Remembering two beloved pioneers of film and music

graphic: Aileen Wu

graphic: Aileen Wu

The second week of January left many people around the globe devastated by the deaths of two men, instrumental in their respective art forms. Within four days of each other, David Bowie, an innovative singer and songwriter known for his self-reinvention, and Alan Rickman, remembered by the public for his roles in the Harry Potter series and Die Hard, both died of cancer at age 69.

One of Rickman’s most influential roles was Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. This was how I was first introduced to his work, mesmerized by his unforgettable performance as the seemingly evil professor who, in the end, is very important to the good’s capacity to overcome the evil forces. As a Harry Potter fan, I know that there were a lot of mixed emotions about Snape and his personality, but I always loved the complexities of his character and how Rickman chose to portray him.

According to Robert Cushman, Rickman was the kind of person who was reserved and shy toward others before they got to know him, but he found both comfort and his extroverted side through acting. In an interview for National Post, Cushman said about Rickman, “you couldn’t take your ears off him” — his performances never failed to be immersive and entrancing. Fans can also see this in his roles as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In remembering his death, we remember the joy that he brought to people through countless beloved and complex characters.

Personally, David Bowie was a little harder to fully understand since I never listened to his music until after his death, but he was extremely influential in the shaping of many, including my uncle. When I talked to him about Bowie, he said it was “unique to him and to popular belief was that a guy could decorate himself in a not masculine or feminine way.” As an intersectional feminist, I was touched to learn about this man’s groundbreaking performances that didn’t conform to any gender stereotypes or preconceived roles before I was even born. But maybe even more importantly, he gave my uncle hope that he didn’t have to be what the media typically portrays as “masculine.” Considering the hundreds of millions of albums he sold, this was encouraging for both him and many others.

Both Alan Rickman and David Bowie will be missed forever, and I think I can speak for most of us in simply thanking them for their innovative approaches to centuries-old art forms. These men spent their lives improving the fields they worked in, changing forever how a generation experiences a movie series, and challenging the gender norms of a music genre, respectively. Their work is too beloved to ever be forgotten.

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