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Whitewashing characters to the extreme

Posted by coppertop1 , 11 April 2012 · 1,539 views

Sometimes when I read how people make Snape or Draco into some sort of misunderstood nice guy, I get annoyed. While neither of them turned out to be completely evil, they were both far from nice. Snape was a bully and bitter. I know, I know, he did all for his love of Lily etc etc. But he was still a bully and extremely cruel. Harry hadn't even done anything to him, Snape picked on him from the moment he saw him. He was so horrible to Neville that he became Neville's bogart. He was in many ways stuck in his teen years in his bitterness. However, Snape was also far from evil. He WAS loyal to Dumbledore, he was extremely brave. He died for his love. In other words, Snape was a very complex character. Whitewashing him would make him lose his interest as a character.

With Draco, though he wasn't a killer, for much of his life, he was an elitist snob. He bulled everyone for various reasons, those who weren't as rich, or as pureblooded as him. He wasn't a cold-blooded killer in the end, and does humble but is he really a saint for it? He does have people swoon over him, and think so. He turns out to be "not entirely bad". But it's a far cry from being a good person.

This type of thing though is not though restricted to Harry Potter. Nor would I say it's the worst examples.

In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is a genuinely nasty piece of work who goes out of his way to torment Cathy and her family and destroy them since Cathy didn't marry him. He marries Edgar Linton's sister, Isabella, and abuses her and makes her miserable, he marries her to hurt Cathy and Edgar because he hates Isabella. He takes over Wuthering Heights and torments Lindley (Lindley is a jerk and was horrible to Heathcliff, so you can argue that payback can bite). He also trains his children to hate the Lintons and marry them to torment them! Sounds pretty twisted? Yet he's somehow often thought as a romantic hero!

In Phantom of the Opera(Both the book and the musical),Erik is definitely a tragic figure. He is desperate to make Christine Daae love him. However, he goes over the deep end in a pretty big way. He pretty much stalks her and she is terrified of him. He murders two people. Christine is in love with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul. Erik is going to force her to marry him in the end. Christine is willing to stay with Erik to show him love and kindness, and this makes him break down and he lets her go. So he restores his pathos and I sympathize. Several people often think Raoul somehow stole her from Erik, and whitewash everything he does.

What are your thoughts? any character you think tends to get whitewashed or adulated way too much? Why do you think it happens? What character drives you nuts to see people totally rewrite?

PS: This is my opinion, and my thoughts. So please don't tell me "You just don't get it". I'm not talking about anyone on here, I mean in general

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Cassius Alcinder
Apr 11 2012 03:22 PM
I completely agree with you, especially about Snape and Malfoy. Snape was very brave, and I don't want to take away from that, but he was also a downright nasty person, and thinking of him as some kind of noble hero doesn't do justice to a very complex character. And I have to add that while its great that it inspired him to do the right thing, I found Snape's "love" for Lily to be totally creepy and obsessive, very similar to Phantom of the Opera in that way. What really bothers me about it is that when he pleaded with Voldemort to spare her, he genuinly didn't care what happened to James and Harry.

As for Draco, as you mentioned, the only good thing you can really say about him is that he wasn't a murderer, which means that he wasn't totally evil, but certainly doesn't mean that he's a nice guy. But of course, we all know that his tale is just the buildup for him to fulfill his destiny of becoming Head Boy at Hogwarts and sharing a dorm with Head Girl Hermione.

JK created some really complex and layered characters, and whitewashing them really doesn't do them justice and really takes away from the story.
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Apr 11 2012 03:39 PM
Oh, you definitely have it right! In the Draco/Luna fandom,this sort of thing happens to Draco all too often. Which is why, in my stories, I try to keep most of his jerk side out while still allowing for a "nice" moment or two to slip in. I haven't read enough fanfics featuring Snape to have an opinion on that one, but I can only imagine what they do to him.

You're also totally right about Heathcliff! Yeah, he had that really sweet moment with Catherine before she died, but mostly, he was a wicked man and a lunatic. I can't say that I cared for him very much while reading.
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I wouldn't mind reading a Snapefic that kept to Snape's character as JKR wrote him. He's such a complex character, and I love that about him, but he won't win any prizes for being a good person. He was horrible.

Draco/Luna? NO! Luna is one of my favourite characters, I relate to her. She deserves so much better than Draco. I like her and Rolf. Draco wasn't evil, but don't sanctify him!

As for Heathcliff, I blame the movies for part of this, most end after Cathy dies, we don't see him. I've only seen the movies, I should probably read the books. Even in the movies I could see he was unhinged and nasty.

@Cassius, nothing to disagree with. Snape's love for Lily was largely possessive ("I won't let you" like you get to choose he she likes and doesn't like), and the people (often called snapefen) who says "OMG Lily was so wrong to end his friend, she should have married Snape, she's a horrible Person" and such drive me crazy! Snape called Lily the worst insult imaginable! And she gave him plenty of chances. It wasn't just the mudblood comment, Snape was becoming more and more into the dark arts. Lily couldn't be with a friend who was going in that direction. A real friend calls out a friend who is going in the wrong direction, and when a friendship becomes toxic, as that was, it's time to end it. Being loyal does not being being a doormat. Snape lost Lily. He blew it.

Don't even get me started on Dramione, I just don't get it. Plus it seems like an excuse to throw Ron and Harry under the bus. Hermione would never fall in love with the same boy who bullied her and her friends.
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I know exactly what you mean about things like Dramione where Draco is all sweet and nice, he's not, he's a bully. But, that being said, it isn't black and white..

I'm in the process of writing the day after the Battle of Hogwarts in Draco's POV and it's so hard. Draco is a complex character, he's been pampered all his life and is a product of pureblood mania and his parent's mistakes (Narcissa's inability to stand up to anyone, Lucius's lust to be on the winning side). He's been told all his life by his aunty Bellatrix that he's better than everyone else and because of it, he's a nasty little rat.

Deep down I think he knows right from wrong, he became a DE for his father but he couldn't, just couldn't kill Dumbledore. I don't think Draco could kill anyone. He's a messed up guy, I don't think he's ever fully recover from what's happened to him.

I don't think he'll ever be friends with Harry but I think an awkward nod when they see one another is in order. In most next gen fics Draco hates everyone but I think he'd be more humbled that he wasn't thrown into jail, Harry wouldn't hate him either because his mother saved Harry's life.

Right, I've gone really off topic. Basically I'm saying that Draco isn't an all bad person, he's been drawn into things that he has no way out of, if he hadn't agreed to kill Dumbledore, everyone he'd ever loved (his parents) would be tortured and killed. While he's a childhood bully, it doesn't mean he's absolutely evil and I think if he can put his past behind him, he can be whitewashed to some extent.

Don't get me started on Snape...
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Draco wasn't evil, he was far from nice. He was layered and complex. All characters in Potterverse are. Do I hate Draco? Not really. But I don't love him, he's not the handsome hero he's made out to be by fans either. The fact he can't murder shows he's not death eater material. He was a pawn in the second war, really. It was punishment for his father's failures. That's obvious. That's why I'd think he never went to jail. He was underage and clearly just a small fry. Like when kids join these gangs and have to kill for initiation.
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Apr 11 2012 08:00 PM
*high five* Totally agree. Also agree that Snape's love for Lily is disturbing. It's not REALLY love, I'd argue, but a possessive stalking of another man's wife, with whom he is still obsessed long after she is dead. That is messed up, I'm just saying. He is abusive to children. He is not a good person. Him not being entirely evil doesn't change that.

Draco in the books is never said to be good-looking or have people swoon over him (except Pansy, sort of). People only think that because they like Tom Felton. I don't think Draco not killing people has anything to do with him knowing right from wrong (since he never seemed to know it before) and everything to do with cowardice.
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*high five back*
There is a HUGE difference between love and obsession. Love is unselfish. James sacrficed his life, Lily died for her child. Did he really think she'd want to live without her family? It's really strange he never considered that she'd give up her life for them. He hated Harry before he even knew him he just decided he was an arrogant brat and that was that. And went out of his way to insult Harry's dad, who whatever he did, it was years ago and he's DEAD! And what did Neville do? And Ron and Hermione? Their crime was being Harry's friend.

Did Draco not know or just not care? I think he knew, but it didn't matter. However, he's far from a nice kid. I do think it's more that Tom Felton is good looking, though Felton doesn't pretty up Draco in anyway. He portrays Malfoy as a bully
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The Snape/Lily 'ship annoys me almost as much as Dramione and I think...the movies are entirely to blame for the fandoms mass adoration of Snape and hatred of James - in the books we see James rescuing Snape when Sirius nearly kills him, we see him sacrifice his life for his wife and child just to give them more time to escape, we see Remus and Sirius both defend him, telling Harry that he changed for the better, realised the error of his ways.

In the books we see Snape call Lily a mudblood, we see him hurt her sister, solidifying her fear and hatred of magic and ruining their relationship forever, we see him betray Lily - not once, but twice. Because of her blood, because of his stupid loyalty to Voldemort. They completely cut out all of the above, making Snape a romantic martyr who lost his one true love to a vile man who is never redeemed. Lily did not return his love, she might have had he not chosen his path - but she fell for James because he was a GOOD man who did the right thing in the end.

As for Draco, I picture him as Jackie Gleeson (the actor who portrays Joffrey on Game of Thrones) - the pinched ferret face, the cold eyes, the spoiled pretentious cruelty - if he had been portrayed more like that, I doubt he'd have as much of a fandom.
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Apr 12 2012 12:58 AM
Joffrey on GOT is EXACTLY how I picture Draco.
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The movies really flush out Snape's character. I mean, yes, James was arrogant, but heck aren't most boys? Popular and a bit spoiled, but he was friends with a werewolf, and most people would have ran the other way. Snape could have had Lily, no telling if they would have married, but it's a moot point because Snape blew it. He insulted her in the worst way, refused to listen to her concerns, and goes all possessive when she tells him James has nothing to do with this. James SAVED his LIFE and he hates him, then bullies Harry for being James's son. James matured, he showed he deserved Lily and may the best man win!

Jack Gleeson is perfect for Draco. If Tom Felton wasn't as good looking, people wouldn't give him a moment.
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Apr 12 2012 01:32 AM
*wishes I could hit "like" on Noblevyne's comment*

*settles for offering to run away with her*
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*wishes there was a LOVE button on N's comments, instead joins WTM and N urnning away*.
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Oh WTM, I'd be part of your harem any day...

coppertop - I cannot stand how Snape is made into a fatherly figure for Harry too, replacing James as a rolemodel. It diminishes him so much, what he did for his family - he fought until the end, he gave up everything for his young family. he joined the Order right out of school because it was the right thing to do. Little more than a child and he still knew right from wrong.

I can call out at least five moments off the top of my head where Snape acted little more than a bully and you can't say it was all just part of his act. Even Dumbledore picked up on the fact that he would have just saved Lily and left her son to die, he was cruel and twisted enough to believe that Lily - who he claimed to love - would choose HIM over her own child. He didn't know her at all, he just wanted her like a prize.

And because Harry had the audacity to look like James, it was reason enough for Snape to hate him - a grown man who couldn't let go of a childish grudge. A grown man who cost Remus Lupin his job because he was prejudiced, a grown man who saw a young girl cursed and told her he could see no difference even though her teeth were growing out of control. He was a bully, and selfish.
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*falls to your knees and worships you*

EXACTLY!!!!! And add to him costing Lupin his job, HE WAS A DEATH EATER!!!!! He isn't perfect, he CHOSE his path, he only avoided prison b/c Dumbledore trusted him, and he is in a childish snit when Dumbledore extends that same trust to someone else. You want to out someone as a werewolf? Really? And a grown man who was a young boy's boggart.
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Apr 12 2012 02:01 AM
Okay, see. I don't know about a lot of other Snape writers, but I've written him a fair bit and never, not once, am I under the pretense that he was a misunderstood nice guy. He was horrible and he was a jerk and it was his choices, his conscious choices, that led him to where he ended up. I am fully aware of how horrible he was, but I think it's a little extreme to say that I don't understand love because Snape/Lily is one of my all-time favorite Potter 'ships.

He was horrible to Harry for a reason -- a selfish, shallow, horrid reason, but it was there. Ever wonder why Harry's supposed to look exactly like his father (except, obviously, for his eyes)? When Snape looks at Harry, he sees James. And he hated, hates, and will hate James forever. If we're going to paint Snape with the not-innocent brush -- and no, he wasn't -- then some of that paint better splash over to James. He and Sirius, and even Remus and Peter, teased him mercilessly solely because he was different. He wasn't them. And that's a wrong often overlooked in the light of the glowing light of James and Lily and their noble sacrifice, ad infinitum.

I dunno -- I've had a lot of opportunity to analyze Snape's character, so maybe that's why I feel so strongly about this. I've had a lot of debates about this with people, believe it or not, and I'll stick by him forever, as far as fictional characters go. He's massively flawed and the epitome of imperfect, and that is one of the major reasons I ship Snape/Lily.

Just my two cents.
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Thanks for your comments :) I don't have a problem with those who like Snape b/c he was interesting but still see him for who he was. My blog was about those who try to make him into a saint, and yes, people do that. Not here, quite so much. They make it out to be this romantic hero, which he isn't. I'll buy him as an anti-hero. An interesting, deep, flawed character? Sure. Nice guy? Definitely not. But I have seen people in comments who just don't get what makes Snape a jerk.

Whatever Snape went through as a teen though, he was an adult and he does cross the line on bullying students. Part of maturing is moving on and letting go. James did mature. Sirius, well not so much. I do think Sirius was just as immature in that regard. Lily stood up for Snape, and she did try to talk to him. I think that calling her that name made her see that he had changed for the worst. I think his biggest flaw is not being able to see that you can't have both, you can't have death eater muggle-hating friends and a best friend who is muggle-born
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Apr 12 2012 03:44 AM

He was horrible to Harry for a reason

I'm sorry but I call shenanigans. He was a man in his 30s. Harry was a CHILD of 11. I don't give a damn what his "reason" was, it doesn't excuse what he did. It's called child abuse. It's not bullying when an adult does it to a child. It's ABUSE.
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I found a really good essay on Snape, and what we are discussing here (12+)
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He was horrible to Harry for a reason -- a selfish, shallow, horrid reason, but it was there. Ever wonder why Harry's supposed to look exactly like his father (except, obviously, for his eyes)? When Snape looks at Harry, he sees James. And he hated, hates, and will hate James forever. If we're going to paint Snape with the not-innocent brush -- and no, he wasn't -- then some of that paint better splash over to James. He and Sirius, and even Remus and Peter, teased him mercilessly solely because he was different. He wasn't them. And that's a wrong often overlooked in the light of the glowing light of James and Lily and their noble sacrifice, ad infinitum

Gotta agree with WTM on this - it wasn't a reason, it's an excuse. The same excuse people use to be prejudiced 'I don't like the way they look' is not a reason, and certainly not a defensible one.

I actually LIKE Snape as a character, as a hugely flawed idiot who spent his whole life atoning for his mistakes, but in the end - never could get past what was a childish grudge. Yes, Snape was bullied - but he was a bully himself. I would never excuse James' bullying of Snape, Sirius especially - I find his actions some of the most repugnant in the books, especially with the guilt trip he laid on Harry in the 5th book for not being brave like his father. I could have reached out and slapped the man, just as I could for Remus' cowardly act in Deathly Hallows abandoning Tonks and Teddy.

James grew up. He became a father, a husband and fighter all in the three years he had before dying. Snape became a racist, a betrayer and a cruel man - whose to say he didn't torture with glee others just because they were Muggles? It was proven in the books that Lily was the only exception to his ideals, he still believed in pureblood purity because of his own father. He was a tortured kid, but that doesn't make him any less responsible for his own actions and choices beyond a certain age.

Just because we like characters, doesn't mean we can excuse their behaviour - we like them because of their flaws, we should enjoy the darker aspects but never applaud them, or defend them.
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Apr 12 2012 09:22 AM
I agree with what you are saying here. Though most things have already said in the comments, I decided to comment anyway. :)

A lot of people are already talking about Draco and this issue, so I especially liked that you brought in your thoughts of Snape too. He is made a much nicer character quite often too, and that's not mentioned as often as the Draco problem in my opinion. Though I must say that it is a bit JKR's and her epilogue's fault too. Because Harry and Ginny seem to have gone all "We love Severus" when naming their second kid. I must say that I never understood that name choice completely. So maybe they did appreciate the things Snape did to save Harry and Lily in the end and all that, but even if he saved my life I would still not name my kid after my least favourite teacher. And Lily/Snape is my least favourite pairing of the pairings that are fairly common. So yeah, I'm not a big Snape fan, but I appreciate that he is a very well written character by JKR and I wish people would remember this and do their research when writing him.

As to other books... Heathcliff. The first time I heard that someone saw him as a romantic hero was a "What?!!" moment. It's a while since I read that book so I can't really remember the details anymore, but yeah, that's what I thought.

The Phantom. I've never actually heard that people think of him as a romantic hero. But I've read about the plot to the sequel to the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and it sounds like they pretty much butcher all the characters. Why ALW, why!?! You can safely assume that based on that plot, that musical is not first on my "to see" list of musicals.
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