Malec forever: How this queer storyline became the battle cry for ‘Shadowhunters’ fans
As the Shadowhunters cast & crew wrapped the third (and potentially final) season of the cancelled young adult show, one sentiment continued to echo through the trending ranks of social media: Malec forever.
In a heartfelt video message to fans, Harry Shum Jr. (the wonder behind sassy immortal warlock Magnus Bane) and Matthew Daddario (the dreamboat behind shadowhunter Alec Lightwood) shared their gratitude for fans’ continued support of the good ship Malec and of the show itself.
Shum Jr. also took a moment to suggest engagement with fans has been amazing for how much the actors have learned from the experience. But particularly, “What this show has mean to y’all, what this ship has meant to y’all, and what these characters have meant to y’all.”
The actor signed off the message by proclaiming “Malec forever” and it’s since become a main battle cry for fans still vehemently fighting for Shadowhunters to be saved.
It’s easy to see why – the authentic queer relationship embodies so much of what makes the show so great and it also reflects why Shadowhunters is a critical part of pop culture that needs to be saved.
For those who might not be too familiar with the show yet (and if not, why not? Get bingewatching, honey!) the relationship between Alec and Magnus is a rare one to see on the small screen.
It isn’t just that Malec offers a complex, positive, and unique look at a gay relationship (more on that in a moment); it’s also that from the second the two lovebirds met, their romance has been plotted patiently and realistically.
The result is a relationship that feels lived in and real.
It’s no surprise that Malec is subsequently one of the biggest ships to have ever obsessed a fandom. As viewers, we’re rooted deep within the complex dynamics of their love story. We don’t just root for it, we pine for its survival.
Cancelling Shadowhunters is thus ripping this fantastical striking ship from the root, like a flower pulled from the earth before it can fully bloom.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Shum Jr. suggested that there’s “this humorous side” to the couple that himself and Daddario have consciously tried to imbue the relationship with when the moment has “called for it” outside of the script.
“We always try to put that in there. With any couple, there’s always these hidden jokes and these things that just kind of make each other laugh and that’s the reason why it’s so special to be together, outside of being attracted to each other.”
As a result, Malec is a ship that doesn’t feel like a continuously forced attempt at fanservice. It sparkles with a unique and authentic chemistry familiar to real life romance that other on-screen ships sometimes fail to achieve.
In the same interview, Shum Jr. also reasoned that ensuring there’s “some normalcy” to Malec has always been important to himself and Daddario. Particularly for “an LGBT couple, which does not get portrayed on television as much as it should.”
Speaking to Out Magazine, he expanded on that idea to highlight the importance of portraying a queer relationship in a way that’s never been seen on TV.
“I look at it the same way as Asian stereotypes on TV. Why would I want to play that? I want to find uniqueness and capture it every time Magnus and Alec have intimate scenes.”
Mission achieved. The intimacy between Magnus and Alec bounds between searing hot passion, sweet adoration, and the careful protective devotion of two people who share a deep bond well beyond a primal physical attraction.
But it isn’t just the tight chemistry that keeps this ship sailing.
Another critical part of why the relationship connects so deeply with fans is in how the plotline gave space for an inexperienced half-mortal like Alec to explore, accept, and openly celebrate his sexuality via a romance with a deeply-experienced, centuries-old immortal like Magnus.
In TV shows targeted at young people, it’s still rare to experience positive coming out stories – particularly ones that represent bisexual men within the spectrum of LGBTQI experiences.
The depiction of Magnus and Alec’s relationship (and their respective experiences as characters not solely defined by their sexuality or love story) is one that has been celebrated by GLAAD, who gave the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series to Shadowhunters in 2017.
In their annual Where We Are On TV Report, GLAAD further outlined that “Shadowhunters is one of a handful shows that is helping to turn the tide of representation for bi men.”
That representation has meant a great deal to the young LGBTQI community who love the show – many of whom have openly admitted that Shadowhunters (and the Malec plotline in particular) has provided a lifeline to them during challenging times.
On Twitter, one fan reached out to us to explain that both characters had provided an incredible positive influence on their lives: “Both of those characters touched me personally and I see myself in them. They gave me the courage to come out to my family and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
As Daddario once put it about Alec’s coming out plotline: “When he finally meets somebody he can open up to, it forces him to realize who he is. He becomes a more capable, better human being.”
Throughout the #SaveShadowhunters campaign, fans have repeatedly amplified the importance of the LGBTQI representation provided within the show – not just for fans. but for television overall.
Their passion for that fact has helped fans to raise over $18 thousand (and counting) for The Trevor Project – a charity providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQI youth.
Clearly, Malec isn’t just some supreme swoon fodder for fans (though hot damn, we get chills just about every time they’re on screen together). The relationship between Magnus and Alec showcases the quality of writing and acting at the heart of the show.
Shadowhunters treats the sexualities of its characters with respect, but it never solely focuses on those aspects of their personality as their sole traits.
Instead, we have an insanely powerful warlock and a half-angel, half-mortal shadowhunter who just happens to be enjoying some mad love – and we’re so here for it.
#MalecForever isn’t just a cute romantic slogan – it’s a hearty battle cry in the face of cancellation, one that echoes the love story fans have with the show and that platforms the necessity of more LGBTQI representation on television.
It’s a searing howl into the trenches of TV networks and SVOD services that this is what people want to see and that even in the face of cancellation, the Malec love story is far from over and deserves a chance to be further explored.
We want wedding bells to chime, ladies and gentlemen. And we want the two joining forces and kicking ass side by side for far longer than Freeform has given them an opportunity to.