, deeply divided on whether she had any blame to bear in the situation (obviously I think her ignorance of the situation means she did, others hold her blameless, and the people that only blame her because they;re blind to Snape’s glaring faults don’t count). It’s also a reason James is so hated by some people because while Jo can tell us until she’s blue in the face that James was really a good, sweet guy, all we ever SEE for ourselves is him being a dickbag for no reason. We see Snape being a huge dickbag frequently, too, but we also see the terrible circumstances of his entire fucking life and we see the good and brave things that he does. And yes he does them. He is a terrible person who also has some good in him.
I’m sorry, I just have a whole lot of feelings about this series. I fully recognize Snape as a terrible person while also recognizing the good in him, and that just makes him a fascinating character to me. I would also object to labeling him a Nice Guy, because while he obviously held onto his romantic feelings for Lily for well beyond what would be considered healthy, he also seemed until it all blew up to genuinely value her friendship. There is a BIG difference between continuing to have romantic feelings and hope for someone while being their friend and being someone’s “friend” solely for the expectation that they will then spread their legs for you. I also don’t think Snape’s view of Lily was idealized until after she died. And people tend to do that kind of thing when someone important to them dies.
Seriously, this series is so often good because of how honestly screwed up and flawed and complicated everyone is. That’s real life, real problems, real tragedies, dressed up with magic and dragons.
And also, if Harry, years after the fact, made the decision to name his son after someone who treated him horribly while also saving his life numerous times and ultimately gave his life for the greater good, then that’s what he did. We can’t tell Harry the right way to react to his experiences.
Honestly, I give more of a side-eye to Harry also naming his kid after the guy who’s been playing chessmaster of his life from the very beginning, but whatever Harry wants to do to put it all in perspective.
Of course, these are all only MY thoughts and feelings concerning the narrative. I respect that yours are different. There are tons of different ways to consider the whole mess.
Damn, also really good and valid and interesting. Thank you!