Not a Better Love Story Than ‘Twilight’: Harry Potter
Guys. We gotta talk. Not about Twilight, necessarily, but about love stories. I frequently hear the phrase “still a better love story than Twilight”, and usually it’s funny, but sometimes it’s actually just kind of wrong.
Because, while Twilight is nowhere near the best written story in the world, and while Bella and Edward are exceedingly bland and almost too stupid to survive, at least when they reach the end of their story, they’re together as two consenting adults who have learned to widen their view outside their ridiculous romance. They’re terrible at times, but at least neither of them dies because of the idiocy of one or both of them, for example (they don’t die eternally, I mean. Because they are, of course, both undead by the end of the series). There’s definitely indications that Edward’s behaviour is abusive (controlling who Bella sees, spending most of the first book literally wanting to eat her, stalking her, breaking into her house to watch her sleep, behaving violently, basically never respecting her choices when it doesn’t suit him etc etc etc), but unfortunately for some love stories, while we want to believe they’re better than that, they actually aren’t, they’re kind of just swanning around on the same level…
So. Let’s turn to the Harry Potter series, shall we?
Calm down. I’m not talking about ALL of Harry Potter. But one of the love stories in Harry Potter just really gets me mad, so I really just have to say that I despise the attention that the Severus Snape and Lily Evans story gets for being super romantic.
No. That’s wrong. Please stop. And allow me to break it down for you…
You guys. Snape is THE worst. I know, I know. He did all this stuff to save Harry and he did it because he loved Lily, blah blah blah. No. Not good enough. A re-read of the books does a pretty good job of showing how Snape’s love for Lily is not present in most of his behaviour, like, ever. For example, this is an adult man, a teacher, who bullies Hermione Granger, his student, because she’s a Muggle-born who is clever (just like Lily) and because she’s friends with Harry (son of Lily). If Lily was alive to see the way Snape behaved towards his students, she’d be as horrified and disappointed in him as she was the day she decided she couldn’t be his friend anymore. And that’s not even considering the way he speaks to Harry, her orphan son.
There is, of course, an argument for his behaviour being twisted up by grief and anger and guilt and all that jazz, but this behaviour did not start after Lily was killed. It was present when he was younger as well. And I think the biggest problem in their relationship does actually come down to his hatred of Muggle-borns. And it doesn’t seem to be a perspective that his friendship with Lily had any impact on. Instead, Snape considers her an exception. As Lily herself says, “you call everyone of my birth Mudblood, Severus. Why should I be any different?” And, for all you Muggle-born witches out there, I want to encourage you to be as wary of anyone who tries to seduce you with “you’re not like other Muggle-borns” as you are of the words “you’re not like other girls”.
The glimpses we get of Lily throughout the books indicate that she was a talented witch and a decent person who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself, other people, and her beliefs. She made it absolutely clear that she wasn’t going to have anything to do with someone so into the Dark Arts and so interested in being a Death Eater, but Snape makes no effort to see her perspective. Instead throws all of his fury at his rejection at James, the male rival who eventually steals the love of his life away, using nefarious methods like not being on the side of evil. Like Lily had no choice in the matter. Way to be respectful of her intelligence and autonomy, Snape.
It is worth commenting that Snape is not without his redeeming moments. I just don’t really believe his behaviour to be particularly romantic on average, I suppose. But he has his moments, my favourite being this moment from the second part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, in the version of reality in which Harry died, but Snape survived and lived another twenty or so years. That Snape, I think, had a chance to make peace with Lily’s death, if not the ways in which he had failed and disappointed her: “I couldn’t save Harry for Lily. So now I give my allegiance to the cause she believed in. And it’s possible – that along the way I started believing in it myself”. I think perhaps that’s a version of Snape that Lily could have loved and had a future with, because he actually really believed in the cause he was fighting for, but without her death, I just don’t think he would have come to exist.
I will also take a moment to add that I’m actually speaking so savagely of Snape from the books, not Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the character in the films. Rickman did a brilliant job of taking a character that I clearly have very little sympathy for, and making me believe that this is a man who deeply regrets the mistakes of his youth and his horrified by the results of the choices he has made. Basically, if he had a choice, I really believe that Rickman’s Snape would have turned away from the Death Eaters eventually if Lily hadn’t been killed. I don’t believe the same of the Snape from the books. The true difference in character between the two is discernible in just two lines of dialogue. Book Snape asks Dumbledore to hide Lily, to save Lily. Movie Snape asks Dumbledore to hide them all, meaning not just Lily, but James and Harry too. Even the movies recognised that he needed to be a better guy.
But, back to the real point… Here’s what I have for you: Snape and Lily’s story is not a love story, it’s a story of guilt. Because his dumb actions led to Lily’s death. And sure, you can argue that he never meant for her and her husband to die, but someone was going to! And I just can’t romanticise someone who was willing to hand information to Voldemort that he MUST have known would, at the very least, lead to the death of someone. That guy doesn’t get an “Always” with a woman who died protecting her son from a killing curse. That’s not a love story, that’s an entitled, mean boy being sad that his friend-who-is-a-girl won’t love him, when he literally throws his support behind a movement that would see her and people like her as second-class citizens, if not straight up dead. Yeah, sure, buddy. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
This is not a better love story than Twilight.
If you have any suggestions for love stories that you’d like me to tackle next, jump into the comments and let me know, and I’ll do my best to explain how they’re not a better love story than Twilight.