“Galaxy Quest,” Snape, and How We Relate To Stories

Last year after Leonard Nimoy died, I watched Star Trek IV (also known as the one with the whales) for the first time, then quickly followed it up with the Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.” I’ve never been a Star Trek fan, but it felt appropriate to watch these things after such a cultural icon passed on. After all of this, I watched the true best Star Trek movie in existence that doesn’t feature Nimoy: Galaxy Quest.

I’ve loved Galaxy Quest for a very long time now. I saw it in theaters with my parents back when it originally released and it was one of those movies we constantly watched as a family. In fact, my mom was rather annoyed that dad ended up with the DVD when they got divorced. However, it wasn’t until I got older and became involved in fandom and con culture myself that I understood how the film was about how we relate and embrace fiction, but with aliens and saving the galaxy.

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There’s lots of little things that point in this direction, but probably the most prominent is the character arc of Alexander Dane, who was played by the late Alan Rickman. Dane is a notorious grump in the film, a Shakespearean actor who has grown resentful of his role as Dr. Lazarus. He is sick of the typecasting, his prosthetics, and his stupid catchphrase. Throughout most of the film, he’s an asshole, but he comes to embrace being seen as Dr. Lazarus when a Thermian he had grown close to dies. He even says his catchphrase without a groan for the first time all film. “By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!”

Rickman had quite a few iconic roles in his life, most of them villainous. To an older generation, he’s eternally Hans Gruber, the German terrorist set to ruin John McClane’s Christmas in Die Hard. For a lot of us, he was Severus Snape, the complicated potions master in the film adaptations of Harry Potter. It would be easy to imagine Rickman being annoyed with this type of casting. Forever being one character to millions of people. I wouldn’t blame him if he was.

From every story I’ve seen about Rickman in the past week though, if he was resentful, he never let on. The Harry Potter cast especially talked about how warm and helpful he was as a person on top of how great he was as an actor.

I admit that I got briefly annoyed at all the use of “Always” last week since I was never a huge fan of Snape as a character (though Rickman was fantastic in the part) and my favorite Rickman characters are Dane and The Metatron from Kevin Smith’s Dogma. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was going about it in a very Dane fashion. Yes, it can be bothersome on the surface, but there are way worse things to be remembered for. By being an actor in such iconic roles, Rickman has received, to borrow a phrase from Kieron Gillen, an immortality of a kind. No matter your opinion of Snape, we have Rickman in our heads when we think of the character. He embraced the role and his role as a teacher to the younger generation of actors. He became a part of how we relate to that text, that series, that fandom and that’s part of how he’ll be remembered.

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Plus, having fans raise their wands for you in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and leave flowers at Kings Cross. Not a bad way to be memorialized.

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One thought on ““Galaxy Quest,” Snape, and How We Relate To Stories

  1. Very nice tribute! Galaxy Quest is one of our favorite movies. It’s a such a great parody of the sci-fi genre without insulting / offending fans. Rickman is truly great in this too. He shall be missed and remembered for so much of his work. 🙂

    Like

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