Like any good little blogger I had planned to write a post wrapping up 2015 and listing my personal ups and downs, as well as the events that defined the year in general. I was procrastinating a bit but slowly putting together an outline in my mind of what it would look like. Then last Monday, I woke up at about 1:00am to pee (you’re welcome for the detail) and like the social media-addicted asshole I am I checked my phone before going back to sleep. I looked at Twitter and learned the news that the Earth was officially short one David Bowie. I cried for two hours straight before I was able to fall back to sleep.
I had just had the most wonderful weekend ever, which I had also planned to write about (and maybe will later), but in that instant all of the good things I had wanted to write about were swept out of my brain and I literally could not think about anything other than the tremendous loss we had all just suffered. I’d had no idea he was even ill, and 69 is really not so old, and I was not prepared. Turns out that not only had he been battling cancer…
(and looking dapper as fuck while doing so, because he’s David Fucking Bowie)
but he had also been preparing a farewell for us in the most beautiful way imaginable- in the form of a last album. He was saying goodbye, and I don’t think any of us knew.
I cried a lot that day. The first memory I have of any movie was watching Labyrinth, curled up in my sister’s lap with a vicious case of food poisoning. I was only 6 years old but I remember that the goblins were scary, the baby’s outfit was stripey, and the Goblin King was the most beautiful human I had ever seen. David Bowie literally inhabits one of my very first clear memories. By the time I was in high school I was fully obsessed with not only his music, but with him as a person. He seemed like an impossibly brilliant alien we had somehow managed to trap on Earth with all of us boring Normals. He had hits and he had misses and he just kept going. He just kept being David Bowie, which could change from year to year, and meant whatever the fuck he felt like it meant in that moment. To lose him so suddenly was devastating, but somehow I felt like he was always just visiting. If I learned today that he was an actual fucking alien from another planet I would not be surprised. The world looked painfully dull now that he wasn’t in it, and I felt in my heart that it would never be as interesting again.
The fact that this had happened on a Monday morning was some real fucking bullshit. I had to carry this around for a week, I thought, before I could properly mourn. This sort of thing involves ritual: It involves planning. There were songs to play and tears to cry and whiskey to drink and oh yes, one of the best movies of all time to watch. So I dried my tears and determined to soldier through my work week until Friday was finally over.
You all know what’s coming next.
If I in ANY WAY managed to convey the bleak sadness I felt at losing David Bowie, please triple it and add putting my heart in a blender then pressing purée. I grew up watching Alan Rickman. I can’t talk about all of his movies or this post will be ridiculously long (although for the record, I unironically love “Love Actually” even though it is a sexist hot mess) but here are the ones that for me, are the Greatest Hits.
The first movie I ever saw him in was Robin Hood. While Costner and the movie in general was widely panned (I was like 12 so it was a perfectly good movie to me, but you know, hindsight and all that), critics loved Rickman’s performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham and for very good reason. He was so deliciously over-the-top as a temper tantrum-throwing bastard that it was impossible not to enjoy him in that role. Not to mention he had one of the best threats in all of movie history, which my sister and I still quote to this day.
(“BECAUSE IT’S DULL YOU TWIT IT WILL HURT MORE”)
(And come on, who the fuck else could have pulled off this line)
I loved every part of Robin Hood and watched it repeatedly when I was a kid, and although beyond Rickman’s and Morgan Freeman’s performances the movie does not hold up now (for the love of all that is holy HOW did I not notice how bad Costner’s accent was), I will never not feel sentimental when that cheesy-ass movie fades into the Bryan Adams music video at the end… ahhhhh VHS tapes. Those were the days.
Next up, I was finally old enough that my older brother would let me watch Die Hard. I loved Bruce Willis as a kid and knowing Rickman from Robin Hood I was excited to see him play another baddie. With Hans Gruber, Rickman portrayed an entirely different type of villain. Ice-cold and seemingly completely bored with his own terrorist plotting, he went ahead and walked away with that entire movie as well. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one rooting for him to live through it.
(RIP Hans, you were cool as fuck- sorry you didn’t get your money)
Along with Love Actually, watching Die Hard every year at Christmas is one of my personal traditions, and now the holidays will never be the same.
Dogma is my favorite Kevin Smith movie and it is so fucking stupid and smart at the same time that I can’t even deal with how much I love it. It is supremely silly yet at the same time when it comes to the Bible, they clearly did their homework. It is the type of light-hearted blasphemy that is pure catnip for non-religious people who were raised in extremely Catholic or Christian homes. It’s packed with some of the biggest stars of the era and is full of hilarious lines, but my favorite parts of that movie are Matt Damon as an angel running around killing everyone with a Desert Eagle (“YOU DIDN’T SAY GOD BLESS YOU WHEN I SNEEZED”), and Rickman’s hysterical turn as Metatron.
(Well before Supernatural, THIS was the sassiest angel in the garrison)
(Coincidentally this is exactly how I have felt all week)
Galaxy Quest was brilliant and Alan Rickman was 100% the best part of it. That movie is underrated as fuck and you should watch it if you haven’t. It accurately depicts the borderline-insane passion that goes into being deeply involved in a fandom (although they are clearly spoofing the Star Trek fandom, it speaks to essentially all of them) and all of the positive and negative things that go along with it. It was so loving towards nerds, while never letting us off the hook for our more annoying qualities. I can’t think of any movie like it. Because I am an obsessive fan of so many things it speaks to me on a very deep level, and as such I can’t begin to describe it without going on for at least 8 more paragraphs- so just watch it please. So. Many. Feelings.
(If this GIF does not convince you, nothing will.)
Now we come to my favorite Alan Rickman role of all time, in a movie that I have probably seen over a hundred times. Sense and Sensibility was my favorite movie for many, many years, and still resides in my top 10. It had a stellar cast, but Colonel Brandon was the character that made it so incredibly romantic and substantive. Instead of the sweep-the-girl-off-her-feet narrative we’ve seen so many times, here we get a real, proper love story. The story of a man who quietly and selflessly loved another human being, never expecting one tiny thing in return. Not even recognition of it. He kept his distance when he felt he wasn’t wanted, and was the first to her side if he felt he had even a remote chance to be of use.
In Colonel Brandon I saw what a real partner should be. Kind, generous, respectful, and unfailingly loyal. If he sold himself short or faded into the background, it was due to his intense abhorrence of the thought that he might accidentally be a nuisance to the woman he adored. In a world that is and always has been bursting at the seams with entitled Nice Guys bitching about friend-zones in whatever language is common of the era, the character of Colonel Brandon stands as a shining example of the literal opposite. Many people use words to say that as long as the person they love is happy then that is enough for them, but Brandon personified those words. It was truly his deepest desire that Marianne be happy, end of sentence, and he supported any choice she made that she felt would make her so. Luckily for Marianne and happily for Brandon, through the course of the film she learns that infatuation fades and true devotion is the most attractive trait in the world.
(Anyone who does not tear-up at least once during this movie is a cyborg, run from them immediately.)
Rickman played the role of my beloved Colonel Brandon with such heart-breaking, stoic sincerity that I cannot even begin to imagine another actor coming close to touching his performance. When I think about it, that is the one thing every single one of his roles have in common. It is impossible for me to picture anyone in his place.
And finally, of course, we come to Severus Snape. A polarizing figure in the Harry Potter fandom, you will find people who defend him relentlessly as a hero while others consider him to be worse than Voldemort. The one thing I have never seen criticized however, is the choice of casting and the performance given by Rickman. In the latter movies his fierce loyalty shines through, as the reasons for his miserable sadness and isolation are finally revealed to the audience. For me, even from the beginning Rickman managed to make Snape’s humanity show through his eyes, whether his behavior was at its best or at its worst. Being a total sucker for stories of eternal love and devotion beyond death; even if bitter and unrequited (Surprised? You shouldn’t be. It’s been said that the most cynical people in the world are just disappointed idealists.), I am a Snape fan myself. But since I’m not twelve years old, I have no desire to argue the position or tell anyone else their opinion is wrong.
Here is the part where I get pissed off. I am 35 years old. Many young people discovered Rickman’s work through Harry Potter, and to some that is the only role they know. They have changed their profile pictures and called him Snape instead of Alan and raised their wands as they grieve for the person who brought their complicated hero/villain to life. Guess what, Douchebags of the Internet: That is entirely, completely okay. Rickman himself spoke many times of how much the role of Snape meant to him and if you spent two minutes reading anything about this wonderful man, you would know that he would be every bit as touched by those tributes as he would be by the lengthy ones written by those who have seen and celebrate virtually every role he has ever played. By all accounts he was a kind and generous person. So when I see shit like this, it is hard for me to keep my mouth shut:
(So I don’t.)
Fuck completely off with that shit. Considering this is one of his most famous quotes, you are only exposing yourself as a celebrity death-hipster (the worst kind) and simultaneously revealing how little you actually know about the man.
I have written clumsily about a sampling of his movies that have meant the most to me because I can’t seem to find the words to pour my heart out and explain why this particular loss has cut me so deeply. I woke up yesterday to the news (Twitter again, goddamn it) and instantly started sobbing. I cried the entire time I was getting ready for work and cried all the way to work. My co-workers pretended not to notice my red eyes and I shut myself in my office all day so that they wouldn’t see the tears that I could not seem to be able to stop. I am crying now. As in the case of Bowie, I had no idea he was battling cancer and I assumed he WOULD live to at least 80. After all, he promised.
There was something so singular and warm about Alan Rickman and I fully loved him, and I’m sorry if that is weird for you. I’m sorry if the fact that I feel like I’ve been physically gutted seems silly. People seem to really enjoy judging other people for how they grieve, and most especially how deeply they feel the loss of people they’ve never actually met. To those people I have absolutely nothing to say, because how can I communicate these feelings to them when we don’t seem to belong to the same species. As someone who has lost family members and friends it’s not like I don’t know the fucking difference. But as I’ve said so many times: Caring about one thing does not mean you do not care about another thing. There are different types and levels of grief. Art is life-changing. The right book, album, or movie in the right hands at the right time can mean the difference between hope and despair. Between life and death. If you don’t deeply connect to fiction or art in general my guess is that you’ve had a fairly uncomplicated life, so perhaps go easy on those of us who may have needed stories to escape ours, even if only temporarily.
As for me, even though the Harry Potter films aren’t my absolute favorite of all his movies (although I adore them), I will raise my wand in solidarity with my fellow nerds and in defiance of those who would look down on something just because of the fact of who loves it. Today, I am proud to be a Slytherin.
Although my heart is broken, as of today I have officially made it through my work week. In 3 hours I will be home, and I probably don’t need to tell you at this point what my weekend will consist of. I will try my best to enjoy everything my beloved artists left behind and maybe even push through my sadness enough that I am able to laugh as easily as I cry while re-watching my favorite moments. Because the wonderful thing is: I got to have these two people in my life, whether they knew it or not. I got to be alive at the same time as they were and they have left behind so many gifts that will never leave; will never die. How much worse to have lived in a world where they didn’t exist?
I don’t envy those individuals who genuinely aren’t affected by the passing of their favorite artists. I’ll take the pain if it means that I get to feel the rest of it. So if you are like me and your heart is broken too, just try to remember that. And know that you are never alone.