Never Apologize For Loving Severus Snape

As we can see from this thread, loving Severus Snape comes at a cost for some fans. It’s not just a case of simple dislike, which is the price we pay for becoming invested in a character. A lot of the criticism against Snape has turned away from simple literary interpretation to outright character assassination of readers.

We all have a natural moral compass. We know, however vaguely, that we should defend the good and oppose the bad. As far as Snape is concerned, we know that he was prejudiced against Muggles for a significant part of his life, and that he joined Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters, who preached pureblood supremacism and committed unspeakable crimes against innocent people.

So it is not as if Snape begins the Harry Potter series with a clean moral slate, and any fair reading cannot deny his wrongdoing.

The problem comes when fan dislike of Snape is not rooted in his actions, but in a reader’s perceived sense of moral superiority over others. This sense may come from various sources. One is a belief in defending the oppressed from oppression. Without delving into contemporary politics, Harry Potter fans can agree that the books do critique prejudice. Literature has a noble tradition of exposing this wrong.

Likewise, fans can agree that each reader will use their own experience to decide whom they like and dislike. If a Harry Potter fan has experienced some kind of prejudice in real life, then it will not be surprising if they empathise with Muggle-borns and even feel resentment towards Purebloods, especially when said Purebloods murder innocent people. That reader wants a reckoning. They want the scales of justice to be made equal.

So, in a standard Three-Act structure, the person who espouses prejudicial beliefs should be reformed after accepting the rightness of the opposing viewpoint. If they refuse correction, this person may be conquered by the opposing view, although such a victory does not mean that the evil has been totally eradicated.

The latter case is precisely what happens in the Harry Potter series: Lord Voldemort’s murderous hatred is defeated by love.

But here’s the issue: one of the truest heroes was a man who was once prejudiced against Muggle-borns and joined Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters.

Is it possible that a character espousing prejudice and taking up with wrongdoers can also evoke sympathy? Can that man become a hero?

The short answer is yes.

Fans of Snape will argue that the abusive conduct of his Muggle father, Tobias Snape, was probably the first basis of his prejudice against Muggles. For Snape, magic was a source of power and pride, and perhaps a protection against the worst excesses of his father’s rage. Being sorted into Slytherin further amplified that sense of belonging to a noble lineage, making it easy for Snape to accept and nurture his disdain for Muggles.

Regardless of whether a Harry Potter fan likes Snape or not, such arguments are based on the books, not wishful thinking. The problem is when those who dislike Snape refuse to accept the validity of these arguments and instead accuse Snape fans of defending or even endorsing his flaws. Worse, such critics may conclude that a Snape fan is the equivalent of an apologist for real-life bigotry and oppression.

This is where somebody has to draw the line.

Disagreement is welcome and necessary. As anyone can see from our forums, our members are welcome to respectfully disagree with each other. It may be said that our members not only love Snape, but love books in general. They get deeply invested in certain characters and this breeds a certain level of defensiveness. This is perfectly fine.

It is even beneficial to be exposed to persuasive arguments from the opposite side, as this can either make you change your point of view or, if you still disagree, make you understand *why* the opposing side is wrong. Therefore, you can better argue against what they actually believe, rather than a straw man.

Many do not like Severus Snape. Whether their reasons for that dislike are justified or not, they are entitled to that point of view. When a spirit of respectful debate is maintained, reasonable Snape fans will not ignore or deny incidences where his behaviour was clearly wrong.

For example, Snape’s humiliation of Lily Evans by calling her a “Mudblood” in public after she defended him against James Potter’s bullying was arguably his worst mistake prior to handing Lord Voldemort the prophecy. Lily’s decision to cut him off after he specifically failed to disavow Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters will be seen as understandable both by reasonable fans and opponents of Snape.

Notice that these criticisms are based on the books.

What has arguably happened is that some readers are, for want of a better verb, reading too much into the parallels between themes in Harry Potter and real world problems. They do this because they believe that they have the correct understanding of said real world problems, and that because they themselves may feel affected by these problems, they are the ones who can identify and condemn the perpetrators.

Worse, they may feel that all such perpetrators are wholly bad people and that any attempt to understand what is driving such wrongdoing is tantamount to excusing that behaviour. This naturally means that anyone who has done wrong is unworthy of forgiveness, and anyone currently doing the wrong can never be redeemed.

So, if Snape once believed that Muggles were below magical folk and consequently joined the Death Eaters, then he is an “oppressor” who cannot be defended in any way. Arguments that discuss his abusive childhood, experience of bullying, loneliness, rejection by his best friend and love interest, are all diminishing the impact of his association with Lord Voldemort, which is exactly like trying to excuse real-life bigots who join supremacist organisations. Snape’s change was just an attempt by J.K. Rowling to garner sympathy for a wholly bad character and should be dismissed because he had the wrong views.

Furthermore, only people with experience of bigotry are able to understand this, and anyone trying to make an opposing argument is speaking from a position of privilege; ergo, their opinion is automatically invalid. Therefore, if you want to be someone who is against oppression, you must agree that Snape’s character is irredeemable, otherwise your own personal beliefs about bigotry can now be called into question.

There are several problems with this line of reasoning.

First, these claims are simply untrue. Everyone is welcome to dislike Snape based on actual events in the book, but nobody can change the meaning of the English language to make understanding the context behind Snape’s wrongdoing the same thing as justifying said wrongdoing. Such accusations don’t just fly in the face of reality; they are an insult to people’s intelligence. Intimidating and guilt-tripping readers encourages the very arrogance and prejudice that some Snape opponents claim they hate.

Secondly, these claims are hypocritical. If someone who has experience of domestic abuse or bullying comes to sympathise with Snape, how is that any different than someone with experience of discrimination being unsympathetic to those joining the Death Eaters? (Of course, sympathy for Snape’s background is not an attempt to excuse said Death Eaters.) By the standards of those wanting to police literary interpretation, this denial of any pro-Snape point of view is disrespectful to the personal experiences of different readers.

Regardless of who is privileged or not, many people have suffered traumas, and not having personal experience of one kind of trauma does not make a reader incapable of commenting on it. Nor does it mean that a reader cannot disagree with a negative interpretation of Snape because they did not experience a certain trauma in real life. More importantly, not every personal trauma is reflected exactly in a piece of literature. Believing this can lead readers into making claims that don’t match the author’s intent or fit the facts and context, and can then mislead other readers who might otherwise have reached different conclusions.

Again, this is dictatorial, manipulative, and plain hypocritical– especially when a reader is referring to undisputed facts about Snape’s life inside the Harry Potter books. Whether anyone likes Snape or not, he was abused by his father and bullied by fellow students.

Thirdly, these claims encourage readers not to use the books as their guide for interpretation, but to use the personal beliefs of a select group. This is not acceptable. Readers may well bring their personal views into their own interpretation, but they are not under any obligation to use someone else’s views as the lens through which they interpret a book. Literature is not designed to cater to one particular viewpoint, nor should it lecture the reader. The beauty of reading novels is that the reader takes ownership of the story and comes to their own conclusions. Nobody has the right to choose what those conclusions can or should be.

If someone says that they agree with Lord Voldemort’s pureblood supremacism, then anyone is welcome to vehemently disagree. Most probably will. But nobody has the right to deprive said person of the ability to come to that conclusion, because in doing so, they are depriving everyone of the ability to draw their own conclusions. The “slippery slope” is often accused of being a logical fallacy, but not here: when one person sets themself up as the judge over literature, others will ask why they too cannot judge. And who judges the judges?

The ultimate victim is literature. Instead of shining a light on human weakness, it becomes a mouthpiece for whatever point of view is the most powerful. Today, the ability to shout down, humiliate, and demonise anyone seen to be on “the wrong side” is an enormous threat to writers. Fear of condemnation and loss of income has driven some writers to censor themselves and even to get confirmation that their work will not offend anyone before publishing. Aside from the obvious threat to freedom of speech, such fear of causing offence may result in less authentic expression at best, and a poorer book at worst.

The irony is that it is often those who have fought for truth and justice who pay the price when literature is censored. Imagine a world without The Gulag Archipelago, Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and so on. These books speak inconvenient truths about society and often contain questionable or downright unpleasant characters.

But here’s the thing: not all of these unpleasant characters are irredeemable. Very few of them are truly evil. Some of them are may even be good people who are doing the wrong thing for a certain end, people who have been misled and indoctrinated by purposeful wrongdoers, or people whose wrongdoing was caused by an even greater wrong, which, if not addressed, will never compel these wrongdoers to change their actions.

This is why critics will hear Snape fans point to Muggle abuse and school bullying as being crucial to understanding why he joined the Death Eaters and accepted their ideology.

Nobody is wholly good. Likewise, very few people are wholly bad. Where fiction does show an exact parallel with reality is by demonstrating what is actually inside of us and showing us a path, often through the standard Three-Act structure, to positive or negative change. Great literature shows that such change is often painful, especially when it forces the protagonist(s) to confront ugly truths about themselves. We often see that such ugliness within is influenced by ugliness without. People bred in a poisonous atmosphere cannot seriously be expected to withstand that poison for long, unless they are constantly protected by goodness.

And that is simply unrealistic.

There is a reason why great literature often focuses on change and redemption. A supposedly “good” character that is never challenged or tempted into wrong is death to good fiction. They cannot change or be redeemed. Therefore, the reader learns little, if anything.

Pressuring or even forcing writers to create characters that meet politically correct norms and creating an atmosphere of hostility towards readers has much in common with the very systems of oppression that some Snape critics say they oppose. Denial of free speech is the pre-eminent form of oppression, why is why tyrants often begin by attacking writers and banning books.

That is not to say that Snape critics support such actions, but those who denigrate the personal character of Snape fans by equating them to real-life monsters seem genuinely unaware of where such policing can lead. Worse, they are unaware that in silencing the viewpoints of others, they are in fact silencing their own right to have an opposing point of view. When other readers treat them the same way as they have treated others, who will defend them?

In fandom debate over Severus Snape, as in life, the Golden Rule should apply. If a reader wants to hold forth on the wrongs of Snape, then go ahead. But do not be surprised, offended, or vindictive when another reader challenges that point of view. Fear of criticism is often based on a fear that the critic may be right.

It could be that Snape was a hero who properly atoned for his prejudice and Death Eater affiliations by fighting to protect a boy he resented in order to overcome the purposeful, irredeemable evil of Lord Voldemort. Holding this conclusion does not mean that a Snape fan excuses Death Eaters, pureblood supremacism, or any other evil. That claim is insulting and manifestly untrue. It is a disgrace to the purpose of reading literature and certainly does nothing for victims of real-life oppression.

Nobody has a monopoly over morality when it comes to interpreting literature. Therefore, nobody has a right to choose how someone may interpret literature, particularly if it forces someone to accept a claim that goes against their own personal conscience and even the truth. If certain Snape critics wish to prove that they are good people, they can start by maintaining a respectful, fact-based critique of Severus Snape and not casting aspersions on the personal character of those who support him.

That way, everyone wins.

By on February 18th, 2023 in Blog Updates
Tags: , ,


I love the Snape no matter tne circumstances, ALWAYS and your meta is so good.

Yeah, lately I have seen many Snape lovers convert to the Snaters due to peer pressure, bullying by marauder stans and so called moral approval. This post really makes you appreciate being a Snape fan.


Fantastic post.
I entered the HP fandom aware that Snape was divisive, and I understand completely that not everyone will be drawn to him. What struck me is the (1) absolute fabrications (2) confusion between personal interpretations and canon fact (3) the willingness to hurl personal insults.
Well, it made me love him more, and what started out as a normal interest in HP has devolved into what’s a 4-year fixation and running.
If Snape is a Nazi, he’s Magical Oskar Schindler. Fight me.