How TV shows can learn from the LGBTQI stories in ‘Shadowhunters’
As the song goes: “Love is a Battlefield”. This phrase certainly rings true in the unrelenting battle to see Shadowhunters return to our screens. This pride month, it’s high time we celebrated Shadowhunters for its great LGBTQI representation – again.
Since Freeform dropped the fantasy saga last June, the ShadowFam has been busy with online campaigns, renting billboards in Times Square, placing ads in Seoul’s subway, and renting #SaveShadowhunters pedicabs at the SDCC . . . not to mention raising over $50,000 for the LGBTQI crisis charity The Trevor Project.
Magnus and Alec’s authentically queer relationship embodies so much of what makes the show great. It 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, the relationship between Alec & Magnus is a rare example seen on the small screen.It isn’t just that Malec offers a complex, positive, and unique look at a gay relationship; it’s also that from the second the two lovebirds met, their romance has been plotted patiently & realistically. The result is a relationship that feels lived-in, real.
Anything the fans can do to support the show and each other, they’ll do it. So yes, it’s a struggle and the battlefield to fight the demons of TV can seem ruthless. But in the case of the Shadowhunters fandom, love, patience, and kindness prevail.
There are so many reasons the show should be picked up and continued past the second half of the third season, which is set for release sometime next year. S3a was the most riveting, action-packed, and tumultuous set of episodes yet and it’s clear there is a wealth of narrative to be explored within the Shadow World that could keep it going for ten seasons or more.
But it’s the characters we’re rooting for. Not only are gender stereotypes completely diminished through the exploration of its characters, but Shadowhunters’s LGBTQI representation is unrivaled by most of the TV shows today, something that many could learn from.
As Twitter user @OUaTPreachers explained, the show feels like a “safe space” to the viewers by portraying how “normal” an LGBTQI relationship is, destroying toxic stereotypes attached to bisexuality and diminishing prejudices some people may have with regards to gender and sexuality.
“Personally, this show helped me accept my own bisexuality after suffering internalised biphobia,” which is in part explored via Magnus’s (Harry Shum Jr.) confidence and inability to feel “bad” for being bisexual.
As @hellofavillain pointed out, there’s been a fair share of queerbaiting in TV shows today. “Shadowhunters was so refreshing to me. At first glance it looks like a typical teenage drama, but once you get into it, you start to notice the difference.” The show offers numerous LGBTQI characters who are so much more than their sexuality and gender.
Perhaps the most touching and significant example of this is the relationship between Magnus and Alec (Matthew Daddario) a.k.a. Malec. The love story between these two Shadowhunters is one for the ages and is one of the most beautiful romances ever seen on the small screen.
With this in mind, here’s what TV writers could learn from Malec in terms of LGBTQI representation but also just for the portrayal of a loving romance and how to beautifully weave its development throughout a show’s episodes.
Shadowhunters gives Malec’s relationship the space to flourish
What’s notable about Shadowhunters is how it doesn’t just tokenize its characters when it comes to representation. It’s inclusive and incorporates previously marginalized sexualities, genders, and races without patronizing or stereotyping.
Despite the fact that we all love to refer to them as Malec, Alec and Magnus are portrayed as two very different people with strong yet separate personalities – rather than just being the token one-dimensional “gay couple”. Although their issues aren’t within the realm of reality, relating to the whole immortality vs. mortality conflict alongside keeping strong while dealing with the plights of the Shadow World, they are shown struggling through the ups and downs of a relationship like every other normal couple.
And their story is allowed to progress and develop over time rather than a quick flash of hooking up before breaking up just so the producers can tick their LGBTQI box off the diversity checklist. S1 & S2 saw some fiery hot moments shared between the two as their love flourished, while in S3a Malec settled in to some quieter, domestic moments. They’re a joy to watch and theirs is a love we’re hoping to see more of in the not-so-distant future – we want to see Malec going strong well into season four and beyond.
Malec’s love tells classic fairytales in LGBTQI settings
For many young audiences growing up in the 80s, 90s and even the 00s, the happily ever afters were only ever told between a man and a woman. We can look back now and see how damaging it was for TV shows and movies to only depict these fairytale moments in hetero relationships.
Which is what makes Shadowhunters so great. Alongside the many queer relationships, Malec are shown as enjoying these fairytale moments, thus promoting the message to its viewers that true love is to be felt and enjoyed by everyone – not just between couples consisting of a man and a woman.
Our fave example of this is the modern day twist on Sleeping Beauty when Magnus tries to wake his prince with his very own version of “true love’s kiss”. Okay, so Jace is the one that eventually pulls Alec out and brings him back to life. But that only makes it all the more heart-melting when Alec assures Magnus that he felt his presence and the kiss “did make a difference.” Swoon!
Their relationship breaks down gender stereotypes too
Another aspect of Shadowhunters modern TV shows could learn a lot from is the way it actively challenges macho expectations of male characters within genre narratives. The male characters aren’t all violent, muscle-bound maniacs, and they’re given the freedom to express emotions and sensitivity without it compromising their power and vigor.
Magnus is a perfect example of this, as @loislane912 pointed out. “Magnus Bane is also a great example of a non-gender-conforming man who is still portrayed positively (not treated as ‘less masculine’ or ‘more feminine’), and he’s also excellent bisexual representation that doesn’t perpetuate biphobic stereotypes.”
His relationship with Alec is complex and layered, much like a relationship is in real life. The two share intimate moments of passion, quiet times of domestic peace, turbulent moments where they clash, and most importantly they’re not afraid to be vulnerable in front of one another.
This is expressed with scenes like the one above in which Magnus opens up to Alec about his childhood. It’s these powerful interactions that show viewers it’s okay to show vulnerability as a man and that it’s important sometimes to cry and open yourself up to your loved one.
Malec’s love allows their insecurities to slowly disappear
Let’s face it – dating is not easy. From asking someone out, to sharing a first kiss, to spending the night together, it’s an emotional roller coaster embarking on a relationship, particularly one you’re so heavily invested in. While these ups and downs have been portrayed on the small screen time and again in hetero couples, it’s not often they’re explored with such depth in a queer relationship. That is, until Shadowhunters came along and showed the world how it’s done yet again.
Malec’s road to love has been a delight to watch unfold and we’ve been with them every step of the way. We smirked a knowing smirk when Magnus tried to pull that “I just happen to need virgin Shadowhunter energy to save Luke” schtick to get close to Alec. Our hearts skipped a beat when the pair showed their nerves before consummating their love. And that moment they proclaimed their undying love for eachother? We nearly had to call in sick for work, we were so weak at the knees.
It’s great to see both characters showing a level of vulnerability and overcoming these milestones that can be daunting with the pure love they quite clearly feel for each other. As said, Malec’s is a love for the ages and one that we hope to see more of in the months to come. #Shadowhunters? Yes! #SaveMalec? Always!