The passing of actor Alan Rickman yesterday hit the Harry Potter fandom hard. All over the internet and social media, wands were raised and favorite moments, quotes, and roles were shared. Greats like Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry, even JK Rowling herself, sent out messages of memories and grief and condolances.
I'll admit it. I spent a good 30 minutes scrolling through the #RIPAlanRickman hashtag on Twitter, and more time than I'd like to admit looking at quotes from Harry Potter. I was sad. I've never met this man, never even fathomed meeting him, but I was sad.
And then, I got upset.
Between reading posts about how people admired and looked up to Rickman, how he helped shaped careers, and how he inspired fans all over the globe, I saw posts that mocked and demeaned those of us who were never lucky enough to meet Rickman in person.
"It's stupid to cry over someone you've never met."
"He's just another celebrity; they're only doing this because he's famous."
"I bet you don't act like this for every obituary you read."
First off, it's never okay to tell another human being that they don't have the right be upset or sad over something. Knocking someone down for having emotions is perhaps the most inhuman way to behave.
Second, what these people are forgetting is that some of us, myself included, have literally grown up with Harry Potter, and every character in that world. The first book came out when I was 7, and I went to the midnight release of the 7th book the summer I turned 17. For the most part, I was the same age as Harry, Ron, and Hermione the first time I read each book. I identified with their struggles (not the fighting Voldemort part, but everything else), and each time a character died, it felt like someone I knew had died. I knew this world and these characters inside and out, and they impacted me so much that my undergraduate thesis was on Harry Potter.
I had a pretty good childhood. So think for a minute: if these books and characters made that big of an impact with me, imagine what they did for all of those kids who had literally nothing else.
I work in a Title I school district. This means that a good percentage of my kids don't live with their biological parents for various reason (prison, DSS, early death, etc.). We're a rural county, and a lot of people don't have much money. Some of our students are homeless, either with their families or on their own. These are the kids that NEED stories like Harry Potter, stories that have characters that teach them the importance of loyalty, friendship, and love. For a lot of these kids, they haven't been shown these things. The way for them to experience it is through reading.
Out of all of the characters in Harry Potter, who proved (in the end) to be the most steadfastly loyal, and exhibit the greatest amount of love?
Who brought that character to life?
So, for us, the world didn't just lose an actor, a man we never met or could hope to meet. The world didn't just lose a husband and a friend, a colleague and a director. The world lost a man who helped show an ENTIRE GENERATION how necessary it is to hold on to the things that are truly important.
So the next time someone asks me if I really got upset, even cried, over the death of a character, whether it's the black and white death on a page or the all-too-real departure from our world of the actor who brought that character to life, I will look them in the eye and say: