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GLAAD

Why we, the stans, love Shadowhunters

September 26, 2018

With the rise of LGBTQ acceptance in the media, thanks to the work of the organizations like GLAAD, there are more LGBTQ characters on TV than before. Shows like Supergirl, Star Trek: Discovery, and even the Disney Channel show Andi Mack feature openly queer characters.

While we can now find more LGBTQ characters in shows, TV still has a long way to go. Often times when queer people are represented in media, they are white, cisgender, and gay. There are few bisexual characters and even fewer asexual characters. Being a biromantic, asexual person myself, it has always bothered me that my LGBTQ+ identities are rarely showcased. What’s worse is when these sexualities are represented, they are treated as something that needs to be fixed. In many shows, even ones that are supposed to be accepting and progressive, bisexuality is laughed at and dismissed as a phase. But that dismissal doesn’t happen in Shadowhunters—and that’s why I love it.

Based on the book series The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, Shadowhunters tells the story of humans with angelic blood who have been given the responsibility of protecting the world from demons. Also involved are warlocks, vampires, fairies, and werewolves.

The cast is not only diverse in race, with Latinx, Asian, and Black leads, they are also representing many people with different sexual orientations. From the very beginning of the series, we know that the High Warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus Bane (played by Harry Shum Jr.) is bisexual and that he has had relationships with men and women.

Importantly, the show also spotlights Magnus’ relationship with Alec Lightwood, another main character (played by Matthew Daddario). Season one explores their relationship, and viewers watch as Alec comes to terms with his sexuality, accepting it and his feelings for the warlock.

Harry Shum Jr. and Matthew Daddario accepting the Outstanding Drama Series Award for 'Shadowhunters' at the 2017 GLAAD Media Awards

What makes this relationship between Alec and Magnus—affectionately named ‘Malec’ by the fans—so special is not that they are a queer couple, but the fact that they are treated like every other couple on the show. They aren't given less or more screen time, they actually kiss on screen, and the characters are not defined by their relationship. Alec is still a stubborn, hard working Shadowhunter, and Magnus is still a sly, charming Warlock.

Although I’d seen Malec flourish and grow, I’ll admit that when the show’s creators added in Ollie Wilson (Alexandra Ordolis), Luke’s new partner at the NYPD, and gave her a girlfriend, Samantha, I was a bit skeptical. While some shows include great examples male same sex couples, it’s hard to find shows that treat female same sex couples the same way. Often lesbian relationships are portrayed as overly sexual and fairly one dimensional. Instead of doing what many other shows have done, Shadowhunters took Ollie and Samantha’s relationship and normalized it. They treated her relationship the same way they would have if Ollie was a guy who had been dragged into the crazy world of angels and demons. She and her girlfriend, Samantha, weren’t sexualized, or used for diversity points. They, too, were well rounded, properly fleshed out characters.

These aren’t the only characters that are not defined by their sexuality either. While it is rare to see an openly bisexual character on TV, it’s even less common to see an asexual one. In fact, according to GLAAD’s 2017 Where We Are On TV Report, Raphael Santiago (David Castro) was the only asexual character on cable TV in the 2017-18 season. In a world where even the LGBTQ community debates the existence of asexuality, it’s nice to see that at least some writers of major TV shows understand and acknowledge its existence.  

The representation in Shadowhunters isn’t just representation of race, of gender, or of sexuality: It’s a representation of intersectionality. The characters in Shadowhunters already have so much life to them and their identities just add other dimensions. It’s a show where all types of sexualities and examples of gender expression will not only be represented but also normalized and accepted. It’s possible to be bisexual and East Asian, it’s possible to be Latinx and asexual, it’s possible to be a tough, femme cop while also being in a relationship with a girl. The show proves it’s possible to live your life and be more than your labels, and that is why I stan Shadowhunters.

Aisling McDermott is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador Alum and recent graduate of Le Moyne College. 

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