I think you’re absolutely on the right side of this argument, and here’s what we say to Snape lovers:
We all accept the following to be true, right?
- Stalking is wrong.
- Emotional abuse is wrong.
- Cruelty to children and animals is wrong.
- Blaming someone for their parents’ actions is wrong.
- Racial discrimination is wrong.
- Murder (the killing of civilians when you have no self-defence excuse) is wrong.
We’re good so far, yeah? If you saw someone doing those things in real life, you’d stop them or call the cops, right? I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page here. Morally, those things are wrong (and illegal). So, moving out of hypothetical moral discourse and into the realm of things Snape actually did in the Harry Potter books and/or movies:
- Snape called Lily a Mudblood, which in the HP verse is a pretty serious racial slur. It’s like using the ‘n’ word or the ‘f’ word (not the ‘fuck’ word) in our society. It’s nasty.
- Snape treated Hermione terribly and heavily implied that it was because she was Muggle-born. Again, racial discrimination. A teacher in the real-life school I went to was fired for that.
- Snape was in a position of power over Harry and treated him (and many other Gryffindors) exceedingly poorly. He was rude, condescending, unfair in his enforcement of the rules, manipulative, and probably other things besides. This counts as emotional abuse. If someone in a position of power over you treats you the way Snape treated Harry, even if he saves your life, you are being emotionally abused.
- On that same note, Snape was a grown man who acted like a five-year-old throwing a tantrum at Harry and his friends.
- Snape was Neville Longbottom’s worst fear. JKR treats it lightly in the books, but the fact remains that a thirteen-year-old boy was so afraid of Snape that he couldn’t speak to him, and that the thought of him stepping out of a wardrobe was almost too much for Neville to handle. No adult should ever terrify a child like this. It’s emotional abuse, and it’s abuse of power.
- Snape mistreated Harry because of actions James had taken. Not only is it childish to hold onto this grudge, it’s just plain wrong to treat someone badly because you disliked their parents. This is the same prejudice the Dursleys held against Harry. If you believe that the Dursleys had no excuse for their behaviour, how can you believe that Snape does have one?
- Snape killed many innocent people just because they were Muggle-born.
I want to address this last point before I move on. Now, you can argue that the cost of a few lives for Snape to get close to Voldemort and help carry out Dumbledore’s grand plan for the war was worth it - and if that was the only crime that Snape had committed, I might be persuaded to see him as morally grey; you might be able to convince me that he was only being a vile person because he had to be. But if you look at the rest of this list, you’ll realise that really, Snape deeply enjoyed being a vile person.
So now you see that Snape was terrible to Harry, Hermione, Neville, and even Lily just because he enjoyed doing it, and you see that he did much worse to complete strangers who had committed no crime.
And that’s just the short list.
Great, now let’s talk about why Snily is one of the worst ships that anyone could ever ship.
- Snape was cruel to Petunia when they were children, even though Lily was trying very hard to maintain a relationship with her sister despite their differences.
- Snape tried to manipulate Lily into loving him and only him, and putting aside all of her other relationships.
- Snape did not respect Lily’s beliefs and opinions.
- After Lily started dating James, Snape started referring to her as a Mudblood - indicating that his friendship and his “love” were not unconditional.
- Snape willingly became a Death Eater, a member of a group who hunted people like Lily for fun, and at the time he saw absolutely nothing wrong with that.
- After Lily’s death, Snape left her son in his crib. He left a crying, helpless infant all alone in a wrecked house in a thunderstorm while there were rogue Death Eaters on the loose. He essentially left Harry to die.
- And then he cut the two people she loved most out of her photograph and pretended that they had never existed, that he was the only person who mattered in her life.
- And then, as mentioned above, he abused Harry emotionally and became the bane of his existence for years.
Snape did not love Lily. You don’t call someone you love a racial slur. You don’t insist that the person you love choose you over her other friends. If the person you love has a son she gave her life for, you don’t treat him badly just because you feel like it.
Yes, even if that love is unrequited.
What Snape felt for Lily was not love; it was possessiveness. He wanted her to be his. He wanted her to leave James for him. He wanted her to pick sides for him. He wanted to hold her close and smother her and never let her go. Snape didn’t love Lily; he loved himself. He was a narcissistic, bitter, emotionally abusive creep who couldn’t deal with the fact that his first crush ended up marrying someone else.
"But wait!" you say, white-knuckling your desk and probably wishing you had a wand to hex me with for saying such things about your baby. "He had an abusive childhood! He was lonely! He was sad! He was greasy and no one loved him! Doesn’t that excuse everything?”
Keep your shirt on. No, it doesn’t excuse anything.
People are responsible for their own actions. Tom Riddle’s dad didn’t love him either, and does that excuse him committing genocide? No? So why should Snape’s acne problem excuse him participating in genocide and attempting to make his supposed “true love“‘s child into someone just as bitter and miserable as he was? Look, Snape wasn’t just a little creepy. He was a murderer. He was as abusive as Dolores Umbridge. He was as self-centered as Voldemort. Harry was abused as a child, and he didn’t turn out to be a complete monster, so why does Snape get a free pass?
Romanticisting Snape is not only incredibly stupid and short-sighted, it’s dangerous. Putting men like this into fiction and presenting them as “good guys” or morally grey or brave or deserving of sympathy encourages the boys who read these books to behave like Snape, and it encourages the straight girls/gay boys who read these books to accept the existence of these men in real life and to want to date them. Which you don’t ever, ever want to do.
If you ever meet a Snape in real life, run the other way, and don’t give him your sympathy.
tl;dr Having a sad backstory does not automatically make you sympathetic. Doing one good thing does not automatically make you a beacon of bravery and justice. Fuck you, Snivellus.