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Why Snape/Lily is a horrific ship:

Posted on 2011.04.09 at 16:01
Sensibility:: confusedconfused
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Recently a couple of friends of mine remarked that they found the Snape/Lily relationship in the Harry Potter series "sweet," and I was too aghast to reply coherently, so I'm going to do it now.

I was profoundly disappointed when Rowling chose to go make Snape's obsession with Lily his primary motivation because I though that the cliche took away depth from the character as well as making a character I liked completely unsympathetic. Rather than a complex character with loyalties toward his former housemates but socio-poltical sympathies that are anti-genocide that winds up siding with people he personally dislikes because of a moral stance, Rowling turned him into a single-minded stalker.

For those of you fuzzy on the details, books five through seven (Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows) reveal the back story. Growing up, Lily was just about the only person kind to Snape and his thus his best friend. His worst memory was in his fifth year when he called her a mudblood because he was trying to be cool and accepted by his prejudiced classmates. When Lily marries James Potter and has Harry, Snape arranges for Voldemort to kill James and Harry, so long as Lily is left alive. The fact that Voldemort killed Lily is what actually ensures Snape's loyalty to The Order of the Phoenix.

So, Snape doesn't respect Lily enough to be kind to her under peer pressure. He's so controlling that he arranges to murder her husband and son, because he can't allow her to have a life without him. Only revenge really makes him take a stand against murderers obsessed with blood purity.

And some of my friends like this? I can only hope that they aren't big enough HP fans to realize what they were saying, and that they simply meant that Snape still thinking of Lily years later was sweet. Except that for anyone that knows the series, he wasn't still in love with a childhood friend over a decade later. He was still obsessed with the woman over whom he felt such ownership of that he wanted to kill her family without being obligated to even be nice to her. That's not love. That's not sweet. That's not a sympathetic or complex character. That's a rabid dog that happened to wind up hell-bent on bringing down the bad guys. Thus it completely undermines the message of the first book, not to assume that someone is evil just because they're a bit spooky and unpleasant.

This is particularly triggering for me since I spent five years in a "relationship" based on abuse. It was the typical controlling, emotionally abusive, rape-filled "marriage" that I couldn't escape due to violence against me and death threats against me and my family. I escaped due to a lucky series of coincidences as well as some very clever maneuvering.

Now, I'm at least as hopeless a romantic as the next person. I love Jane Austen relationships where people don't give up on love when things get hard. I'm indulging in some pining as circumstance takes someone important from my life as we speak. But it isn't love without respect, trust, and consent.

There's nothing sweet about stalking.

Related post on Twilight:


pet_lunatic at 2011-04-09 22:41 (UTC) (Link)
Oddly enough I said almost exactly this to somebody just the other day! I like Snape as a literary device - I think he's unusual: the idea of somebody on 'our side' being, when it comes down to it, such a horrendously twisted human being. Not just messed up and therefore perhaps deserving of sympathy, but so appalling that he's basically irredeemable, in that even his 'redemption' was motivated by inexcusable underlying traits. It's not common (in my experience, anyway!), especially in literature designed for younger readers, to come across a character like Snape batting for the good guys. How anyone could interpret his attitude towards Lily as anything other than profoundly disturbing, though, is amazing to me. I'm a little concerned that Dumbledore seems to think his weird obsession with her is touching as opposed to pathological. I hope he was just using it to manipulate Snape to do what he needed him to do! Come to think of it, half the supposed good guys in HP are, at the root of it, gits. I honestly don't know if that was deliberate on JKR's part, or if she didn't see them way herself.

I'm sorry this has triggered bad memories for you :(
Brilliant, but scary
discipuladc at 2011-04-11 12:33 (UTC) (Link)
I was inclined to think that Dumbledore was just being manipulative, because that's how I see the character. Of course, Harry naming a kid Severus suggests that Snape has been redeemed in Harry's eyes, and since Rowling doesn't weigh in on this being problematic in the text, she almost condones it.
Leigh... LeighLeigh... Leighloo...Ladle...etc...
leighleighla at 2011-04-13 16:51 (UTC) (Link)
Totally agree.

I keep wondering what things would have been like if in a twisted world, Voldemort had killed James and Harry, but left Lily alive.

I imagine Snape would not have lived very long. I'm pretty sure she would have snapped his neck pretty clean.

But thing about that. If she had lived and James and Harry had died...her husband, whom she clearly loved, and her...what was he? two months old? Three? That's terrible. That's not sweet at all.
Brilliant, but scary
discipuladc at 2011-04-13 16:59 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, July to late Oct, so 3-4 months.

I'd like to think of Lily as someone who would have figured out that she wasn't allowed to live for no reason, and who had motive, and taken her revenge on Snape instead of running to him for comfort. If Snape didn't expect that, he must not have really respected her at all, just desired to posses her as a status symbol.
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