It has been a tough start to the year for the world’s heartstrings. Seemingly a litany of beloved figures have shuffled off of this mortal coil. David Bowie, Glenn Frey, and Alan Rickman, to name but a few. And each has received a touching outpouring of tributes and fond remembrances. However, just as Rickman’s often villainous characters caused a stir on the screen, his death has kicked up a bit of trouble as well.
Emma Watson, who worked with Rickman throughout the Harry Potter movies, has recently come under fire for her supposed self-serving tribute to the man who played Severus Snape. Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador who helped with the UN Women campaign HeForShe, posted a photo of Rickman on her Twitter account with the quote, “There is nothing wrong with a man being a feminist, I think it is to our mutual advantage.” Rickman was a noted feminist, and the quote—taken directly from an interview—was word-for-word from the man himself.
But in spite of everything, many railed on the talented actress for her tweet. @TheWiseLad: “So the feminist Emma Watson used the death of Alan Rickman’s (sic) to push her agenda. Pathetic. Disgusting. Another reason why I’m a meninist…” @Dekashoko: “@EmWatson oh wow, you’re using someone’s death to push a completely unrelated agenda. this is so, so gross.”
It’s rather astounding. Not only are the two tweets incredibly off-base but they serve somewhat to spit on the grave of Rickman.
When someone important to us dies we usually look to honour them in some way. It can be a quote, a picture, a poem, something. We generally relate our remembrance to how we best connected with a person—what they said or did that truly resonated. What mattered. Though ignorant of whatever the two spoke of away from the cameras, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to assume that their shared interest in feminism often led to thoughtful discussion.
And that’s what Watson is being criticized for? For tweeting a quote from Rickman about a cause both have interest in? Continuing in that line of thinking, the twit who said she was “using someone’s death to push a completely unrelated agenda…” clearly hasn’t done her research. Though a later tweet, “gonna take a shot every time someone thinks I’m unaware of alan rickman’s quote on feminism. I’ll be dead in an hour,” seems to indicate her knowledge of Rickman’s quote—which shows that she isn’t uninformed, merely incapable of understanding the English language, and that “unrelated agenda” actually means the opposite of what she thinks. In any case, trivializing someone’s death for attention on social media is pretty low.
A thought in closing here: even if Watson were completely self-centred in her tweet, would that be so bad? Granted we don’t know what happens when we die, but death in this world is hardest not on the one who has died, but on the loved ones who survive. Mourning can be, and often is when you think about it, not a selfish but a very personal act. We don’t mourn to make anyone else feel better—we mourn because that’s what we feel like. We mourn for ourselves. So even if promoting feminism, not honouring Rickman, was Watson’s main goal, what’s the issue?
And just for good measure, Watson’s Facebook post: “I’m very sad to hear about Alan today. I feel so lucky to have worked and spent time with such a special man and actor. I’ll really miss our conversations. RIP Alan. We love you.”