David Bowie passing was tough for me, as it was for everyone. This one is kind of a punch in the gut. There are certain actors that have really stuck with me over the years and Rickman was one of those. He was the fantastic counter to Bruce Willis in Die Hard and then the foil for Robert of Locksley. He could slip easily into Sense and Sensibility or Dogma. He could be funny and frightening. Using enunciation like a weapon, Rickman could elicit nervous silence of uproarious laughter. The man could brood like no other.
Though he could be funny and intense, the real power of Alan Rickman appeared when he was given a more sympathetic role. His Severus Snape, one of the more tragic characters in the Harry Potter universe, was so perfectly performed that I can’t even imagine anyone else for the part.
My personal favorite is Galaxy Quest where he plays a stage actor that had an illustrious career before joining a Star Trek knock-off in the 80s. Since that point, he hasn’t been taken seriously and never gets the credit for his acting chops that he thinks he deserves – overshadowed by the Captain Kirk analog played by Tim Taylor. At first, the character appears to hate the fans and pageantry surrounding the show, but as the movie goes on you get a peek into begrudging fan behind the grumpy facade. He takes himself so serious, that it’s almost impossible to not like him. It made you authentically feel for him when you learn that he would wear his rubber, alien, prosthetic forehead around the house. Rickman took this character that, as anyone else, would have been two-dimensional and dull and breathed life into it. That was the magic of Alan Rickman.
By Grabthar’s Hammer, I will miss you.
– Jason McMaster
I was glad I happened to have Monday off this week, and when I got the news about Alan Rickman yesterday morning, I had the instinct to stay home again. I think maybe I should have followed it.
I’ve been struggling to process the grief I’ve been feeling since the beginning of the week – and it’s real grief, I can recognize that much – because the part of me that’s meanest to myself thinks it’s incredibly stupid. David Bowie and Alan Rickman aren’t mine. I wasn’t friend or family to either of them. Bowie was absolutely never aware of my existence and the only time Rickman was even possibly aware of it was the millisecond he made eye contact with me across the room at a party. I think I can claim that millisecond because we smiled at each other. I’m claiming it, anyway.
But sometimes a girl with intense and/or absent parental relationships will create fantasy versions of her own. Maybe she’ll pick and choose bits and pieces from people she knows: her 7th grade basketball coach, her 8th grade math teacher; or from artists she admires: Bowie, Rickman, others I’m too scared to mention for irrational and superstitious reasons; or from fiction: Jareth the Goblin King, Colonel Brandon, Count Dracula (I don’t know, I was ten). Note: all that Freudian stuff, if and when it comes up, becomes way easier when dealing exclusively with fantasy dads.
These surrogates can still impart a whole slew of life lessons, especially the artists. When a person heeds the call to connect with others via word or deed or object, all you need to make the connection is the openness to receive. If Bowie taught me my weirdest parts of me were the most “me” parts of me, and therefore intensely valuable, then Rickman taught me there’s no shelf life on dreams. He was thirty-six when he landed his first television part, thirty-nine when he got his big break on stage, and in his forties when he filmed Die Hard. I don’t think either man would begrudge me these lessons, so maybe they can be just a little bit mine? Or yours, too, if you need them.
I made it through the workday yesterday without crying (a real fear), but I was obviously in a funk. I spent time on social media, commiserating. A couple of friends in the building stopped by my office to tell me they were thinking about me, which was so nice, even if it underscored my anxiety about feeling too much for the deaths of people I’d never met. One of my oldest friends lightly teased, “your predilection for older British men isn’t serving you so well,” which made me laugh.
And, another friend published a blog post making fun of me.
Thankfully, I didn’t see it until well after I got home. The meanest part of myself pointed and laughed and screamed “LOSER” in my brain. I cried, then. But, scrolling through my social media channels to distract myself, I tallied all the instances of “I thought of you when I saw the news,” and “I’ve been thinking about you since I heard,” and “you were the first person I thought of, too.” Lots of them were from people I see on the regular. Some were from people I haven’t seen in years. Most importantly, while some of them might have been from people who think my public display of grief and celebrity hero-worship is silly, all of them offered me comfort. There were so many. So many people who’d rather make me feel better than pass judgement on the worthiness of whatever was causing me pain. I am so lucky to have them all.
People have odd quirks and sensibilities; things they’re into that others aren’t. Some friends bond over them, some just find them endearing, some friends find them annoying as hell but ignore them because they care for the person, some use them as ammunition. Learning which kind of friendships you want to nurture? A life lesson. I’m glad I didn’t stay home yesterday. Thank you, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, for teaching me and being a little bit mine one more time.
– Sara Clemens