(Based on a conversation I had with another human person)
I hate James Potter.
Yeah, me too. He’s such an arrogant prick. What total douchebag that-
Whoa, stop. Calm your tits, friend. That came out wrong, let me rephrase: I hate the widely accepted headcanon that James potter was a chain-smoking, guitar playing, girl/sex-obsessed, Slytherin bullying, one-dimensional, arrogant-douchebag-hipster-ruler-of-the-Hogwarts-student-body.
But he kinda was that tho. I mean, in SWM-
STOP with the SWM shtick PLEASE. Snape’s Worst Memory (SWM) Is hardly an appropriate source for determining James Potter’s personality. Forgive me for sounding like a broken record here but: The perspective is incredibly biased, the event is completely out of context, and all the variables for James to be able to paint himself in a negative light are there- his friends, his love interest, his love rival, and an audience. James Potter was an athlete, he loves audiences.
See? He loves having an audience, and loves to show off. He’s a douche.
First of all, that was a very unhealthy and unfair snap judgment you just made (Snapes entire story arc should have taught you how dangerous it is to make snap judgments about people). Secondly, Loving audiences and showing off to impress potential mates does not a douchebag make. Historically, men have been doing just that for millennia. They can’t all have been douchebags.
Still though, from what we know from the canon…
What we know from the canon is next to nothing. But what we do know is that this idea that James was an arrogant bully who constantly strutted like a peacock is entirely against everything they say about him canonically in the books. People don’t love bullies. With the exception of Severus Snape, virtually everyone in the books has something good to say about James.
Well, we discover in SWM that James maybe wasn’t the golden child they all thought he was? Like, they were wrong about him.
Again with the SWM… whatever. Anyway, they can’t all have been wrong about him. Human beings are complicated. It is entirely possible that *gasp* everyone was right about James. Including Snape. James was as good, and kind, and honorable as Dumbledore and Sirius and Hagrid and Lily and Voldemort and virtually everyone in the series says he is… But he’s also as stupid, naïve, and arrogant as Snape and Lupin and Malfoy say he is. James Potter is human, and being human means being imperfect. He makes mistakes. He has many facets to his personality. Because he has his own story
So you admit that James was a bully?
Yes, James bullied Snape. Yes, that was wrong. But please stop trying to stick him in a category of Bully vs. Not Bully. There is more to him than that. And while I’m sure he was a pest, and would fight the slytherins, I doubt he ran around bullying everyone weaker than him. I do also believe that they had a mutual, powerful rivalry.
So what exactly is your James Potter headcanon? I’m just curious as to how it’s any different than everyone else’s.
Okay… James Potter was a boy who was always coddled by his parents. He had a happy childhood, was a bit of a mischievous imp, but he was raised to care for people and look out for others. His father was an auror, which instilled in baby James a strong sense of justice and loyalty. Being on a team, in a family, or part of a pack, was important to baby James. Like many young boys, James loved stories about heroes defeating villains, good over evil, light vs. dark. Baby James lived in a very black and white, happy world. Then he turns eleven and enters into his formative years, his teen years and, most importantly, school.
On the train to Hogwarts young James meets young Sirius. To James, Sirius is a kindred spirit. He’s impish, rebellious, and he has a similar sense of humor. To Sirius, James is magnetic. He’s a balance of mischief and obedience; he’s fun, free, and safe. The two hit it off. Then they meet young Severus and Lily. James finds Lily a bit annoying at first, in the way that eleven-year-olds who don’t yet know they’re interested in people do. James finds Severus rather frightening. There is an unfortunate stigma (or, a dangerously inaccurate widely accepted headcanon) on Slytherin house, one that eleven-year-old James has accepted. Why? When there is this broadly accepted headcanon of Slytherin house, would this creepy kid want to be in it? Oh, because he must be bad. Is the conclusion in the mind of young James. To Severus, James is dauntless, which makes him rather daunting. He’s headstrong and obnoxious. So young Severus is put-off by this overwhelming boy that lily is talking to, and he feels threatened. James and Severus (and Sirius, who dislikes how similar Severus is to the black family) instantly hate each other.
At some point in time, James and Sirius meet Peter who is fun to be around, and seems to like a good prank and a laugh. So he becomes part of their little pack. (It’s important to remember, they are eleven. They haven’t really grown into their adult personalities yet). Then they meet Remus, who is a mystery and therefore intriguing, and also he’s intelligent, like the others. James is an extrovert and loves to make friends and meet new people, he makes fast friends with a lot of people, and Remus is no exception. When they discover Remus is a werewolf, James doesn’t mind, mostly due to his strong sense of justice, and being kind to people who hurt. Sirius probably thought it was a cool secret, and liked knowing something others didn’t know.
So, time passes. All four boys like to learn, so they study, and attend classes, and perform well academically. They also like play harmless pranks on people in much the same way as the Weasley twins do. They also enter into the troublesome teen stage in their lives. They are aware that there is a growing threat outside, and start to see it seep into their haven at Hogwarts. Slytherins become frightening threats, and there are select groups of them that everybody is a bit suspicious of. Regulus and Severus are in that group. The rift between Gryffindor and Slytherin is wider than ever and James, unable to stand the injustice of these ‘death eater’ groups, becomes somewhat of a ‘hero’ type. Seeing that Snape - his first ever enemy - is hanging around people like that, adds fuel to the ‘I hate Snape’ fire in teen James’ soul. Snape likes James’ self-righteous attitude less and less as time passes. They each start actively seeking to cut the other down to size. They go at each other with hexes and jinxes, and all manner of unsavory underhanded tactics. And their rivalry intensifies.
But James doesn’t like to harm people, he wasn’t raised that way. Sirius, however, was. This proves to nearly be the end of their friendship in fifth year, when James discovers that Sirius actually tried to kill Severus. It is possible, and quite likely, that Sirius wasn’t thinking that far ahead. Does that absolve him of his crime? No, of course not. But it does give us an insight into Sirius’ character. He doesn’t see people as people, unless they’re on his side. Otherwise they are the ‘enemy’. Sirius Black is a vengeance machine. And the fact that James takes immediate action to save Severus tells us about his personality as well. James is slowly beginning to see the people and the choices they make. He’s starting to see the grey, where Sirius and Severus are still stuck at black and white. His best friend Sirius is no longer pure good and light, he’s grey. He’s good and bad, kind and cruel, happy and hurt, forgiving and spiteful. And baby James Potter’s innocent world of black and white is suddenly shattered by teen James Potter’s frightening realization. The world is not that simple. And it’s hard for him to accept this. He struggles with it.
But Lily Evans remains-in his eyes-a bastion of light in a dark, grey world. And his desire to impress her becomes at this point, a desire to live in her world. He genuinely starts to admire her for the woman she is becoming. He realizes, he truly loves her. And, he realizes, he’s not good enough for her. Lily Evans exists in a world that is above and beyond him. So by James Potter’s seventh year, he’s met humility, his lofty visions of fame and personal glory have diminished, his head has deflated, and he wakes up to the reality that it’s time for him to grow up. Dumbledore notices this and James is made head boy. But more importantly, everyone notices. Including Lily. The shallow fame people used to show the cool athlete teen James, is now a budding respect and love of the man he is becoming. Lily loves the young adult James, and admires his story of self improvement, his humility and love of others. So, seeing his personal growth, positive rise to adulthood, and taken by his natural charisma, the fall in love and later marry.
But the world is as dark and horrible as it is beautiful. Noble James fights in the war, Arrogant James bites off more than he can chew, selfless James put’s his life on the line for strangers, while kind James morns the passing of his friends and fellow soldiers. Daddy James rejoices in the life of his newborn son, not realizing that bully James created a monster in his past that will inevitably destroy him, coward James mistrusts Remus, naïve James puts too much faith in Peter. And all of these James Potters together (and more) make up the twenty-one-year-old young man who, on October 31st, 1981 stood up straight backed and determined, knowing full well it was a hopeless fight, faced the dark lord in the defense of his family, and met death.
It’s unfair to the character to dismiss his good points or bad points. He can have such an amazing story if you let him. It’s also wrong to compare a fifteen year old James to a thirty-something year old Severus. Teen James hadn’t grown into himself, and probably didn’t even know himself. James at twenty-one knew so much more about life than James at fifteen, and he was a much better man than Snape at twenty-one. But Severus grows up too. It just takes him longer. Neither James, nor Severus are ‘good’ people in the way that baby James believes in ‘Good’. They are tragic and complex people, and amazing characters who learn and grow over time and are cut down too soon. I love them both for many different reasons, but also because they represent growth, self improvement, and redemption. Good people can become better people, and bad people can repent. Nobody is perfect, and everyone can improve.
That’s why I hate the widely accepted headcanon of James. It just makes him seem so… flat.