This is really interesting and points out a lot of things about James that have really bothered me--and states them coherently, as opposed to my bothered, random thoughts. This crystallizes a lot of my misgivings about James.....
First, to me--there is a tension in the novels between what JKR may have originally intended and what she eventually produced. (I've mentioned it before, I know....) James is a glaring example. In interviews, and through some of the mouthpiece characters, JKR insists James changed--and that he's a hero.
But....Where is any of that actually shown in the books? His nominally heroic acts come with a considerable baggage. He saves Snape from Lupin in the Shrieking Shack: however, that's not done from any genuinely atruistic motive, or any sudden revelation as to Snape's worth as a human being. Instead, James' primary motive is to keep his friends and himself out of major trouble: to keep Lupin from being the murder weapon wielded by the ever-dim and violent Sirius. James dies, confronting Voldemort at the front door....with the niggle that James did so without his wand--the confrontation on the doorstep was the culmination of quite a few poor to downright bad decisions.
And exactly zero in the books shows any change in James whatsoever. It's in the same category as JKR's insistence that Azkaban arrested Sirius' development. Er--no: Sirius demonstrated all of the negative qualities prior to prison; prison may have exacerbated them--but, as with James, there never was the slightest indication that Sirius ever would/did change from the wretched little brat seen on the Hogwarts Express.
All these details of James' simply taking merely underscore the fact that his character is extremely shady in the novels--not just shadowy, but truly questionable.
The end result of my mulling? I think JKR's novels would have been vastly improved had she tossed the idea of James' being a hero and gone with the bent that cannot be avoided in the books--let James have been a villain. I mean--openly. Not the tension between the creep that's shown in the books versus what JKR claims in sound bites. What is shown in the books depicts James as the parallel to Draco--the spoiled rotten, entitled, judgmental rich kid. Too bad JKR did not have (or didn't listen to) a strong-willed editor....Letting go of the idea that James had to be heroic, no matter what, would've been a huge step in making the characterization consistent.
You know, I always considered James being made Head Boy showed he must have grown up some. Dumbledore thought he wasn't fit to be a prefect in 5th year and made Remus be it instead (in attempt to exercise some control over his friends), and yet it's James, not Remus that gets HB 7th year. Obviously Dumbledore had seen some sort of change in him, right?
Of course, Snapefen will probably explain this as Dumbledore having some master plan to get Lily and James together to piss Snape off or something.
Also, Snapefen? You say James wasn't a hero in the werewolf prank, because he didn't save Snape because he cared about him. But Snape only protected Harry because of Lily; he didn't care about Harry at all. So... double standard, much?
Master plan? I am sad to report someone actually DID come up with something close to that. I was just boggled, because it required such clairvoyance from Dumbledore that he would know what happened a decade later from that moment.
Stranger still...is the idea that Snape can seek to damage Lupin's reputation twice, that he is somehow alright in reporting to Voldemort and causing Lily and James's death...and that his actions aren't just hinted at being mean. They're shown through out all of the books.
Oh great. They're the kind of people who think actions don't matter.
her decision to try to gloss over James' less savory traits
You mean all that crap you've made up? He was a jackass as a young teenager. A jackass who still saved the life of someone he hated. And he had really good reasons for hating Snape, who was a racist dark arts-obsessed creepy git who snuck around spying on James and his friends, and was trying to get James' friend expelled or worse. When James left school, he fought Voldemort. When Snape left school, he joined Voldemort. The good guy in this equation is glaringly obvious.
To take it one step further, James, even in his epic git phase, still reacted to his bitter rival being in mortal danger by risking his own neck to go save said rival. You can argue all you want about his motive, he still did that.
Snape, years later, PUT his bitter rival in mortal danger, and then, when he realized it, didn't give a shit. He went to Voldemort and then Dumbledore to save Lily. Then he spent the next two decades or so badmouthing him to his orphaned son (who, again, he was responsible in part for orphaning).
IAWYC. They're now solidly in the stamping their foot, closing their eyes, and WISHING REALLY HARD phase. It's frankly embarrassing that these grown people have spent the last four years writing and re-writing what amounts to ongoing expressions of wish-fulfillment.
Hell I think 'Evil!James' would make a great fanfic idea. I mean how would it affect Harry if his father was hated instead of liked? How would it affect his relationships with his friends? If James had used a love potion would it effect how he feels about Voldemort?
But I get the feeling the using 'Evil!James' would just be about making Snape 'right'.
James grew up, as much as he possibly could seeing as he was dead by 21 years old. No amount of twisting, turning and ridiculous parallels is going to change the fact that Saint Snape got to 38 years old and STILL couldn't manage to mature enough to let go of his bitterness.
I always found it amusing that Saint Snape had a go at Harry (and Sirius) for always complaining about how bitterly unfair life had been (not the exact phrase, 'cause the movie bit is stuck in my head, but the idea was the same), yet Saint Snape's over-riding trait was to carry around so much anger and bitterness about events long since past.
Gah. No wonder these people over-identify with him so much; and no wonder they continuously try to justify his behaviour. No one likes to think that they're an emotionally stunted bully. That main difference between them and Snape, though, is that Snape seemed to figure it out in the end.
I really wish they would stop attaching great significance to James doodling Lily's initials inside the snitch. For one thing, as it has been mentioned before, Lily is not a prize to be won, she cannot be stolen from Severus because he never 'had' her and she makes her own decisions because she is her own person.
And the next thing: James was doodling. It does not mean anything apart from he fancied Lily and he liked Quidditch. If I doodled a house in the corner of my notes, that doesn't mean I aspire to get married, have twelve kids and have a large house all of my own because of course, I want to marry someone rich. No, it just means that I like to doodle and a house is easy to draw.
Sometimes there is no deeper meaning. In Harry Potter sometimes little things can mean something bigger. James' doodles are not one of them.
To me the fact that James had doodled Lily's initials in the snitch was a hint that he fancied her - long before they got together. Now given what we learned later about Snape's and Lily's friendship did put a slightly different spin on James' "it sort of that he exists" comment to Lily and that part of the reason that James did not like Snape was he was jealous that Snape and Lily were such good friends. It also explains why Snape singled out James later in life.
This not say that James thought Lily was a prize or an object to be won. I don't think he did - and to be fair I am not sure even Snape did. Just that Lily was a big part of the reason that Snape and James were at such odds, particularly as they got older. They saw each other as a rival.
I have no doubt that James was doodling Lily's initials because he liked her, but it's not a insight into his psychological profile and how he feels about Lily like Snapefen seem to think.
I don't think that James and Snape thought of Lily as a prize (you can almost be sure that if Lily got the slightest hint of that she would nip into bud fast). From what I can tell Sirius was more antagonistic to Snape but Snape singled out James, probably because like you said, he saw James as a rival to Lily's affections.
Does it count for nothing that even if James was an arrogant little toerag, to use Lily's words, he was open-minded to what was probably quite a radical extent at the time, even when he was only a child?
I've heard Snape-defenders argue that the Marauders only accepted Lupin because he was different and exciting, but considering that the general view towards werewolves hasn't changed twenty years later, it's more likely that this was an exceptional example of open-mindedness. Not to mention the fact that he goes ballistic when Snape insults Lily. Maybe it was just because she was Lily, I will concede that, but once again, it's a nod to his goodness that he has those views at such a young age.
tl;dr - there's evidence in Book THREE (if not book ONE) that James was more than just a prankster, why does that have to be discounted?
The more I think on it the more I come to the conclusion that they hate Severus Snape. They cannot bring themselves to even like the character the way he is written. It's too hard for them to like a character that has faults and pretty big faults at that. So it's not them that is in the wrong here, it's the author. She didn't write him the right way and she wrote all the other charecters wrong as well. She didn't plot the books the way they should have been plotted and she definately should never have included all that bigotry shit. What was she doing, trying to make them look at themselves and see how far short they fall in basic decency? I probably shouldn't say that, but Oh my Good Lord, it's like they never even heard that if you like/love something you like/love it in spite of the faults. The faults are part of what you like/love. I just can't get over the fact they don't even respect the character, they constantly have to try and change him.
Who couldn't like Alan Rickman? But he's an actor and actor's have to be attractive if they are going to be successful. He's not Snape and he's been with the same woman for donkey years so he wouldn't touch any of them with a bargepole.
In contrast, James' character does come across in the few scenes in which he appears as exactly how Snape described him......
Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we basically exclusively see James' few scenes within Snape's memories? Of course he's going to come across as an utter git. For right or for wrong, Snape and James were bitter enemies - some reasons (from both sides!) perfectly justified, and some a childish (and probably prejudiced) childish rivalry they never grew out of. I would not trust Snape's memories of James than I would James' of Snape. They will be more than slightly biased.
McGonagall is probably the most telling character really. She's obviously written to be a harsh but fair teacher, not above taking points from her own house even as it pains her to, and not particularly playing favourites. A genuinely pretty fair teacher. And she has kind words to say about James.