Save ‘Shadowhunters’: The fans speak
A tight-knit community of committed fans is still feeling nonplussed after an unforeseen betrayal. After being cancelled by Freeform in June of this year, Shadowhunters is living on in its dedicated fans, but their rage is palpable and justified.
The upcoming promise of a fulfilling two-episode finale for its third and final season feels more like a death rattle than an olive branch for a series that has brought joy, empowerment, and affirmation to so many viewers.
Our editor recently spoke to a number of Shadowhunters enthusiasts who attended this year’s NYC Comic Con to show their support for the show and its stars. For many of them, “Shadowhunters is more than a television show.” Aneesa Morea expresses how the show made her believe in Jace’s sentiment that “light can be found in even the darkest of places.”
“Back in March of 2016 was around the time I had discovered the series, and it was a few days after my mother had passed away. Everything that I had enjoyed at that time were things she and I liked together, so I was in search of finding some new light in my life to help me get past my loss. I found Shadowhunters and it turned my life around for the better.”
The series has inspired other viewers to create content of their own both to show their appreciation for a story that has stuck with them as well as hone creative skills. Michelle Frank is “co-hosting a weekly Shadowhunters podcast (The Descent is Easy) that just celebrated its one-year anniversary, in which my parabatai and I discuss each episode in depth, often for 2+ hours, so clearly there was more to this show than we realized at first, or we wouldn’t still be here!”
It’s also pretty much impossible to talk about the show without mentioning its absolutely stunning representation. Rebecca Shaefer sums up the theme of the show with one word: “inclusion. It means finding things you relate to or that represent you even in a world of people who hunt demons, perform magic, or drink shots of plasma ordered from a bartender who spends time as a wolf.”
From this ongoing effort to banish exclusivity and misrepresentation from its fantasy world, Shadowhunters crafted some of the most intricately crafted representations of the POC and LGBTQ+ communities.
Faith Chan echoed our thoughts exactly when she told our editor, “I guess I got a little tired of seeing a billion white and straight characters get the really meaty storylines while those who looked like me and were LGBTQ+ got sidelined.”
Shadowhunters shattered any preconceived notions of representation with decidedly un-stereotypical characters like Magnus Bane. Faith has “never felt a more intense connection to a character than I have with Magnus. He breaks Asian and bisexual stereotypes left and right, and is the perfect blend of confidence and vulnerability that I wish I could see more of in minority characters on other shows.”
Krista Larsen, a mother of two girls, expressed to Film Daily how vital the show has been for her and her children following a deep personal loss. “My girls lost their father at ages 2 and 4 after an incredibly painful and lengthy dealing with mental illness and heroin addiction. All this and additional issues are discussed in the show. It’s fantasy, but Shadowhunters deals with incredibly sensitive and current issues in a way that fans can identify with.”
All of our interviewees attended this year’s New York Comic Con to show their undying support for a show that has meant so much, and in hopes of catching a glimpse of the series’s stars. Aneesa “camped out over 12 hours ahead of the scheduled panel time for their 2017 panel”, and, this year, some fans were even lucky enough to spend some time chatting with Shadowhunters’ superstar, Katherine McNamara.
Although Freeform’s decision to axe the beloved show prematurely meant that their panel was sorely missed this year, an enticing Instagram post from Clary Fray herself alluded to a surprise guest appearance.
Faith’s experience with McNamara perfectly demonstrates how Shadowhunters has built a bigger personal connection with its fan base in two years than many shows hope to achieve during their entire tenures.
“When I heard from a friend that she was standing right by the food truck, I leapt out of my car at a red light and ran to its location. After waiting for her to finish doing promo for E!, I was able to meet her and take a picture with her. During our meeting I asked her to write ‘Keep Going’ with an angel drawn next to it for me, since this show and this cast has kept me going through some really tough times with my mental health in my college years.”
Fans like Krista and Rebecca did this little community of determined fans a solid by proving to the TV heroine that they’re not so little. After taking photos and chatting with Krista’s daughter for half an hour, “she listened to us about the campaign and how hard we are working, and with all the grace in the world thanked us!”
Rebecca and her friends “had a collective meltdown when we saw her cryptic tweet Friday, because we knew what was coming. She was a complete sweetheart the entire day! We made sure to send her home with one of each of the #SaveShadowhunters swag that we’d brought to hand out, and she seemed sincerely appreciative of all of the work the fandom has put into the movement.”
There’s no doubt that fans’ voices have been heard by the stars and producers of Shadowhunters before, but devotees like Krista and Rebecca played a crucial role this year by turning up to Katherine’s surprise appearance in full activist mode and giving a personal shoutout to the #SaveShadowhunters movement.
If fans can get the stars talking, they can get the networks talking, too. While many of the fans we spoke to are feeling “lost”, “devastated”, and “pretty damn sad” following the show’s cancellation, there’s still hope for the future.
This year has been unprecedented in terms of shows getting saved at the last minute from the clutches of cancellation. Brooklyn Nine Nine’s fans sent a wave of uproar that was felt in all seven continents when it was cancelled by Fox for a hot minute, and NBC was waiting in the wings to pick it up the very next day.
Outside the realm of sitcoms, both The Expanse and Lucifer were resurrected by streaming platforms (Amazon and Netflix respectively). It’s hard not to see this year as a turning point for the way fandoms can affect their favorite series.
Michelle is less than optimistic, joking that “Jack Yang’s plan of starting a TV company and just producing it ourselves (still not entirely sure if he was kidding or not) seems like the easiest thing.” However, her experience has primarily been rooted in “vague comments like ‘it’s really complicated, but it’s looking unlikely’ and ‘this version of Shadowhunters can’t continue’ from cast & crew and Constantin Film, and the general frustration in the fandom is that no one will tell us why.”
Shadowhunters fans are starting to take notice of the power streaming sites have to grant a platform to underseen gems and oddities no one else wants to host. Faith has stayed vigilant for possible directions the show could take, and suggests Amazon as potentially the most viable option.
“I believe Amazon is the most likely to pick up Shadowhunters because I’ve read countless interviews that outright state the company is looking for sci-fi shows that generate tons of engagement and bring in a large influx of new Prime subscribers.”
Now that streaming is reverting TV back to the age of cable subscriptions, fans have started voting with their wallets. If viewers are bored with endless crap on Netflix and end up illegally streaming their favorite shows anyway, they might just cancel subscriptions and switch allegiances.
Faith thinks the #SaveShadowhunters campaign is full of budding television activists. “Fans that have been loyal Netflix subscribers have already cancelled their subscriptions and promised to throw their money at whoever chooses to pick up our show.
“If Amazon wants to match or surpass Netflix’s volume of subscribers, it would be a smart move to save a show that has already proven to be a hit and has resonated with millions domestically and internationally, instead of taking expensive risks on new shows that might never take off in the way that they may have hoped.”
If they don’t take the chance now, Shadowhunters could tie up its loose ends in a perfectly serviceable, lukewarm finale two-parter. Three seasons of fantastic, inclusive, and inspiring television isn’t half bad, but the general sentiment among fans is that it could be so much more.
Fans will keep showing support for their favorite demon slayers: getting tattoos, reading books and articles, and flaunting costumes at Comic Con. Maybe they can make Shadowhunters the fourth, and most deserving, revived series of 2018.
Images courtesy of the Shadowhunters fandom – we thank you for participation in this piece.