Jan. 13th, 2013

ltgmars: (Default)
So let's talk about "Snape Syndrome" (arbitrarily named it myself; do you like it?), the last-minute ~redemption~ of an otherwise despicable character. I've named it after Snape because it's a famous enough example that many people understand what I mean specifically even if they haven't read Harry Potter to the end. For those unfamiliar, what happens is that after six and a half books of being an actually mean, horrible person to Harry and Co., Snape's backstory is revealed and we learn something that flips everything we knew about what he did on its head and makes him out to be ~the good guy we never knew he was~. And I'm not knocking Snape as a fictive character -- I think he's really fascinating, before and after the reveal -- but what ends up happening is this starry-eyed extrapolation about how everything he did was with secret good intentions, as if it absolves and erases how legitimately terrible he was (spoiler alert: it doesn't; he was actually a jerk).

I've seen this a lot in Japanese dramas. (It probably exists in other media, but I'm going to be clear right now that my consumption of shows that aren't Japanese is incredibly limited.) I'm not sure why it's such a trend, but so, so often when there's a character that's set up pretty blatantly as the antagonist who does evil, manipulative things, the character is brought back near or at the end of the series with some sob story or change of heart, all wrongdoings are forgiven, and everyone lives happily ever after. Like, I'm all about making sympathetic antagonists with complicated motivations and nuanced growth, but I've seen enough of the Snape Syndrome that it's come to feel gratingly disingenuous.

And I get it -- fiction is idealized anyway, and there's probably some kind of practical aspect like not wanting to sully actors' reputations with tried-and-true terrible characters -- but it's still really irritating. It feels like no one's willing to recognize that sometimes people are terrible to other people -- not even that they're terrible people at their core (though uh sometimes these characters are super bad people, and they're still redeemed?), but that they're terrible in relation to the protagonists, that they should be held responsible for their actions, that sometimes they shouldn't and can't be truly absolved of what they did. Snape Syndrome sets up this worldview in which people should be forgiven (or at least sympathized with) for doing horrendous things just because there's something going on behind it or because they've turned things around at the very end, and I just don't think it's what's useful or healthy for everyone. I really, really appreciate and personally practice trying to understand where other people are coming from and recognizing that they have their own demons, but it's unrealistic and unfair to expect someone who's been hurt to ~forgive and forget~ when there isn't any contrition or real acknowledgment of the hurt caused, just a shrug and a flippant apology and an "I'm messed up, too".

There isn't much of a point to this post (as usual~), but I just finished a series in which the antagonist is so terrible I considered giving up on the series because I couldn't stand him, but gets Snape Syndrome right at the end and it's like :| :| :| and I'm like :| :| :| and I just had a lot of feelings to get out.


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