21st Century Brontë #8 by Brontë Bettencourt
Notes on Aesthetic Afterlives
It has been a couple weeks since we lost Alan Rickman. My Facebook feed was a steady stream of pictures consisting of flowers being left outside of Professor Snape’s classroom in Hogwarts castle, silhouettes of wizards pointing their wands skyward. His stoic visage coupled with quotes from the books incited emoticon tears from my peers.
I found the posts to be annoying after a while. I don’t mean to be a grouch.
What does it mean to live on in one’s work? Clearly we aren’t imagining horcruxes here.
Do you think about how your work may endure? It’s possible that schools that may add your work to their canon. Biographies might be penned about your psychological state and the influence it might’ve had on your work. Or maybe your work will be used to dissect the zeitgeist of your time: Brontë Bettencourt: A Study of Vampire Demons, Equestrian Magicks, and Millennial Debt.
The celebrity I still miss, although it’s been well over a year, is Robin Williams. I grew up on Aladdin: King of Thieves and Flubber, and loved him in Jumanji when I finally saw it in college. His voice was unmistakable, cracking spontaneous jokes, somehow familial with its warmth.
It felt unreal on that day to learn not only of his passing, but how it happened—so different from any of his characters I could have imagined.
On a grimmer note, it might not matter one way or another once we pass on. Your consciousness may very well cease to exist, your art only affecting you in the now.
I was six when my own mortality hit me. I had just finished making a fort out of a foldable beach chair and worn blanket when it suddenly occurred that one day, I wouldn’t be here anymore. The TV faded to a low murmur and the living room clock felt much more ominous with its ticking hand. I’m not sure what triggered those thoughts, but since then I’ve been contentious of my time and what it’s spent on.
I think what bothered me about all the Facebook posts, was seeing Alan Rickman’s life be boiled down to a figure who didn’t actually exist, like taking a fully fleshed out character and flattening them into one dimension. Considering all the recollections from various cast and crew members, he was nothing like the bitter, stoic individual clad in billowing black fabric.
For me, the difference between the losses of these actors rested in personal connection. In the books, Professor Snape had a goatee, but more importantly, I had source material that reminded me that the movies were an interpretation. Alan Rickman was separate from the character on the big screen. I might’ve been too young to differentiate Robin Williams from his roles, and even as I learned the difference, he always played the endearing character with an ability to make me laugh.
Yet the way that these actors passed away are polarized from the way I’ve come to know them. Alan Rickman was surrounded by friends and family, with a grim forewarning, but a warning nonetheless, of his mortality.
Robin Williams, for all the years of making others laugh, was overcome by his own inner darkness. The spark that prevails in all of his roles is all the more moving with knowledge of that hovering darkness.
I became aware of death at six, and I’d like to believe that with success, I will be read pleasurably by others. Maybe I take comfort in knowing that my craft may endure time much better than I can. I’d like to believe in a god and an afterlife. But the feeling of potential nothingness has haunted me for years. I can say with some certainty that my work will endure, evidence that I was here. On this spinning, suspended rock revolving around a gaseous, fiery ball in a cluster of stars within our expanding universe, my voice mattered.
And to the author of Brontë Bettencourt: A Study of Vampire Demons, Equestrian Magicks, and Millennial Debt, please don’t inflict too much psychoanalysis on my characters.
Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.