You Have Your Mother's Eyes
February 9, 2015 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Moviepilot puts together a chronological sequence of (selected) scenes from Severus Snape's arc throughout the Harry Potter film series.
posted by Navelgazer (33 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You Have Your Mother's Eyes

posted by phunniemee at 6:49 PM on February 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

great, I've been wanting something like this. I read the books and saw all the movies, some of them more than once. And I still don't really understand Snape's arc, his motivation, or what the hell he's supposed to be up to.
posted by skewed at 6:56 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, skewed, the movies fuck it up a lot of the time, so that's understandable.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:57 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."
posted by clavdivs at 7:05 PM on February 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

"what are you kids doing here?"
posted by hellojed at 7:16 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Again with the face... again with the eyes...
posted by Navelgazer at 7:24 PM on February 9, 2015

I agree, skewed, I know that Snape's arc is critical to the whole story, but I don't have a really firm handle on it. He's a victim who became a bad guy who was manipulated into being a good guy who still pretended to be a bad guy so he could do the right thing? Is that how it goes? And what was the real reason behind Dumbldore's death happening the way it did again? Argh! Help!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:43 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Snape is a permanent resident of the Friend-Zone, with long greasy hair taking the place of his fedora, recast as a tragic hero.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:49 PM on February 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

Jeez, is EVERY unrequited love in fiction going to get tagged as fedoraneckbeardNOTALLMENSLOL now?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:56 PM on February 9, 2015

Jeez, is EVERY unrequited love in fiction going to get tagged as fedoraneckbeardNOTALLMENSLOL now?

I'm okay with it in this case, because the alternative is "sure, he was basically a Nazi, but one time he did a good because he was hung up on a girl so it is okay"
posted by kagredon at 8:06 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

Not every unrequited love story, no. But Snape absolutely fits the bill. That being said, he has layers and he remains a great character in spite of and because of his many flaws. Tragic love story or not, his behavior towards Harry and Neville is totally uncalled for and unacceptable. He's an unrepentant dick. But you feel for him at the end a little bit.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:10 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

See also (SPOILER) Count Olaf.
posted by themanwho at 8:17 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

ThatCanadianGirl: From the books, the reason that Dumbledore's death worked the way that it did was because, well, he was near death anyway, from the curse put on the Gaunt ring. Draco had been sort of forced into Voldemort's service, and Snape, as double-agent, took the unbreakable vow to aid Draco in his task (i.e. killing Dumbledore) which Snape couldn't refuse at the time it came up, but also hadn't planned for. So Dumbledore, already dying and pretty willing to accept death, as we already know, says fine, but he's not going to die without getting his affairs in order, if possible, so...

Dumbledore goes all, "hey Harry, time to start teaching you things in my very roundabout Dumbledore way so as to lead you to sacrifice yourself eventually without me telling you that was the plan for you all along!" And so Dumbledore takes that year to teach Harry about Horcruxes, knowing that Draco is trying to kill him and in full trust that Snape will handle things on that end.

And then they get back to the tower, and the death eaters have attacked the school in the dead of night, with really only Flitwick and MacGonagall fighting them (and losing) and so Snape rushes up to the tower, only stunning Flitwick (if memory serves) and not harming anybody, and runs into a situation where Draco has disarmed Dumbledore, but hasn't killed him, and is hesitating, while surrounded by Death Eaters demanding that he finish the job.

And Dumbledore says "Severus, Please" and Snape, hating the position he's put into but respecting the reasoning all the while, casts the killing curse on him.

Here is the reasoning: Dumbledore was not afraid to die (though clearly not anxious to leave life, either) but the bigger fear was that of Draco killing him. Draco, shit that he was, was still a child and innocent in some ways and Dumbledore could not allow him to be forced down that path. What Snape did wasn't murder - it was an agreed-upon course of action meant to save the soul of a student once the inevitable arose.

Then, and this is important to me, Snape rushed the Death Eaters out of Hogwarts like the cops were coming which, well, they weren't. He kept them from doing any more damage and even taught Harry a bit along the way while still posing as a villain.

I have no excuse for the way he treated Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, etc. I imagine he was deep down a very bitter, sour old man who hated and resented the promise he saw in the futures of these young Gryffindors. Still, I see a lot of interesting beauty in the character who loves his Slytherin charges enough to recognize where they're going and to take the hit for them to keep them from being who he became.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:21 PM on February 9, 2015 [37 favorites]

I think Snape and James are interesting foils for one another in terms of how we view "good" and "evil" in people.

Both were assholes as teenagers. James was a bully. Snape was one two when he could be (remember him calling Lily "mudblood"? Yeah.). Both had Lily - the kind one - in their life and calling for them to be better human beings.

By all appearances, James managed it; he'd already been prone to supporting people on "his side" who were disadvantaged (see: Remus Lupin) and it seems like he over-came his worst bullying impulses as he matured.

Severus didn't. He became, if anything, more of an asshole - joining the inner ranks of one of the major bullying powers in the Wizarding world. And then it affected someone he cared about despite being an asshole to her - Lily. And he did what he could to help, but it wasn't enough. And he remained bitter and became more twisted, but he still loved the person who had been kind to him and who had wanted him to be kind - he just wasn't able to actually BE kind.

He's also an interesting foil for Petunia.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

There's also a running theme in the books that redemption, and being willing to take it, is the real goal. kagredon called Snape a Nazi above, and that's pretty accurate, but one of the things the books keep (subtly) hammering is how easy it would be to become a Nazi if that's the culture you were surrounded by. The Slytherins are sorted by pure-bloodedness and ambition, neither of which are themselves evil traits, but when put together in that way, and separated from the rest and in competition with them... throughout the books, the Sorting Hat moves from being all, "I'll give you an identity when you most desire one!" to "What I do is fucked up and supremely dangerous!"

So JKR shows us a kid from awful circumstances; abusive, horrific home life, who learns he is different in a way that he can feel proud of, and who makes a connection with a girl who is the same, minus the awful circumstances.

And when they get to school, she gets sorted into what looks like the shiny, happy House, and him into Slytherin. He tries to stay close to her, but he's still a kid, and Gryffindor fucks with him and humiliates him...

From then on, the people near him are Slytherin, and he's probably the best wizard among them. His course is pretty well set.

Basically, Harry is a kid who always has the best assumed of him. Even when he constantly breaks the rules, even when he literally almost kills another student in a petty fight, he gets off with a bit of basic disciplinary nonsense and will continue on. Snape had to forcefully make a choice to be on the side of good, and once he did, it was with the understanding that the path for him would be hell and end badly.

So I think Snape is still sympathetic.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:22 PM on February 9, 2015 [25 favorites]

Goddamn, Alan Rickman is so good, at his best when he is bad, or at least, complex, imperfect, and difficult, even in a superficially over the top role.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:58 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

The thing about Snape is, he chose his misery. He got played a shitty hand, to be sure, and he ultimately chose to do the right thing. But he chose to associate with Death Eaters. He chose to call Lily, one of his closest friends, a mudblood. He chose to keep associating with people who also called Lily a mudblood and whose racist views meant they wanted to see her as a second class citizen or dead. He only chose to turn on the Death Eaters when Lily's life (not the lives of her husband and infant child, specifically only Lily's life) was explicitly on the line. And then when Lily died, he chose to stay loyal to Dumbledore, but he also chose to be cruel to the child of the woman he loved. (Because nothing shows your undying devotion to the dead love of your life like being gratuitously cruel to the child she died for!) When the war started up again, he chose to be a double agent at great personal risk.

Snape is there to show that love in and of itself doesn't fix you. Love can inspire the deepest bravery and self-sacrifice, but it won't make you kinder or better or happier, not unless you work at it. That, ultimately, is what I find most powerful about Snape and his character arc.
posted by yasaman at 10:12 PM on February 9, 2015 [17 favorites]

this makes me wonder: as an American, the term "Mudblood" has an obvious counterpart in terms of connotation, but Rowling is not American, and N____ is most certainly an American slur, at least in origins. For the Brits, is there a different counterpart term, or reference, for the slur here? Because I know that if that scene tok place in the U.S. muggle world, there are a lot of things Snape could have called Lily that would have been mortifyingly regretful after the fact, but if he called her something like N____ it would be basically unforgivable and speak to something deep within him that he would even think to do so.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:23 PM on February 9, 2015

I've always thought of Gellert Grindelwald as the Wizard-equivalent of Hitler, mostly due to the time frame. Plus the prison he built.

The video makes me like Snape a little bit more, but not much.
posted by luckynerd at 10:26 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

luckynerd: I think that comparison is intentional, just as I think it's intentional that Dumbledore was drawn in by Grindelwald before realizing the damage he was capable of. Dumbledore is harsh in his forgiveness of Snape, but it comes from someone who had committed similar sins, and also come to as a result of the death of loved ones.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:33 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I do think Petunia and Snape are good foils in a few specific ways, as mentioned above.

They're both lessons in what can happen when a person's deepest wish is denied and they respond with bitterness. They both deliberately wound Lily out of that same impulse. And then they both respond to that situation by going hellbent for leather in the other direction.

Petunia, wanting to be Special/the Golden Child initially, responds to her rejection by the wizarding world by aiming to be the muggliest motherfucker in muggledom. (Do you know what it cost me to refuse to write 'mugglefucker' just now?)

And Snape, likewise, rebuffed by Lily after being a god damn jerk to her in the 'mudblood' incident, throws his lot in with the purest of pure-blood enthusiasts he can find and goes full-tilt with it, despite being a half-blood himself.

It speaks to a particular strain of juvenile self-destructiveness they both share - a sort of 'I don't even like this thing that i'm choosing to be, but i'll do it as long as it's the farthest thing from *thing that hurt me* as I can get, so NER!'

Then they both follow a path of being jackasses to Harry out of lingering resentment, while also playing unwilling guardian angel to him. The only difference is that Snape gets the redemption edit at the end and Petunia doesn't. But no-one is writing screeds or fanfiction about how Petunia is just misunderstood, look at all the time and effort she put in to care for Harry and keep him safe!

All of which is to say that it was through reading about Snape online and pondering this difference in perception that I discovered the term 'woobie' and had a convenient name for what an awful lot of an audience does to asshole characters.

(Mind you, I like the complexity. I find it as compelling as a lot of the pro-Snape types do that both he and Petunia committed to spending a huge chunk of their lives deliberately pushing themselves against the spike that once wounded them, while refusing to like it. Well played, JK!)
posted by pseudonymph at 10:57 PM on February 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

My take on it has always been that Snape stopped being that horrible person/bully even before Lily's death, but that Lily's death killed the last of the badness. He had to continue in the role of bad guy because of Dumbledore's grand plan. Voldemort would come back, so Snape had to be relentless in his playing of the role - it had to look like he was always loyal to Voldemort and had just been really good at pulling the wool over Dumbledore's eyes. He had to protect Harry while making sure no one - even/especially Voldemort - could ever think he felt anything other than hatred for Harry and a desire to kill him. He had to protect Hogwarts after Dumbledore died while making sure that even Voldemort never had a doubt of his loyalty to Voldemort. Only Dumbledore could know the truth, because only Dumbledore would not have been vulnerable to attack/discovery by Voldemort, and only Dumbledore could be trusted with the secret, and only Dumbledore could be allowed to be endangered by knowing the secret (being his idea anyway and all).

Snape's redemption happened before the books began, and the price of it was that he had to continue to live the life of an evil person, to loudly perform evil constantly, to commit terrible acts he did not want to commit and ally himself to what disgusted him and he wanted to destroy, totally isolated from any human contact or love or understanding or shared feeling or anything good at all, until his death, not knowing until near the end (and dying thinking that) his sacrifice had been for nothing, because Harry would be killed by Voldemort anyway, and he had been used and betrayed by Dumbledore on top of everything else.

He had to be shit to Neville too cos the prophecy still might have ended up being Neville.

He didn't want to be any of that or do any of that. He did what he did for the greater good, he thought, to make up for the thing he could never undo and would always blame himself for, and with no one to know that he was good, and trustworthy, and capable of great love, and had suffered great loss. And if he let his guard down for a moment and Voldemort had any doubt in his loyalty, all would be lost.
posted by you must supply a verb at 4:54 AM on February 10, 2015 [16 favorites]

I think the Dumbledore insisting Snape teach Potter Occlumency give credence to you must supply a verb's thesis. Snape accepts he must teach Potter this because Potter really needs it to keep Voldemort out, and Snape also has a great deal of hesitancy because he has to let Potter try to read his thoughts in order to teach him to keep Voldemort out (Potter as a Legilimens would be inherently dangerous to everyone's plans).
posted by digitalprimate at 7:18 AM on February 10, 2015

I'm still confused by the Occlumency lessons. Snape takes away his worst memory so Harry cannot accidentally remember it also. But he left the memories of the planning he has done with Dumbledore, pretending to be on Voldemort's side, telling Voldemort about the prophecy -- everything he gave to Harry before he died. Why were those not an even greater risk?
posted by jeather at 7:24 AM on February 10, 2015

In the book Harry never gets inside Snape's mind like he does in the movie. He sneaks a brief look at Snape's extracted memories in the pensieve before Snape yanks him out again. We had already seen how memories work in the pensieve though. The pensieve isn't supposed to be a memory storage device. That's what the vials are for. Snape must have chosen to put that memory and only that memory on display for Harry's prying eyes, otherwise Harry wouldn't have seen it. This would tie into Snape's ever-present goal of convincing everyone in the world that James Potter sucked.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:38 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

But no-one is writing screeds or fanfiction about how Petunia is just misunderstood, look at all the time and effort she put in to care for Harry and keep him safe!

Petunia never gets a redemption write, but there are little clues throughout the books that Petunia doesn't hate her sister nearly as much as she says she does. Whichever book it is where Dumbledore drops into their house, he compliments Petunia on the impeccably kept flowers outside the door. They are lilies.
posted by phunniemee at 7:58 AM on February 10, 2015 [19 favorites]

yasaman: he also chose to be cruel to the child of the woman he loved. (Because nothing shows your undying devotion to the dead love of your life like being gratuitously cruel to the child she died for!)
Being resentful towards the living proof that James got to go where you always longed but never got to isn't all that mysteriously dumb. Not good, but pretty understandable.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2015

One important thing to consider when attempting to judge Snape as a person is to remember he is a literary character that was written inconsistently at best. He ends up being a good person inside secretly working for the good guys because the author said he was. Even if all of her writing doesn't support this.
He suffers the same as many of the characters and many plot points.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:46 AM on February 10, 2015

One important thing to consider when attempting to judge Snape as a person is to remember he is a literary character that was written inconsistently at best. He ends up being a good person inside secretly working for the good guys because the author said he was. Even if all of her writing doesn't support this.

Yeah, I think this is the way I have to take it. I just never found that Snape's character arc in the books made sense, but figured there was some element I was missing that was supposed to tie together his decisions and behavior. After watching the film footage all run together I feel like I remember more of the backstory, but that doesn't change the 'WTF' feeling from half of his interactions. There is nothing that made sense of it all, Snape was supposed to be a flawed character, but the execution just wasn't top-notch. So we get a flawed flawed character. Not a huge fault for the books all things considered, less so for the movies.
posted by skewed at 1:22 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, I didn't mean to imply that Snape was dumb for being shitty to Harry, or that it's an inexplicable choice on either his part or JKR's. It's a totally understandable reaction and character choice. I just think it's sort of funny/sad since Snape knows that would have upset Lily. Just like he knew it would upset Lily that he kept associating with junior Death Eaters, just like he knew it would upset Lily that he joined the Death Eaters (who, y'know, wanted her and people like her dead).

Snape's love for Lily is sort of fascinatingly selfish and selfless at the same time. When he initially goes to Dumbledore for a way out of the Death Eaters, it's for Lily's sake. He says he asked Voldemort to spare her (and only her). Dumbledore's response:

“You disgust me,” said Dumbledore, and Harry had never heard so much contempt in his voice. Snape seemed to shrink a little, “You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?”

I mean, it is pretty disgusting. Snape had reason to hate James, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd be fine with letting their high school bullies die. But Harry was an innocent baby at this point. And it's astonishingly misguided to think that Lily would ever be okay with her husband and child being murdered thanks to Snape's inaction. Never mind the "I joined a racist terrorist group that wants you dead," it's pretty impossible for a friendship to ever come back from "I was in a position to save the lives of your husband and child but I only care about you, so. I only saved you. Sorry not sorry." And other people were being murdered left and right by the Death Eaters too. But Snape was focused on Lily.

Of course, Dumbledore proceeded to ruthlessly leverage Snape's singleminded devotion to Lily in service of the Order of the Phoenix. And Snape proceeded to do astonishingly brave and dangerous things for Dumbledore and out of love for Lily. He protected Harry, worked against Voldemort, and did basically everything Dumbledore asked of him. That is some selfless bravery and devotion to Lily's memory there.

But then when Snape found out that all this time, Harry was just another pawn to be sacrificed:

“But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?”

“For him?” shouted Snape. “ Expecto Patronum!”

From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe. She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.

“After all this time?”

“Always,” said Snape.

I didn't find this to be a romantic example of selfless love. I found it to be a pathetic, tragic indication that however much he loved Lily, Snape was incapable of truly changing to become the kind of man that Lily could have loved. Snape hadn't changed since the first time he begged Dumbledore to help him save Lily's life. It was all still for Lily, and only for Lily. Not for Harry, not for the other Muggleborns, not for the Order of the Phoenix. Just Lily. That strikes me as being extraordinarily selfish, an extension of the bad choices that led him to the Death Eaters in the first place, because Lily is still the exception to him. I don't know, it strikes me as just being horribly sad for Snape. If he had any other genuine change of heart, we don't know about it.
posted by yasaman at 2:05 PM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

When the Prisoner of Azkaban movie first came out, Rowling gave an interview saying she'd been shocked by a scene in the film with Lupin that had seemingly prescient dialogue added about a future book plot detail that only she knew. At the time I was certain it was Lupin's offhand line, "You have your mother's eyes, you know," to Harry. When Deathly Hallows was first published, it was gratifying to discover I'd been right.

Of course at the time I was too busy sobbing over my book to care, since you get the "Lily's eyes" bit in Snape's death / flashback chapter and it's tough to rate "haha I guessed right!" over "FAVORITE CHARACTER DEAD."

Snape's still one of my favorite fictional flawed and complicated assholes who make bad choices but try to do the right thing, even while they keep making the bad choice. And continuing to be assholes. I have less sympathy for Dumbledore, whose motives were more obscure. Snape at least came by his jerkass ways openly. Dumbledore could smile, and smile, and be an asshole.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:45 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Snape is interesting to me because he is the most human in a supernatural world. Most of the characters fall clearly on a spectrum of absolutes, especially in the eyes of a child (young Harry). People are complicated and it is the older characters who see things in more complicated ways. For Harry and readers, Voldemort, is unadulterated evil and his Death Eaters criminals and racist snobs. As the books progress and our characters get older they start seeing the wheels within wheels, more complex basis of choices and that it is most simple things such as, loyalty, friendship, love that create the most complicated choices. Draco Malfoy is not just a flat obnoxious character but someone who is a child with childish ways and whose fate creates complications. The same could be said of all the child characters but children do grow up and live in complexity and part of adulthood is making choices. Snape loved, he loved intensely and his love complicated his life. He made choices because he could not permanently attain that love or really, any love at all. How much crueler wanting love and only achieving resentment, fear and cold calculation (I am looking at you Dumbledore). Did he receive justice? No, but then how many of us do? So he is human with all its troubles in a supernatural world with its own set of issues.
posted by jadepearl at 7:43 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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