The fight to #SaveShadowhunters has been going on for a little over two months. It’s been a time of excessively tweeting and emailing networks about our beloved show, as well as making our voices heard through raising money for charity and buying ad space in Times Square and renting an actual plane, making the movement a phenomenon in terms of campaigns to save cancelled shows. The significance of the show has prompted fans worldwide to take action and fight for their show, whose representation, diversity and treatment of current social issues is unprecedented. Join us as we look at some of the reasons why Shadowhunters is as groundbreaking as it is, why its impact can’t be underlined enough and why it needs to be saved.
The news of Shadowhunters’ cancellation came as a surprise to not only fans of the show, but also to several media outlets. It’s not hard to understand why. Shadowhunters is the show on Freeform that attracts the most social media attention in terms of likes and retweets on the network’s platforms. Shadowhunters’ official Instagram account has nearly two million followers while the official Facebook page has nearly 1.4 million likes and the official Twitter account, 1.5 million followers. That is more than any other Freeform show. The show frequently trends on Netflix whenever a new episode is available. For several years in a row, Magnus and Alec have been in the running of being crowned the most popular ship by E! in 2016 and in 2017, they finished second. They were the fourth LGBT couple to reach the finals in the E! poll, and also the first male LGBT couple ever to do so. Last year, Forbes dubbed the Shadowhunters fandom the most engaging one within the fantasy sci-fi genre. The fandom was responsible for over 53 million actions across all social media platforms, beating out fandoms such as Star Wars and Game of Thrones. When Funko ran a poll about which fandom that should have its own Funko dolls next, Shadowhunters won with 37 percent of the votes. On YouTube, several of the official channel’s videos have over 1 million views, the most watched one unsurprisingly being Magnus and Alec’s first kiss with over 2 million views to date. With commitment like that, it is no wonder media outlets such as Hidden Remote were as shocked as fans over the cancellation news.
Another reason why this show deserves to be saved is its amazing cast. They frequently get involved in charity work, raising money for various charities. They’re outspoken on topics such as immigration and LGBTQIA+ rights and speak up for what they believe in. With his book club Rosende Reads, Alberto Rosende is on a mission to get the world to read more, one book at a time. He ends all of his Instagram lives with the saying “Keep being positive forces of change in your community and world,” teaching us all that knowledge is never a burden to carry, broadening our minds and our perspective of the world day by day. Katherine McNamara inspires us all in her work for female empowerment with the initiative Girl Up. She also preaches self acceptance and inner beauty, saying: “You have to remember that inside you there is a light that only you can give to the world. If you embrace what makes you special and realize that you in and of yourself are enough, and if you can recognize your own special beauty and love yourself for who you are, you will feel beautiful and best of all, happy.” Furthermore, she spreads the importance of staying true to yourself, no matter what. Nicola Correia-Damude practices what she preaches on her Instagram, teaching people to measure their power instead of their dress size with each video. Jade Hassouné shows us that empathy and kindness is one of the most beautiful things we can give to this world.
Harry Shum Jr. shows that with hard work, anything is possible. He teaches us that there’s no obstacle too big, and no dream too small. The way he pours all of himself into everything he does and always pushes himself forward to achieve new goals is nothing short of breathtaking, inspiring us all. In everything he does, he reminds us of the importance to as our very own Adelia put it “never lose yourself and your authenticity in the process of finding yourself.”
Matthew Daddario has shown the importance of kindness and being nice to others us. Through his many live chats. He shows us that it is never too late to realize the path you’ve been walking on might not be the one for you, teaching us that “if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, do anything to change what you’re doing.” As our very own Kathi puts it: “Matt came from a totally different background, he studied business, then started over and went into acting – and he made it,” highlighting how both he and Harry are “proof that you can turn your dreams into reality if you’re willing to work hard and refuse to give up.”
Masculine and feminine stereotypes? Not on Shadowhunters’ watch
Another area where Shadowhunters gets things right is how it portrays its characters, both male and female. Overall, women and men are seen – and treated – as equals on the show. Their skills and their capability is not determined or affected by their gender, nor is gender seen as a hindrance for what they can and cannot do. Isabelle, for example, is an expert forensic pathologist and one of New York’s greatest Shadowhunters, with no one questioning her authority or expertise because she’s a woman. On several occasions she is shown saving her brothers, showing no trace of the clichéd damsel in distress trope.
As for the male characters, the show combats toxic masculinity by allowing them to show emotion and cry without them being labeled or ridiculed for it, as well as wear makeup and clothing with patterns and details not necessarily traditionally considered “masculine”. Highlighting Magnus’ role in defying these stereotypes, Changing the Landscape described him as “something out of a Liberace fever dream in the best way possible” with beautiful jewelry and “perfectly coiffed, tall, majestic” hair, the result being a character that had never been seen before on television.
Moving the discussion along, Changing the Landscape also commented on how Magnus’ power isn’t asserted because of him being male but because of his nature, something that’s “game-changing when it comes to a male character.” They also commended the show for how Magnus “never once identifies as masculine” and instead carries himself however he wants to, with makeup , jewelry, intricate clothing and “showing carefully landscaped stubble on his face.” Listing Magnus’ various qualities, they applauded his complex character and how he can’t be defined by standards of normative masculinity. Furthermore, Changing the Landscape declared Magnus as self-aware of society’s preconceived notions of how men should act, and also of him not bending to any of them. “He identifies as a man, yes, and masculine, perhaps,” they wrote, continuing, “by what he wants to feel and look like” before concluding that “Magnus Bane is not here for your normative foolishness.”
As for the female characters, Clary, Isabelle and Maia are all main characters, along with several recurring characters such as Maryse. The show has been praised for the dynamic between its female characters and the lack of plot-driven conflict between the women in the show. Furthermore, on the show, all the female characters are allowed to take up their own space, to thrive and to fall, highlighting both their strengths and their shortcomings. None of them are ever shown as relying on a man to help them – Clary is one of the greatest Shadowhunters of her generation, Isabelle the Weapons Master of the New York Institute and a warrior who slays demons all the while wearing five inch stilettos, Maryse a former leader within the Shadowhunter community who’s now finding her way as a mundane and Maia second in command of the New York werewolf pack. Syfy has also remarked on this, calling the show’s female characters “distinctive in their own respective ways.”
Katherine McNamara often talks about how Clary grows up as she learns how to navigate the Shadow World. Through the eyes of the viewers she matures, accepts responsibility for her actions, all the while being a strong, complex character that fans can look up to. Isabelle, on the other hand, proves that there’s nothing a Shadowhunter can’t do in heels and more importantly that there’s strength in one’s fallbacks and learning how to come back from them. The F Word has also commended the show for showing Isabelle as “comfortable with her body” rather than falling into old stereotypes of slut shaming and allowing her to express her sexuality freely. Maia also embodies some of Isabelle’s qualities. Her journey in season 3 was one of the storylines that resonated with fans the most, and in her young fans see a confident woman who doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do and that people are not defined by what happens to them, but rather how they react and respond to it. Maryse showcases how important it is to realize one’s errors, and that no matter how bad things may seem it is always possible to begin again.
Its commitment to diversity
It’s no secret that Shadowhunters often differs from the book series it is based on. One of the most important distinctions can be seen just by looking at the cast. In the books, Isabelle, Luke and Simon are all white, whereas on the show they’re portrayed by a Latina woman, a black man and Latino man respectively. This deliberate casting gives both fans and the industry much needed representation. Too often, Hollywood chooses to overlook minorities and instead partake in whitewashing characters that are originally people of color. Not Shadowhunters, though: out of the show’s eight main characters, more than half are portrayed by people of color, and several of the recurring cast members are as well, such as David Castro and Chai Hansen. Whether it’s through Harry Shum Jr.’s captivating portrayal of Magnus’, Emeraude Toubia’s badass depiction of Isabelle, Alberto Rosende’s powerhouse portrayal of Simon, Isaiah Mustafa’s interpretation of Luke or Alisha Wainwright’s touching depiction of Maia, fans can watch the show and see themselves in the characters they know and love. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz talked openly about the importance of racial representation on TV shows, saying “As a woman of color, and as a Latina, I have felt that [exclusion] my whole life. I would watch television and think, ‘I wish my favorite show knew I existed.’”
As for Asian representation, Shadowhunters is at the forefront “in a world where you can name the notable Asian-American men on screen without running out of breath.” All too often, Asian representation has been boiled down to stereotypes, pushing the actors to the sidelines and having them portray “scrawny, sex-starved intellectuals or lecherous creeps.” With Harry Shum Jr.’s portrayal of Magnus Bane, the show pushes back against harmful stereotypes. Magnus is shown as desirable in a medium where Asian men aren’t often portrayed as “explicitly wanted” and his culture isn’t exploited, nor does he exist to be the comic relief. With his individual agency and his developed storylines, he is well-rounded and multifaceted, which still is uncommon in Asian representation. Harry has previously spoken out about the show’s representation, saying that one of the things he loves about the show is that “it never mentions ‘oh, he’s Asian,’ not that they don’t want to, but it doesn’t matter,” and highlighting how “the fact is the stories behind him can be so rich and different from what we’ve seen before because someone of that background has never been on television.” Magnus and Harry Shum Jr.’s portrayal of him has been described as “original, revolutionary, and heartfelt” and part of a force that is working to break ancient stereotypes and permanently change diverse representation on TV.
The importance of this kind of representation has also been noted by the show’s cast. Talking about it at San Diego Comic-Con, Alberto Rosende said “We’re doing it well, it’s not just part of a joke,” while Emeraude Toubia pointed out how her and Alberto represent a new generation of Latino actors raised in United States and portraying character that weren’t Latino originally. She said, “It just shows you how Hollywood is changing and how the world is changing.” Geeks also highlighted this, saying that “having POC characters gives POC watchers something to see themselves in. People they can relate to. And when the characters aren’t token characters, but fleshed out people who aren’t there to just be POC, it makes them feel validated,” before concluding that Shadowhunters’ representation is “one of the best out there.” At New York Comic Con in October 2017, Alisha Wainwright also spoke out about portraying a strong, black female character, saying: “For me, having a lot of young black women coming up to me and vocalizing seeing a dynamic black woman who’s not playing a secondary character to a male was actually something that they very much enjoy and are looking for on television today. To have that in genre too is so fun and important and I didn’t realize I was carrying that torch until they made me aware of how important it was to them.”
The diversity among Shadowhunters’ cast is very much intentional and “100% a priority” according to showrunners Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer as well as producer and director Matt Hastings. Despite Shadowhunters featuring such high representation in terms of diversity, Todd Slavkin noted that it isn’t enough and that diversity is particularly important in today’s day and age. Hastings also noted this, pointing out the “great degree” of social relevance to the show and that they have “a responsibility to everybody.” Hastings also talked about how the show is important because “the world has changed dramatically, and we’re waiting for some of the world to catch up.” Hearing the heads of such a diverse show talk about how even their diversity isn’t enough, the network’s decision to cancel the show makes even less sense than before.
It doesn’t shy away from difficult topics
Beyond providing diversity and a lineup of characters that fans can see themselves in, Shadowhunters has also been commended for highlighting real life issues despite the show’s supernatural setting. The show has brought up topics such as homophobia, racism, abuse and mental health.
When it comes to the topic of abuse, Shadowhunters has focused on both parental and domestic abuse. Throughout season one and two, the complex relationship Jace has with Valentine was thoroughly explored, both in terms of his misplaced love for the father figure he wanted but never had, and in uncovering just how deep Valentine’s abuse of his adoptive son went. What makes Shadowhunters stand out in its depiction of abuse is that it is not swept under the rug once the main core of it has been highlighted. The show portrays the very real way in which past abuse can still impact one’s life years after the abuser is no longer in the picture. Her Campus praised Shadowhunters for this, saying: “It’s rare that a character on TV gets to actually heal after abuse, and Jace’s trauma never really leaves him, just like in real life.” With Jace, the show also shows the process of healing after past abuse and trauma, something the show has also received positive criticism for. His past never really leaves him, as we see throughout all seasons that have aired so far, but we also see him healing and eventually opening himself up to others again. This was also noted by Her Campus, who wrote: “He has trouble letting people close and letting himself love, but through important relationships with friends and new family, he’s able to patch up some of the wounds his father created.”
On the flip side, what the show also has done well in terms of Jace’s character is the positive relationship between adoptive parents, siblings and children. Alec and Isabelle have never thought of Jace as less of their brother because of him being adopted and Maryse – despite the struggles their relationship faced at the start of season two – made a point of explicitly telling Jace that she’s never regretted adopting him in episode 2×08 after discovering his fear of being cast aside by his family. The show portrays several different kinds of family situations, successfully showcasing that family doesn’t begin and end with blood ties and that there’s no rule for how a family is made up. This can, for example, be seen in Catarina adopting and raising Madzie as a single mother, the parental relationship between Magnus and Raphael as well as Luke all but considering Clary and Simon his own children.
In terms of domestic abuse, the show highlights both emotional and physical abuse through Magnus and Camille and Maia and Jordan. Particularly in season 1, Magnus’ past with Camille is explored. Through Magnus’ retelling of their relationship, viewers find out about the complicated ties that bind them and Magnus’ complex feelings toward the woman who he feels in some ways saved him, but who, according to Ragnor, also killed him. In doing this, the show depicts a parallel to the parental abuse Jace suffered, highlighting that abuse exists in several different forms. This abuse is also prominent when Magnus is forced to choose whether or not he will hand Camille over to the Clave in season two, episode four. “The fear of loneliness has always been your Achilles heel,” Camille tells Magnus in a saccharine voice. “You don’t do well losing those you love, do you? I’m the only one you can count on to be here for you forever. You know that. That’s why you love me, and you always will,” she goes on before prompting Magnus to “choose” her. While Camille’s attempt was unsuccessful, the scene highlights a core aspect of emotional abuse, namely the abuser purposefully playing on the victim’s vulnerability and emotional weaknesses. The show skilfully acknowledged a prominent part of emotional abuse. Furthermore, it also didn’t sugarcoat the aftermath of an emotionally abusive relationship. In the follow-up episode, Magnus tells Alec about how hard it was for him to send Camille away given their history. By acknowledging this, Shadowhunters portrayed a realistic healing process, allowing Magnus to hurt while also highlighting the journey he’s made toward recovery. In Magnus’ own words: it gets easier, but never easy – something that can sadly be said for the healing process from any kind of psychological trauma.
In season three, we were introduced to Jordan Kyle: Simon’s new roommate – who also turned out to be the ex-boyfriend Maia talks about in season 2, episode 18, who became “weird and possessive” in their relationship and who later on also attacked Maia and turned her into a werewolf. While describing this to Simon, she says that she is reminded of the assault every time she turns into a werewolf: “At first, I thought it was a rabid dog. It’s clawing and ripping at my skin. I was screaming, just begging him to get off of me. That’s when the wolf started to change and it was Jordan. He just backed up and run off and left me there alone. And I, I cannot but think that every time I turn, this is what love got me.”
As Jordan re-entered Maia’s life, viewers were taken along on Maia’s complicated journey of navigating Jordan’s constant attempts at making amends all the while still suffering from the domestic abuse she went through under his hands all the while relearning what love is for her out of the context of Jordan’s abuse. As the full extent of Jordan and Maia’s past was revealed to Simon as well as the viewers, Maia struggled with having him back in her life as a constant reminder of what she went through, and also seeing him constantly trying to right his wrongs. At the end of season 3, episode 7 this comes to a head when she reluctantly hears him out and later tells him “It’s great that you found a version of redemption for you. But if you’re here to ask for my forgiveness that’s not something I can do.” With that powerful dialogue as well as Alisha Wainwright’s and Chai Hansen’s stellar performances, the show highlighted the significant difference between self redemption and the forgiveness of others – and how forgiveness isn’t a given, nor something that can be demanded. Speaking about this with Syfy, Alisha Wainwright talked about how hearing Jordan’s point of view can help Maia in her own healing process, but that it doesn’t have to fuel his: “It’s the first time we’re hearing his point of view. And that doesn’t necessarily change how it made her feel and whether or not she’s okay with what happened to her. But what it does do is offer a little bit of closure to something that was so traumatizing to her.” Continuing on the topic of forgiveness, Alisha also pointed out the distinction between forgiving and forgetting, saying that “it’s important for everyone to understand that it’s OK to forgive people, but it’s another thing to forget about it.”
Syfy also praised the show for its “respectful depiction of trauma” while highlighting the lack of realistic portrayals of it on television and how Shadowhunters has gone to lengths to provide as honest of a depiction as possible. The writers were aware of how delicately they needed to handle this storyline since the very beginning, and it shows in the finished product. Talking about the collaborative process between herself and the showrunners of developing the storyline, Alisha expressed her pride over the show’s honest handling of the subject, and said: “It has to be so delicately tended to because we’re speaking to an audience of people who may have experienced their own personal traumas, whether it’s been physical or emotional. And you have to respect that it’s A) challenging to process, and B) once you process how to live your own life, then to learn to forgive.”
Domestic abuse and trauma is not an easy subject for a show to try to depict, least of all to do so respectfully. Yet it is something that needs to be talked about more openly in order to raise awareness and break the silence surrounding it. With Shadowhunters’ respectful depiction of this delicate subject, they have not only set the bar for other shows to follow suit, but also increased the volume of a subject and a community that needs to be heard, seen and represented.
Another difficult but vastly underrepresented subject that Shadowhunters has touched upon, is that of mental health. Within the supernatural context of the Shadow World, the characters still experience human issues such as mental health struggles. In doing so, they make the characters more relatable all the while working against some of the stigma surrounding mental health and shedding light on a subject that, for the most part, is still surrounded by darkness.
Primarily, mental health representation on the show has occurred through Magnus and Alec (which we’ll return to later on). However, in season three, the show delved a bit deeper into this subject with the revelation that Jace’s mother suffered from a mental illness and the plot point that Jace might have been too, thus causing his blackouts. While Jace’s issues were due to him being the Owl, the show still handled the topic of mental health in a respectful way. Maintaining the supernatural setting, the cast and crew still managed to skillfully weave in mental health representation by handling the topic with care. To prepare, they researched the depersonalization disorder, or DPD, which is an umbrella term covering several different mental illnesses. Speaking about the storyline with TV Line, Dominic Sherwood expressed the sensitivity with which the storyline was handled because they didn’t want to “do a disservice to anyone out there who might feel empathetic towards this situation for whatever reason.“ Elaborating on how the cast and crew handled working with the topic, Dominic told Hypable: “We wanted to kind of put a version of that into this Owl/Jace scenario and have a sort of James McAvoy Split thing going on as much as we could. That was the kind of stuff we sort of looked at and the detrimental effect that it could have on a mind. And then, how that is reflected on the people around them. And the people they really care about, how hard that can be, and drawing light to that.” Elaborating on the show’s dedication to the subject, Dominic also explained that despite the demonic, supernatural stance of the show, they wanted to “draw a light, as much as we could, to the realism of something that’s happening in a slightly surreal sense.”
Returning to Magnus and Alec, their struggles with mental health have also been brought up throughout the show. For Alec, the most prominent instance of this was in season 2, episode 5 as well as 8. After killing Clary’s mother while possessed by a demon, Alec resorts to self-harm to escape his emotional pain. His self-harming tendencies were also brought to the surface in episode 8. When Iris Rouse casts a spell making the Shadowhunters hallucinate their worst fears, he envisions Clary blaming him for her mother’s death. Upon hearing this, viewers next saw Alec standing on Magnus’ rooftop, ready to jump. While Magnus saved him from the ledge, it still highlighted Alec’s deeply rooted fears as well as his mental health issues. Both of these instances were revisited on the show. In an exchange between Alec and the then Head of the Institute Victor Aldertree, the stigma surrounding mental health and treatment for it was touched upon when Victor tried to use what happened at the party as leverage to blackmail Alec with. Furthermore, the events were also revisited through conversations between Magnus and Alec. Later in 2×05, Magnus brings up Alec’s unhealthy coping mechanism of hurting himself physically. In 2×09, Magnus expresses his fear of what could have happened, while telling Alec that “magic can’t create fears, only bring them out,” highlighting Alec’s underlying issues. Gigamov commended the show for its handling of the scene following the events of 2×08, calling Magnus and Alec’s discussion a “necessary and carefully managed one.”
When it comes to Magnus, his mental health was also particularly highlighted in season 2. In episode 4 he tells a shocked Simon about how he nearly ended his life in the 1870s, explaining the bad place he was in and telling him that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t see his way out. “If it wasn’t for Camille… I wouldn’t be here right now,” he concludes before bringing them both back to the present by telling Simon that when he’s in a bad place now, he has his “rock” to lean on. With stellar work from Harry Shum Jr. and Alberto Rosende, the conversation delicately brings Magnus’ mental health struggles to the surface, while also referencing how important a good support system is and that there is help to be found.
In the aftermath of Magnus and Valentine’s body swap, Magnus’ mental health was revisited once more. As Inquisitor Herondale tortured Magnus (in Valentine’s body) with the Agony rune, he had to relive the death of his mother and him killing his stepfather over and over again. Thus, when Magnus was back in his own body he not only had to cope with the trauma of the physical invasion of his body, but also of having to relive something he’d spent centuries trying to forget and only just recently had started to get over. Episode 15 showed the effects of the body swap on Magnus, with his inability to sleep and his mother and stepfather’s deaths haunting him no matter what he did. Talking about the body swap with Hidden Remote, Harry Shum Jr. said the storyline served to bring up interesting aspects of someone’s mental health when their body is invaded. Elaborating, Harry also said: “It’s so invasive, the swapping of the bodies. I think in some ways it can be interpreted differently,” he explained before concluding “but I think the trauma that happens out of that… You have to have help, and you have to find help, and you also have to talk about it.” Harry’s offering of a different interpretation of the events, the overall topic of mental health to mind, and how it, speaking from personal experience, can sometimes feel as if your body and mind is being invaded by forces beyond your control. With this interpretation as well as Harry’s powerful insistence of the importance of not dealing with mental health issues by yourself, the storyline and Magnus’ recovery becomes all the more powerful. It’s a poignant remember – in a TV landscape that all too rarely brings up mental health – that there is always someone else who’s in a similar situation and that there is help available and that it is possible to recover.
GLAAD’s (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) “Where We Are on TV report” showed that the representation of characters with a disability, including seemingly non-apparent ones such as mental illnesses, is shameful. While the percentage has risen to 1.8 percent, it is still nowhere near being representative of the amount of people who live with a disability in the world, 12.8 percent. With this in mind, Shadowhunters’ portrayal of mental health issues becomes all the more important. With its depiction of these matters, it not only signals for other shows to follow suit but also brings awareness to a topic that is all too often cast aside and overlooked.
While Shadowhunters has dealt with mental health, there is still so much more to be said on this topic. With the pace and multiple storylines of the show, these matters have sometimes not been given the attention they require. The conversations between Magnus and Alec in 2×05 and 2×09 are great examples of skillful writing combined with a care and dedication to accurately handle this kind of topic. Knowing what the cast and crew can manage, there are other aspects of Magnus’ and Alec’s respective mental health issues that need to be revisited, such as the hints at Alec’s self harm, Magnus using alcohol as a harmful coping mechanism and the low self-worth and self-sacrificing tendencies they both seem to share. Beyond that, the issues that they have already touched upon also deserve more time and recognition in order to depict mental health issues in a realistic, non-harmful way. This kind of trauma and these kinds of issues do not merely disappear. Mental health issues mean a life long struggle for those living with them. The possibility to dive deeper into the topic of mental health and coping with it is yet another reason why Shadowhunters deserves a fourth season. With more time, the topic could be more thoroughly explored and revisited. It has already cast some much needed light on it – with a season 4, the possibilities of further dedication to it would be endless.
The way Shadowhunters highlights real-world oppression in the midst of its supernatural conflicts is particularly prominent in season 2. When Maryse’s disapproval about her son’s relationship with Magnus primarily focused on Magnus being a Downworlder, The Odyssey Online praised the show for its “blatant metaphor for racism”, also noting how it was “highlighted by the fact that the majority of Downworlders are played by people of color.” This was further touched upon in season two. When Jace tells Alec it should have been him who was appointed Head of the Institute instead of Jace, Alec points out how the Clave would never do such a thing seeing as he’s “dating a guy who’s a Downworlder.” The latter part of that statement further highlights the racism within the Shadow World and how it represents real-world racism.
Paste Magazine has also noted Shadowhunters’ stand-out handling of the racial metaphor, calling it “a conflict that parallels the very real forms of discrimination and racism that exist in our own world.” It was also pointed out how this issue had been treated since the beginning of the show, especially in terms of casting Downworlders as actors of color despite many of them being white in the source material. Paste Magazine wrote that the “many ways in which these characters are targeted and discriminated against by both Valentine and other Shadowhunters because of their species is a clear parallel to racism,” before noting how the very deliberate casting “allows the series to represent this in a way that more closely mirrors real-world discrimination than had it followed in the footsteps of fantasies that allow white characters to play out oppressed narratives.”
While the racism against Downworlders and the parallel of real-world racism in society has been a thread throughout the entire show, it particularly stood out in season 2, episode 13 “Those of Demon Blood.” Over the course of the episode’s 40 minute run time, both racial profiling and anti-semitism is brought up. After being wrongfully arrested, Maia tells the Shadowhunters: “You know, I’ve been stopped by cops for no other reason than being black, but I thought Shadowhunters were more evolved than that.” This comparison highlighted that “the way Downworlders are treated and viewed by the supposed heroes of the story is its own kind of racism, and needs to be confronted.” As for anti-semitism, Simon and Clary has a poignant conversation about the tracking chips the Clave wanted to use on Downworlders. While Clary argues that the action was harmless, Simon – whose Jewish religious beliefs have always been highlighted on the show – tells her about his grandmother’s upbringing during World War II in Poland and how all Jewish-owned businesses had been identified. In one of season two’s most powerful scenes, Simon tells Clary how that, too, had been harmless at first but later on served as an identifying tool to send Jews to concentration camps. This, too, was highlighted by Paste Magazine, who commended the show for how “Simon’s story renders in explicit terms the allegorical connection between the actions against werewolves and vampires in Shadowhunters’ fantastical universe and the all-too-real history of anti-Semitism, which the series repeatedly foregrounds with further references to Simon’s Jewish heritage.”
Another real-life issue Shadowhunters has tackled head-on is that of homophobia, both internal and outer. Alec’s journey to self-acceptance is one of the show’s most popular storylines to date, and one that touched and helped fans worldwide. His internalized homophobia in season one due to the Clave’s and the Shadowhunter community’s opinion on homosexuality, his upbringing, and the expectations his parents put on his shoulders as well as their and other Shadowhunters’ reaction to his sexuality and his relationship with Magnus is sadly reminiscent of the world we live in. By not shying away from the subject, the show has given a voice to the marginalized LBGTQ+ community, skilfully depicting real-life issues in the context of demons and angels. Highlighting the reaction to Alec’s coming out and his relationship with Magnus was both about Magnus being a man as well as a Downworlder, Paste Magazine said it served as “a sharp reminder that some of the struggles facing these characters aren’t merely constructs of their fantasy world.” With Alec’s parents’ reaction to Magnus and Robert deeming him a lothario, the show also depicted the biphobia surrounding bisexuals and the stigma that they’re faced with on a daily basis, drawing another skillful parallel to current issues.
The cast has also spoken out about how important it is for the show to deal with topics like these. Alisha Wainwright and Isaiah Mustafa discussed this at New York Comic Con in October 2017, where Isaiah said: “I think it’s good because the show is a little microcosm of the way the world is. It definitely gives each group of people a glimpse into what it’s like to be another group of people, by showing you how hard it is for a warlock to date a Shadowhunter or a werewolf to date a vampire.” Alisha seconded Isaiah’s sentiment, talking about how much opportunity there is to be vocal about subjects like these and how it is important to make use of it. “I feel like with the genre, there’s so much opportunity to say something, and to say a lot of things without saying something specifically,” she said, before later on noting how Shadowhunters is “painting a reflection of our own society and how people sometimes cannot, they don’t see the big picture on how… small-minded they are.”
Through its pointed casting and dealing with this issues, Shadowhunters has provided a wave of fresh air into the supernatural genre. The voices of marginalized communities are highlighted and actually voiced by the people facing things such as homophobia, biphobia or racism. Paste Magazine highlighted this, saying “After all, if you’re going to use supernatural conflicts as a metaphor for the oppression of marginalized communities, you should include those voices to enrich the metaphor, not replace them.” This concept does not seem groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it is still something other shows have struggled with. “It’s frustrating when straight, white, cisgender characters are so frequently the faces of oppression in supernatural stories, while their experiences are drawn from real-life examples that those stories erase or ignore,” Paste Magazine said of the issue before commending Shadowhunters’ “more promising direction.” Somehow, we doubt the direction they imagined led toward a cancellation of a show that’s proven to be so vital in furthering this kind of discussion and representation.
Its groundbreaking representation of LGBTQIA+ characters
Shadowhunters’ importance for the LGBTQIA+ community is a topic that can’t be stressed enough. The show’s representation extends far beyond harmful stereotypes and token casting, having an LGBTQIA+ character merely for the sake of it. Where else will you find a show with an openly gay man, a bisexual Asian man – in a committed, healthy relationship, we might add – three lesbian women, and an asexual man? The answer to that question, to be blunt, is nowhere. Raphael Santiago is currently the only asexual character on any cable network – in fact, David Castro’s portrayal of him was one of the main reasons why GLAAD could add asexual as a category in their “Where We Are on TV” report at all. The decision to cancel the show reduces that crucial representation by 100%. Let that sink in.
LGBTelevision noted the importance of shows with LGBT characters being renewed, stating that it’s “a really positive direction to take.” LGBTelevision also concluded that “the more shows that represent young LGBT people, the more individuals that will be able to point at a character onscreen and declare ‘hey, that’s just like me!’” which would bring the world closer to “another young people learning to love and accept themselves and their identity.” As Film Daily noted, Shadowhunters “champion the necessity of similar [LGBTQIA+] storylines in current or upcoming shows.” What this shows is that diversity needs to be strengthened, not diminished through the cancellation of highly significant shows such as Shadowhunters.
In November 2017, GLAAD reported an all-time high in terms of LGBTQIA+ representation on TV, both broadcast, cable and streaming. However, they also pointed out how despite this continuous rise since 2016, more diversity is still needed. Straight characters make up 93.7% of all characters on broadcast TV. That means the remaining 6.4% need to represent all LGBTQIA+ identities. Somewhat ironically, Freeform was announced the cable network with the highest amount LGBTQ characters, 25. However, with the recent cancellation news that number is set to decrease drastically.
It’s one of few sources of positive bisexual representation
Roughly a quarter of the previously mentioned 6.4% of LGBTQIA+ characters are bisexual. Among all TV characters, bisexual representation actually decreased in 2017 to 28 percent. Women outnumbered men, with 75 and 18 characters respectively. Here, it is worth noting a significant discrepancy – women made up 81 percent of the bisexual characters, whereas in society this same number is 64 percent. In 2016, GLAAD also noted a vast underrepresentation on TV when it comes to bisexual representation. More than 50 percent of non-straight people in the United States identify as bisexual, but this representation cannot be seen on the small – or big – screen. Furthermore, more people identify as bisexual-plus – for example bisexual and pansexual – than people who identify themselves as lesbian or gay combined. GLAAD also pointed on that while TV has made significant strides in terms of bisexual representation, the most prominent of those characters have been female. Alarmingly, that representation was also filled with harmful stereotypes and dangerous tropes “of villainy and duplicity that are far too often associated with bisexual, but as bi males remain nearly invisible, the missteps really stand out.” Using examples such as The Royals and Mr. Robot, GLAAD noted how bisexual men’s sexual fluidity is “associated with immorality rather than indicative of real interest, and reinforces harmful stereotypes of bisexuality being a strategic means of manipulation, rather than a unique identity” before also noting that television can change the stigma bisexual men face.
While naming the misrepresentation of the LGBTQ community, GLAAD also praised Shadowhunters for the portrayal of Magnus Bane, writing: “Magnus is a few centuries old and throughout the series, he casually mentions past lovers, male and female, the way any character would refer to past relationships. These low-key affirmations make it clear that Magnus is bisexual without having that be his sole defining characteristic.” Pointing out how Alec was worried because of Magnus and Camille’s immortality rather than Magnus’ sexuality, GLAAD went on saying that the direction the storyline took “refreshingly subverted a trope so often seen in stories of bisexuality, where someone dating a bisexual person is solely concerned that they will leave them for a person of a different sex, thus reinforcing tired stereotypes of bisexual people being inherently incapable of monogamy.” Shadowhunters’ conscious decision to not use this trope was not only significant for the show, but also because it defied “so many real life assumptions people even within the LGBT community have about bisexuality.”
In March 2016, Autostraddle put together a list of every dead lesbian or bisexual female TV character, while also creating one with characters who had happy endings. 152 characters were on the former list, while only 29 on the second. While this list focused on female characters, seeing those numbers highlights yet another reason why Shadowhunters is so important and need to carry on – LGBTQIA+ characters in general and bisexual characters in particular need to be shown getting the happy endings they deserve. This was also noted by Paste Magazine, who praised Magnus and Alec’s kiss in season 1, episode 12 for being a “positive reprieve amid a storm of small screen stories enacting the ‘bury your gays’ trope, a storytelling device that leaves its non-straight characters miserable or dead.”
Speaking about bisexual representation, The Young Folks pointed out how crucial visibility is, particularly for sexuality which is “infamously and notoriously under and misrepresented, swept under the rug or purposefully avoided.” Furthering the conversation about bisexual visibility, The Opal commented: “Bisexual people are notoriously misrepresented within the LGBTQIA+ community and are often seen as those who ‘can’t choose’.” Discussing what the show’s cancellation will mean for the LGBTQIA+ community, The Opal commended the show for Magnus’ character and spoke of its importance, saying that “an openly bisexual character like Magnus stating things such as ‘I’m afraid I’ve always been a one-soul-at-a-time kind of guy’ is not only important, but also groundbreaking.”
Moreover, nine in ten people find LGBT representation in popular culture to be severely lacking, according to a PinkNews survey. While nearly all respondents said that they’d seen themselves represented in one way or another, more than one in six answered that there hadn’t been any depiction that properly represented them, highlighting yet another reason why representation is so important.
Recently, Brooklyn Nine-Nine character Rosa Diaz came out as bisexual. Stephanie Beatriz, who portrays Rosa and is also openly bisexual, talked about the importance of bisexual representation to tear down harmful myths: “There’s a reason that people sometimes think bisexuality is not something that’s a real thing, which is so mindboggling to me, but I can see how that might happen if that access isn’t there,” she said. Continuing, Beatriz raised the question: “How are you ever going to appreciate, I don’t know, the colour blue if you’ve never ever seen it, you’re just going to be terrified of this weird thing — there’s this weird mix of green and yellow, and you don’t understand it at all.” Bitchmedia wrote that people are “complex and so are their identities,” going on to explain that the with more bisexual characters, it is less likely that conclusions are drawn “about an entire group of people based on a few examples, and the more we’ll be able to experience the full range of human experience, in art and life.” Bisexual actress and activist Sara Ramirez has also spoken about the importance of bisexual visibility, saying “Whether you are comfortable with labels or not – the fact is – the ability to be seen, to name our truth, to find community and build power around who we are is such a critical part of any political movement for true liberation.”
Shadowhunters’ LGBTQ representation is also important when it comes to societal acceptance of people who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. People who don’t know LGBTQ people in real life can be influenced by the characters they see on TV, which in turn can further acceptance of the LGBTQ community. This has also been seen in support of gay marriage, with shows such as Glee furthering the societal acceptance of it. Furthermore, realistic male bisexual representation can help break down the real-life stigma bisexual men face.
Several media outlets have talked about the importance of bisexual characters actually stating their sexuality, highlighting the stigma surrounding the term. While Magnus hasn’t explicitly said that he’s bisexual, Harry Shum Jr. has made it a point to always refer to Magnus as bisexual, correcting both fans and media when they’ve wrongly labeled him, and all of Magnus’ relationships with both men and women are valued the same. None of them are diminished because of the gender of his partner, nor is his sexuality questioned because of his same-sex relationship with Alec. This kind of representation on TV is vital. Even today, bisexuality is sometimes seen as no more than a phase, a pit stop between gay or straight where no inbetween can exist. With characters such as Magnus Bane, people who identify as bisexual are given a voice and seen as valid. GLAAD noted this, calling Shadowhunters “one of a handful of shows that is helping to turn that tide of representation for bi men.” They also went on commending Magnus’ affirmations of his sexuality and references to his past relationships, which “made it clear that he is bisexual without his sexuality being his sole defining characteristic or story.” Noting how rare this is, they said: “It is rare enough for a television series to include a well-written and nuanced bisexual male character, and it is even more rare for that character to be one of the leads.”
Harry Shum Jr.’s portrayal of Magnus is not only a rare positive portrayal of bisexuality and significant to the LGBTQIA+ community. With Harry being Asian American, his depiction of Magnus is important to the Asian LGBTQIA+ community as well, of which representation in film and TV is lacking at best. GLAAD wrote: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Asian Pacific Islanders (API) are minorities within a minority.” What little non-straight Asian representation that exists is often stereotypical and exoticized, which only serves to reinforce “stereotypes of APIs being silent, demure and sexual objects.” Praising the show for its depiction of Magnus, Screen Spy wrote: “Magnus isn’t just attractive, powerful and perceptive. He’s one of a literal handful of bisexual men on TV. He’s also an Asian man whom the narrative defines as eternally desirable, in a medium that has historically downplayed Asian male sexuality and desirability through discriminatory stereotypes.” With Magnus Bane, Shadowhunters and Harry Shum Jr. give a voice to a community that is all too often dismissed. At the 2017 GLAAD Awards, Harry noted this, saying “I play an openly proud bisexual warlock and a person of color that’s in a relationship with a recently out gay Shadowhunter who hunts demons for a living. I don’t think that this combination has ever existed on TV.” In 2017, Harry also won the award for Best Bisexual Representation by a Supporting Character – Male at the 2017 Bisexual Representation Awards. He is also nominated again this year, showing the importance of realistic bisexual representation and how Shadowhunters got it right – up until the network’s decision to cancel this mould-breaking show.
While significant progress has been made in terms of representation for marginalized communities, American television shows still don’t accurately represent its people. GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” report noted that Asian-Pacific Islander representation was on the rise following 2017’s representation on the small screen. Broadcast and streaming declined in terms of percentage non-white LGBTQIA+ characters. Cable was the only medium that improved to 35 percent. Included in this is Shadowhunters, as well as the 25 LGBTQIA+ characters Freeform proudly states they have. With the show’s cancellation, this number is however set to most likely decrease, following the network’s decision to cancel other LGBTQIA+ prominent shows as well. With LGBTQ characters being prominently white and all platforms lacking LGBTQ characters of color, cancellation a show like Shadowhunters, quite frankly, doesn’t make any sense. The show has moved LGBTQIA+ Asian representation forward, which is notable since this marginalized group is the most underrepresented in media. Speaking of how relevant LGBTQIA+ representation is, GLAAD president Sarah Ellis said: “At a time when the Trump administration is trying to render LGBTQ people invisible, representing LGBTQ people in all of our diversity in scripted TV programs is an essential counterbalance that gives LGBTQ people stories to relate to.”
Its nuanced depiction of Alec Lightwood
Shadowhunters has also been praised for its portrayal of Alec and how he came to terms with his sexuality. Hypable also commended the show for the realistic issues depicted within Alec’s storyline, saying: “Alec is important because he is a reflection of young adulthood. The fear, the anger, the rejection, that he goes through are typical feelings that everyone experiences. Alec’s struggle is a story that needs to be told and is being told well on Shadowhunters.”
With most LGBTQIA+ representation on the small screen consisting of gay, white men, Shadowhunters was on paper at risk of not really adding anything to the discussion of representation. However, with the care and respect both the cast and crew showed the character and the LGBTQIA+ community, the show has received positive criticism for the non-stereotypical characterization of Alec. ScreenSpy noted this, saying: “Alec serves as a challenge to stereotypical representations of homosexual men. He’s a warrior to his core – masculine, calculating, resolute. It’s an inversion of the typical flamboyant and effeminate portrayal viewers [usually] see on screen – not that either of those two qualities are negative by nature. Their stigma comes from how often they are used to exploit a character’s sexuality, particularly for comedic effect.” The show was also applauded for portraying Alec differently than how the movie adaptation chose to. The Odyssey Online commented this, saying “what we saw was a poor representation of repressed homosexuality. He was jealous, rude, and downright aggressive,” before highlighting the show’s “significant improvements” to the storyline.
Shadowhunters’ nuanced portrayal of Alec and allowing him to be more than just the “token gay” has also been commended by TV Guide’s Jim Halterman. In our interview with him, he talked about this, saying, “[Their sexualities] have never been the one thing that defines those guys,” before talking about Alec in particular: “They’re just as qualified, like Alec becoming kind of the leader this year and this past season. I mean, that was a big thing, and it’s not because he’s gay, but because of his qualities and who he is as a shadowhunter. So, it makes the characters really three-dimensional.”
One of the most significant lines Alec’s coming out arc and of the first season as a whole took place in the 12th episode, aptly titled “Malec.” After Alec has come out to his friends and his family as well as to the Clave, Maryse scolds him and says she no longer recognizes him. Alec’s reply is “I’m the same person I’ve always been. Now everything’s just out in the open.” This underlines the show’s dedication to accurate LGBTQIA+ representation without making it the sole defining characteristic of their characters. Alec doesn’t fundamentally change after coming out – without needing to hide and because of his relationship with Magnus, he becomes happier – but his openness about his sexuality doesn’t change the core of this beloved character. In this, it shows what Shadowhunters has done right where other shows has failed: allowing their LGBTQIA+ characters to be layered andfz multifaceted. It also beautifully captures what the show, and Matthew and Harry, have been trying to do since day one: depict characters, individually and together, who are honest and real to the point where they’re not defined by their sexualities, and fans can see themselves in them.
Its realistic and honest portrayal of Malec
In terms of representing Magnus and Alec as an LGBTQIA+ couple, both cast and crew have been adamant about doing the relationship justice and portraying them realistically as well as honestly, something that is sometimes still rare in the context of representation. In 2017, Shadowhunters was awarded a GLAAD award for Outstanding Drama Series for its depiction of Alec’s coming out and Magnus and Alec’s developing relationship, showcasing the positive impact the show has on the LGBTQIA+ community. The show was also nominated again in 2018.
Speaking of Alec’s coming out scene, executive producer Michael Reisz talked about working closely with Matthew and Harry in order to produce as honest of a result as possible, calling it an “collaborative, organic process.” Elaborating, Reisz also said: “One of the things that was really, really important to me was to tell a true, authentic representation of both straight and gay characters, and not just stereotypes, for a lack of a better word. Every character (…) is a multifaceted human being with many different levels of what they care about, what they’re willing to risk, what they’re not willing to risk. I think a lot of times there’s potential for all of those levels to get washed over and that’s something that we fought very hard to protect in all of our characters. Particularly Magnus and Alec within this context.” Reisz, who is an out gay man himself, was adamant about getting Magnus and Alec’s relationship right: “I’ve been involved with the Magnus and Alec storyline since its inception in the series. I’ve sort of been the protector of it through every episode. The writers have done a beautiful job, but we really wanted to layer the character traits to have these people be real people throughout each episode as things built and built.”
Talking about the process of developing Magnus and Alec’s relationship, Reisz also mentioned working closely with GLAAD, both to make sure their depiction of Magnus as a bisexual man was realistic, but also for the sake of Magnus and Alec’s storyline in season one. “We have been working hand in hand with GLAAD. They came in and spoke with us for a couple of hours and everybody in the writer’s room asked every question that they wanted to.” Beyond consulting GLAAD, Shadowhunters’ writers’ room has always been diverse. For example, Reisz, who had a major role in penning Magnus and Alec’s season 1 arc, is openly gay. Furthermore, Joshua Butler, who directed the significant Malec episode 2×10 “By the Light of Dawn” as well as 3×07 “Salt in the Wound” identifies as LGBTQIA+. Amanda Row who directed the acclaimed episode 2×18 “Awake, Arise, or Be Forever Fallen” is openly bisexual. Episode 3×03, “What Lies Beneath,” where Maryse embraces Magnus and in turn his relationship with her son, was penned by openly LGBTQIA+ writer Alex Schemmer. “We have many people come into the writer’s room and tell their stories. I told my coming out story, I’ve told terrible dating stories. I’ve even talked about relationships I’ve had with people from my personal life before I came out. It’s super important for us to not just tell a quick story about your typical person or relationship. This is about two unique individuals coming together to make their lives work,” Reisz told Paste Magazine. Having such a divergent writers’ room has been a key element in the show’s ability to portray their LGBTQIA+ characters in a way that’s been praised for its realism and non-stereotypical depiction. Elaborating on this during a meeting room session with Alberto Rosende and Jade Hassouné during The Hunters of Shadow 2 convention in June, Harry talked about the importance of being as honest as possible in the portrayal of Magnus and Alec’s relationship. He also mentioned how they strive to not steer toward stereotypes and show something that hasn’t been seen on TV before, and how doing so challenges both societal stereotypes and educates them further. Concluding, Harry spoke highly of working with Matt in order to ensure as realistic of a portrayal as possible before highlighting how the work of the cast, the writers and the crew is a “a collaborative effort to create something unique.”
While Magnus’ and Alec’s sexualities are part of who they are, the cast and crew have not let it become their sole defining characteristic. This has been highlighted by Matthew Daddario, who told newnownext.com: “One thing I really like about it is that Alec is not being defined purely as ‘You know, this is the gay character’. Alec is also many things, and Magnus is many things, and their relationship is just sort of celebrated as a relationship of love.” The importance of this is also something TV Guide journalist Jim Halterman talked about when we spoke to him, saying “I think if you see it on film, television or theater and they make it the focus of [those characters’] lives – that’s not the reality. So even though Shadowhunters has told Alec’s coming out story, we got to know so much about Magnus and the relationships he’s had in the past.” Noting how shows often fail to do this, Jim went on to say that other tv shows and movies often make the mistake of making a character’s sexuality what defines their character. “They kind of forget that this is a small part of who this person is and it’s great to explore, but it can’t be the only story,” he said. “You know, for any of us that are gay – I’m a gay guy – and there’s so much more going on in my life than just being that.”
Shadowhunters has been commended for how realistically they portray Magnus and Alec’s relationship, showing their ups and downs like any other romantic couple while not making everything circle around their sexuality. In our exclusive interview, Jim Halterman talked about the realistic portrayal of Magnus and Alec’s relationship, saying: “It’s a really smart way to approach a story because even when they do have relationship elements in a story, you know when Magnus and Alec broke up for a while, it’s not about their sexuality, it’s just a relationship. The show treats their relationship the same as the [others], that’s how it should be – and that’s not what you get all the time.” Continuing, Jim Halterman commended the show further, saying that Shadowhunters has always respected “sexuality and relationship stories” and made them equal to its other stories.
The show has also been commended its portrayal of Magnus and Alec in terms of how they’re both depicted as multi-faceted characters who are their own people with individual story arcs outside of the Malec relationship, as opposed to letting the relationship between them be the sole component of the characters. This has been pointed out by Harry Shum Jr., who in an interview with The Nerds of Color praised the show’s and the writers’ work with “just making sure the characters are strong on their own and then hoping that relationship will blossom into something on its own.” Speaking of Magnus’ and Alec’s individual storylines in season 1, Michael Reisz said “The journey of Alec in season one is of him owning his power and his authenticity. [Magnus’ journey] is of him breaking down his walls and giving himself up to love.” ScreenSpy noted this, applauding the show for their portrayal of the two characters and saying: “Shadowhunters has largely managed to do what others have not: write queer characters that are their own people first. Alec and Magnus have remained fan favorites as a result of a purposeful effort to use each character’s personal stakes and the plot’s organic drama to connect them to [one another]. It’s how their straight counterparts are predominantly delivered and developed–with nuance, sensitivity, creativity, and intent.”
Continuing on the importance of healthy and realistic LGBTQIA+ representation, ScreenSpy said: “Claiming that both characters’ development has been perfect up until [1×12] seems a bit disingenuous. But arguing that their portrayals have challenged the very ways we see characters like them on screen, does not.” Moving on, they said: “Our small screen stories don’t always mirror real-world realities. This is why so many of our representations have been and continue to be one-dimensional. But Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane aren’t devices, thrown in to advance another’s plot. They’re the heroes and love interests of their own stories.” Highlighting how Shadowhunters differs from other shows with LGBTQIA+ representation, they also said “Shadowhunters has done things for both its gay and bisexual leads that we rarely see: it’s dared to treat them as complex, fleshed-out characters.” Shadowhunters was said to shift the conversation about LGBTQIA+ representation. This was pointed out when ScreenSpy compared the show to other shows, saying that “in an industry where efforts to increase representational visibility don’t always reap nuanced portrayals, this small screen adaptation is starting to feel borderline revolutionary.” Talking about what that meant for the LGBTQIA+ community, they highlighted Shadowhunters’ massive impact in changing how “LGBTQ characters live and love on screen.”
Affinity Magazine have also praised Shadowhunters for its portrayal of Magnus and Alec, highlighting not only Shadowhunters’ importance but where other shows seemingly lack in terms of representation. The magazine praised the show for having two non-straight characters be “instrumental in the action of the show” and furthermore “two men who are falling in love with each other saving the world” instead of falling back on harmful tropes, such as the aforementioned “Bury Your Gays.” Moreover, Magnus and Alec’s relationship is “one of the most progressive, positive, and public LGBTQ relationships on TV” and there are barely any other shows that “even come close.” This was also highlighted by The Mary Sue, who wrote that “whereas some other shows simply toy with subtext, Malec is at the forefront of the story as a canon queer romance” while applauding the show for having “a same sex relationship as one of its most prominent love stories.”
The uniqueness of Magnus and Alec also extends to the actors that portray them; Harry Shum Jr. and Matthew Daddario. Realizing the importance of the stories they’re telling, they’ve both been adamant about being vocal allies, supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, but never pretending to know better than members of the community themselves. Talking about the importance of realistic, non-stereotypical representation, Harry said to OUT Magazine that “Bisexuality isn’t really talked about in the mainstream. It’s like me being an Asian Latino American – there aren’t many of us.” Continuing, he said “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.” The responsibility of this role hasn’t been lost on Matthew Daddario, either. Speaking to fans during his Saturday Meet & Greet at The Italian Institute 2 convention, he said that portraying Alec is a huge responsibility, especially given him being part of the LGBTQIA+ community: “A lot of people now will say that it’s it’s fine, we’re past it, that we got gay marriage and everything. But that’s not true. Young gay men and young gay women still face tremendous difficulties worldwide and in the US, depending where you’re from. So it’s a tremendous responsibility to continue that push.”
Matthew and Harry have also been embracing of their LGBTQIA+ fans since before they were cast on the show. When we talked to Jim Halterman, he fondly remembered Harry’s time on Glee, saying “I knew he had a lot of gay fans – even then he did. I knew he wasn’t gay, but I just thought that this was interesting, and he was always really cool to talk about it. (…) He was like ‘You know, fans are fans, and I don’t care if gay guys think I’m hot.’ He was really cool, which I appreciated.” Noting Matthew and Harry’s dedication to their characters, Jim also said that they both “really have embraced these characters, and have embraced everything about them, and you see that in every interview. It’s really nice to see, they’re not afraid to talk about it.”
Matthew Daddario has also touched on the importance of not falling into ancient stereotypes while depicting Magnus and Alec’s relationship, all the while recognizing its importance. Promoting the show at AOL Build in January 2017, he highlighted the importance of authenticity. He said: “I don’t want there to be a situation we arrive at where you are taking advantage of a community or trying to just sort of portray something so that people will be like ‘Oh here, look what we’re doing, we’re being progressive’ or something like that. We want to actually do something that actually is meaningful and is in fact impactful, and is honest.” When talking to Empire, Harry said “The show is all about the relationships; that’s what really holds it all together. (…) People just want to connect and see two people connect at the same time.” Matt elaborated on this, mentioning the amount of work they put into portraying Magnus and Alec and how they “spent a lot of time reviewing those and trying to make sure they’re being honest and we’re not shoving something forward.” Elaborating, he said: “There’s no scene with the stereotypical, ‘Look at this!’ It’s handled really subtly and that’s kind of nice, especially for this kind of relationship.” Harry also discussed the importance of this with Entertainment Tonight, where he highlighted the importance of him and Matthew portraying the normalcy of Magnus and Alec’s relationship, particularly given the drama surrounding them and especially since they are an LGBTQIA+ couple, “which does not get portrayed on television as much as it should.” This was also brought up in a group interview in Brazil, where Matt mentioned that seeing how Magnus and Alec’s relationship has helped fans is one of the best aspects of playing Alec Lightwood. Talking about his and Harry’s work and how they don’t want to do the community wrong, he said “I hope that it will continue to be something they can look forward to, something that is meaningful to them. I think we did a good job.”
Matthew and Harry’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the show’s directors. Joshua Butler, who directed the touching first “I love you” between Magnus and Alec in 2×10, spoke of their hard work in our interview with him. He said: “I’ve been blessed and lucky to work with so many talented actors in my career thus far, and Harry and Matt are two of the best out there. They differentiate themselves by the bravery and boldness of their portrayal of Malec. They really do justice to an epic interracial gay romance that is breaking down barriers in film and television and will – mark my words – be remembered as historic and world-changing.”
Talking to Jim Halterman about accurate representation of the LGBTQIA+ community, Matt said “it’s definitely important to us that kids, people, look at us [and] these characters and it affects them in a positive way. The worst thing in the world would be if what comes out of this is like ‘Wow, that’s just not real’ […]. I mean, that would be borderline devastating.” While shooting season one, Matt recognized the responsibility he and Harry carried on their shoulders, telling KSiteTV: “You’re entering into a world of people who identify with these characters and this world and suddenly we’re here to play these characters on screen. So it really is a lot. But we’ve been working extremely hard to make sure that we honor these characters and the fans along the way.”
More recently, Matthew also spoke to Jim Halterman about the importance of how Alec’s storyline has progressed since season one, speaking of Maryse’s acceptance of her son in particular: “I think that we’ve hit some really good moments this past season and this season especially. I think [Episode 3] really showed this as well, that there can be a reality in all this fantasy that can really show people, especially young people, that their families will accept them. Obviously in the show it’s a warlock and a shadowhunter, but their families will accept them no matter what.” Talking about the impact of the show, he said: “As long as we’re making some impact on improving the lives of young people, we’re going to continue to do our best effort and work as best as we can to present this in an honest and fair way.” Talking about LGBTQ fans’ reaction to the show, he said: “When I see that online and I see that in person, it’s really touching. It makes me feel like I’m doing something very worthwhile. Something good. Something more than just TV and more than just a show, more than just entertainment. It’s been wonderful meeting people and getting letters from people all over the world. I mean, that’s been actually the most meaningful part of this job the past few years, just seeing that… without a doubt.”
Speaking about their impact at the GLAAD Awards in 2016, Matthew said “You know what’s really great is, a lot of people who I’ve seen respond [to Malec] are not so excited about the fact that it’s a gay relationship, they just really like the relationship, which I think really shows something. There’s something really meaningful there.” Harry elaborated on this, saying “You want to broaden– you don’t want to stereotype roles that you see on television and film so I think it’s great that people are accepting. You know what’s really cool that I did see with a lot of the kid fans, or teen fans I would say, they watch it with their parents. And to see them kind of get into the relationships and the different dynamics, I think that’s huge growth. It’s so cool to see it make a family show in a weird way.”
Both Matthew and Harry have touched on this topic several times since. In an interview with The Nerds of Color, Harry said: “It’s been incredible to hear how it’s affected a lot of people, whether they’re in the community or not, and I think that says a lot. Obviously, it’s important for the [LGBTQ] community itself, but I think what is more important at the same time is the community outside looking at it like ‘oh, this is so cool!’ I think it’s the whole Ellen effect, right? Most of America loves Ellen, and she’s openly gay and it doesn’t matter. And I think that is so cool and powerful. So to have people championing our relationship, to see that they just love these two characters together. They love each other. That’s it! I think it’s really great what the show is doing.”
Highlighting this once more, Matthew talked about it at the 2017 GLAAD Awards along with the “tremendous responsibility” of portraying Alec: “Because we spent a lot of time, Harry and I, working on it to make sure that we weren’t doing anything that was maybe false. We didn’t want to do false. That was very, very important. Honesty in the character and believability, truth to the character and something that people can relate to and look at and say ‘Oh, maybe that’s me’ even though we are a Warlock and a Shadowhunter. I mean, very you know… unreal creatures, but very real, real people. Honest people.”
At San Diego Comic Con in 2017 Harry and Matthew discussed this together with Isaiah Mustafa, where Matt said: “There’s always a struggle of like, do you want to just completely… like, do you completely normalize it in the world, do you make it so there is no conflict about it whatsoever? The conflict of [Magnus and Alec’s] relationship stems as much from the difference of their worlds, because of their cultural backgrounds in this case, their social places (…) There’s a lot of elements at play.” Elaborating on Magnus and Alec’s importance, Harry said: “I think what’s nice is, outside of people in the community is the people outside of that community just [thinking] ‘I like this relationship’. To me, that is a big step forward because it’s a big step forward for representation, but also for people [to go] ‘Oh yeah, I like that’ and to not be a part of that, and I think that’s a huge step as well that we never talk about.” Continuing the discussion, Matt said: “Someone told me recently that they were scared of coming out, but then their mother loved the Malec relationship the most on the show, and that made them feel comfortable doing it. I really like that. I don’t know why that strikes a chord with me. There’s something about that, to make it so that it changes people’s minds.”
Its response to criticism and how they correct their mistakes
While Shadowhunters has been praised for its LGBTQIA+ representation, the show has also been criticized. One particular instance came after Magnus and Alec’s first time. Fans took to social media to express how Magnus and Alec were treated unfairly compared to heterosexual couples and point out the importance of giving LGBT couples the same kind of scenes that heterosexual couples get without a second thought. However, where other shows might’ve issued an apology only to never bring it up again, both cast and crew addressed the fans’ valid concerns. In a rare move, showrunners Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer started working on how to make right what they had done wrong. This resulted in a flashback to Magnus and Alec’s first time in season 2, episode 18. This kind of action is what sets Shadowhunters apart from other shows. No show that attempts to accurately portray the LGBTQIA+ community is without fault, but it is all the more rare for shows to acknowledge their wrongdoing and then correct their mistake. The response after 2×07 and how it led to 2×18 shows a team effort between the fandom and the cast and crew. The fandom holds the show responsible for the representation they want to deliver. The crew listens to the fans, and right their wrongdoings, while Matt and Harry take fans’ opinions to heart and give their all in portraying Magnus and Alec’s relationship as honestly and realistically as possible.
Its impact on members of the LGBTQIA+ community
The impact that Matthew and Harry’s portrayal of Magnus and Alec’s relationship has had on fans all over the world is undeniable. Through depicting their characters and their relationship with so much care, honesty and realism, they’ve helped fans come to terms with their sexuality and embrace themselves for who they are, and guiding them on the path to self acceptance. Giving advice to fans struggling with their identity, Matthew said “Your feelings are not wrong” at New York Comic Con in 2015 while Harry encouraged fans to be themselves, saying: “Be yourself. We’re living in a world where it is a lot more open and people are more open to seeing things that they’re not used to and to me that’s a powerful thing.” Their carefully chosen words show that they recognize the importance of the topics they portray on screen, giving strength and encouragement to the fans that see themselves in the characters they portray. Film Daily highlighted this in one of their pieces about the Save Shadowhunters campaign, highlighting how the show is not only entertainment but “a lifeline for those requiring support during a challenging moment in their lives.” Continuing, they wrote: “Arguably, that elevates the Shadowhunters legacy far beyond that of the average show targeted at a young adult audience.” They also noted that the show’s cancellation won’t stop that legacy from expanding, but even more importantly, that the show being allowed to continue “could help amplify the voices of its LGBTQI audience.”
The fan accounts of people who have embraced their sexuality because of Matt and Harry are also another reason why this show deserves to be saved. Our own Isabela phrased Matt and Harry’s impact on her in the following way: “Since I was 13 I started noticing the way I felt about boys and girls was not that different and it was really confusing at that age, especially because I didn’t know what that meant. As I got older. I started to learn more about it and understand that what I was feeling was completely normal. Then, a few years later, I started watching Shadowhunters. I didn’t really know what the show was about or who Alec and Magnus were, but as I watched the episodes I started to see myself in them more and more. I saw in Alec the fear I had of people finding out ‘what I was’ and I saw in Magnus the kind of person I could be and I decided that I was going to be like that. Not long after I came out to my friends and slowly started to become the person I want to be. These two characters really changed my life and made me realize a lot of things I didn’t know about myself. I’m very thankful for this show and for Matt and Harry and the care and respect they have for these characters and their stories.”
Another member of the SDN team, Kathi, also voiced the importance of Shadowhunters’ representation, pointing out its significant impact on her self-acceptance: “Matt and Harry and their work on Shadowhunters helped me a lot with accepting myself. I figured out that I’m bi when I was 16 or so, but it took me a while to really be comfortable with it. Magnus and Alec helped a lot with that. Alec’s fear of someone finding out he’s gay was relatable af, and Magnus’ confidence is so admirable and something I’m trying to work towards. I drew a lot of comfort and courage from their story (especially Alec’s coming out story in S1) and in a way, that felt like the final puzzle piece for me to just be okay with who I am.”
Furthermore, Adelia, another member of the SDN team, highlighted the importance of both bisexual visibility and diversity, showing all the more the kind of effect this show has had and needs to continue having: “Magnus is only representation of someone Indonesian and the same ethnicity as me in mainstream media and to have him be not only bisexual but also be strong, powerful, brave, kind and imperfect means so much,” she said before powerfully concluding that “people always underestimate the power of representation but visibility is so important.”
For our very own Sophie, Shadowhunters and Magnus and Alec’s relationship helped her find herself and her own identity. “I have always liked the storyline of the LGBTQIA+ characters better than the straight characters one in every show I have ever watched but never truly knew why. Same in real life I have to say. The difference was that regarding Alec, for the first time, I actually felt like I understood how a character was feeling, not really knowing where he belongs, who he should love or not, convincing himself that choosing someone just to please his parents was the right thing to do… Because I was actually going through the same thing. I was discovering who I was the same way Alec was,” she said. Elaborating, she went on to indicate just what kind of impact Magnus and Alec’s relationship has on LGBTQIA+ fans: “I would have never questioned everything if it wasn’t for Malec. And seeing Magnus living his best life, loving men and women, being proud of it, proud of them, proud of him helped me see that it was okay to actually be who you truly were and that you should never let anyone decided how you should live your life.” Proving just how rare a show like Shadowhunters and actors like Matthew and Harry who care so much about their characters are, she concluded: “Harry and Matthew were so supportive, protective and they care so much about their characters that we couldn’t have wished for better person to embody this couple that helped me and other people accepting and loving themselves and I couldn’t thank them or the show enough for this.”
Coming to terms with your sexuality isn’t always easy, and can more often than not be a long internal struggle. The world needs the kind of positive representation that Matt and Harry provide through Magnus and Alec’s relationship. In this depiction, people coming to terms with their identity can find strength and encouragement, and overall self-acceptance. More fans need to be able to see themselves in Alec’s stoic, closed off season one mentality and find themselves mirrored in his path to accepting himself. More fans need to be given the opportunity to see Magnus’ confidence and how he fully embraces who he is without reservations, loving fully and wholly in every relationship he enters. It is not only Magnus and Alec who deserve to have a happy ending that isn’t rushed or forced – the fans deserve it just as much. Shadowhunters needs to be saved so more fans can recognize themselves in Alec’s and Magnus’ characters and find the acceptance within themselves that we all deserve. It needs to be saved so LQBTQ+ fans can witness Magnus and Alec finding their happy ending – both individually and together – showcasing the beauty of finding and embracing oneself, and highlighting that we all deserve to find our happy ending, regardless of how that may look.
The monumental #SaveShadowhunters campaign
If there’s any lingering uncertainty about why Shadowhunters deserves to be picked up for a fourth season, all it takes is a glance at everything the #SaveShadowhunters campaign has achieved so far. Despite the fandom’s differences, people have come together to fight for their show. Film Daily wrote that the fandom’s way of garnering publicity for the show and the movement is “outside-the-box thinking that almost echoes the DIY integrity of the punk scene.“ The campaign has even been called the biggest cancellation movement in history, as well as the most sophisticated. Because of the tremendous campaign that has been going on for over two months, the show has even been declared a “cult series.”
Immediately after the news, #SaveShadowhunters trended worldwide on Twitter for more than 24 hours. Fans expressed their disappointment and heartbreak over the show being cancelled, but even more so all the reasons why it deserves to stay on air. Since the shocking news of the cancellation broke on June 4th, the #SaveShadowhunters hashtag has been used in more than 14 million tweets. What’s more, these tweets come from all over the world, showing Shadowhunters’ global fanbase. The hashtags #LoveFromUs and #ShadowhuntersInternational have been used to highlight this and enunciate the show’s global reach and how fans are located all over the world.
The Twitter part of the movement is still ongoing and as strong as ever. Together with Basic Shadowhunters Stuff and Bane & Lewis, ShumDario News has put together a fixed list of daily hashtags to use, as well as power hours in order to be as efficient as possible and prove us to be a force to be reckoned with. Aptly, we named this part of the Save Shadowhunters campaign Raising Hell. Quite frankly, moving heaven seems a bit overrated. Find out more about the tweeting projects here – and raise some hell with us.
When looking at Freeform’s social media accounts, one thing stands out. Almost all of the replies to the network’s post since the cancellation are about the campaign to save Shadowhunters. Beyond Twitter, a petition to save the show has gotten more than 150,100 signatures. In the first days after the cancellation news, fans were so vocal on Netflix’ customer service that the agents barely had to ask what their enquiry was about – they realized the impact of the #SaveShadowhunters campaign.
They also weren’t the only ones. The fandom’s unrelenting efforts to make their voices heard and save the show has been covered in several prominent media outlets, such as Entertainment Tonight, Teen Vogue and Just Jared Jr. Even international websites have reported on this, for example the French website ActuSf, the Canadian-French outlet Cinépop, the Italian website Everyeye.it and the English outlets The Daily Express and Metro UK, who have also covered the campaign in their printed version. Their print edition is the highest circulation newspaper in the United Kingdom. It’s also been mentioned in print in a Russian magazine. The Toronto Star, which is Canada’s highest-circulation newspaper, also did a piece about the campaign.
Fans have also taken to emailing people in charge, whether it be Larry Tanz, Vice President of Content Acquisition at Netflix, Hulu and Amazon bosses, Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the Executive Board of Constantin Film, or Freeform representatives. With Basic Shadowhunters Stuff and Bane & Lewis, we compiled a detailed Google document with email instructions to show the people in charge that our movement extends far beyond Twitter. Not only digital mail has been sent. There have also been projects with various show related things have been sent to networks urging them to consider picking up the show. One of the most recent examples of this is when Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and Constantin Film received roses from the fandom. Those aren’t the only flowers that have been sent – a flower arrangement along with a card, balloon and chocolates were sent to the cast and crew in Toronto. The cast and crew has also received Save It buttons and stickers. These have also been sent to locations all over the world, such as Japan and Germany. Other items have also been sent to networks and the cast and crew, such as balloons, candy and sandalwood shampoo as well as the book Love Makes Us Stronger, detailing the fandom’s achievements with the campaign. In her Instagram Live on July 31st, Emeraude Toubia opened the book, commending the fans for their kindness and everything they’ve achieved with the campaign, particularly the charity fundraisers. A current project includes a slightly more humorous take; ducks have been sent to the networks. A group of fans also recently came together to send 108 cupcakes with the Save It design to the cast and crew in Toronto as a way to thank them for everything they do and tell them that the fandom won’t stop fighting. The cast and crew were highly appreciative of this surprise; for example, both Emeraude Toubia and Jade Hassouné posted about it on social media, expressing their love and gratitude for the fans.
Furthermore, there is also an ongoing project to send postcards to networks. Find out how to go about it here. The document includes relevant addresses as well as artwork and instructions on how to send the postcards. With several platforms covered, the force of our campaign can’t be ignored.
All of these efforts have not gone unnoticed. Speaking to the Toronto Star, Chris Hatcher, one of the show’s producers, first spoke of how inspiring it is to see the fans mobilizing like this, highlighting their “solid understanding of how to get the attention of the decision makers” and the coordinated efforts behind all the achievements. What’s more, Hatcher said that he’s been “getting photos sent to me nearly every day from studio executives whose offices are being inundated with emails, letters and gifts of all sorts,” he said, commending the fandom’s work in forcing the people in charge to pay attention.
Beyond contacting Freeform and contacting networks to show them why the show needs to be saved, the campaign recently took it one step further. Basic Shadowhunters Stuff put together a list of Freeform’s sponsors along with their contact information. This targets one of the things Freeform seems to care about most, if their claims about cancelling the show due to “purely economic” reasons is anything to go by: money. The aim of this part of the campaign is make the network’s sponsors aware of the outrage Freeform has sparked, not only with the cancellation but also their treatment of the cast, and how this reflects back on the companies sponsoring them. This Google document shows how to take action – make your voices heard.
In the middle of trying to save our show, the fandom also made sure to make their voice heard for the 2018 Teen Choice Awards nominations. When the final round of nominees was announced, it was proven that the fandom’s hard effort had paid off. Shadowhunters had five nominations in total. The show was nominated for Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show, Katherine McNamara and Emeraude Toubia were nominated for Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress and Dominic Sherwood as well as Matthew Daddario were nominated for Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actor. As part of the movement, there was an ongoing Twitter project for the awards. The goal was to capture the attention of people attending and watching the show. And as far as wins at the TCAs were concerned, the campaign certainly paid off: Both Shadowhunters and Matthew Dadddario took home surfboards for respectively “Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show” and “Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actor”.
Through this campaign, new fans have also found the show. The #SaveShadowhunters hashtag on Twitter shows predominantly existing fans using their platform to try and save the show, but also new fans who’ve found the show because of the cancellation and don’t want to see it gone. The show has also trended regularly on Tumblr’s Fandometrics and Spoiler TV – despite both the cancellation news as well as the show’s current hiatus. Furthermore, the show has trended on several Netflix services since the news of the cancellation. The fans have also made sure to vote for Shadowhunters and its characters in various polls, showing just how popular the show truly is. For example, the show recently won the Radio Times Sci-Fi and Fantasy Champion title as part of their TV Champion tournament, once again proving the fandom’s resilience and the show’s popularity.
Moreover, fans haven’t just expressed their opinions in words. Fans all over the world have printed flyers and handed them out with the campaign’s message. Flyers were also handed out at The Hunters of Shadow 2 convention in Paris on June 15-16th, further spreading the word about the movement. Realizing the need to make a drastic impact, a GoFundMe page was set up in order to be able to organize various projects to make the fandom’s voice heard. The first of these was included renting an actual plane – yes, you read that right – to fly the #SaveShadowhunters hashtag around the Netflix headquarters in Los Angeles. Several of the cast members expressed their amazement over the fandom’s passion and dedication upon seeing this, and showrunner Todd Slavkin even witnessed the plane live from his office.
It didn’t stop there. After the success of the plane, the next step included buying an ad space in the famous Times Square in New York City. After putting together a design and choosing a time and day, fans in the vicinity flocked to the tourist destination to see the plan come to life. At 3 PM EST on Friday June 29th, the campaign took up two large billboards, urging networks to pick up the show and showing both the cast as well as everyone else that we’re not giving up without a fight.
The next step? Going global, of course. Recently, Save Shadowhunters ads were put up in subway stations in Seoul as part of a month long run. Furthermore, for two weeks starting Monday July 30th, 26 buses in London are featuring Save Shadowhunters ads. From July 30th to August 5th, billboard ads were also featured outside of the Eaton Centre, the most popular mall in Toronto. Vinyl stickers will also be posted outside of the mall containing a QR code to this video showcasing just why people should give Shadowhunters a chance. On July 31st, David Castro and Joshua Horvath visited the billboard, meeting up with fans and applauding the Save Shadowhunters movement. The next day, Ariana Williams also headed to the mall to see the billboard in person, along with location manager and scout John Rakich, who declared the fandom to be the “best fans ever.” Furthermore, in her Instagram Live from set on July 31st, Emeraude Toubia said all of them were aware of the billboard. The Save Shadowhunters campaign will also reach Argentina. On August 26th at 9 AM ARG, a banner with the #SaveShadowhunters message will be displayed at the Obelisco in Buenos Aires. This will also be filmed and then used for more promotion purposes. To donate to this project, go here. The campaign also continues within the United States. The biggest campaign project so far is currently being planned: to have the campaign’s message displayed on big truck billboards in Los Angeles right by networks and decision makers for 5 consecutive days. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help make this a reality.
At the 2018 San Diego Comic Con Freeform had a couple of shows present, with panels for both of them and even a renewal announcement for Cloak & Dagger. Noticeably, Shadowhunters was absent. This despite the success of the cast’s attendance last year as well as the fact that Freeform still needs to promote season 3B. In another remarkable project, the Save Shadowhunters campaign was brought to Comic Con in the form of pedicabs and mobile billboards sporting the same design as the billboards in New York did. There was also a competition for those who uploaded pictures of the pedicab to social media. Beyond that, flyers about the movement were handed out and @ShadowMerch sold specific Comic Con merchandise. And while no one from the Shadowhunters cast and crew was scheduled to attend the convention, we were once again shown just how incredible this cast is when Jack Yang showed up dressed to the nines in full Asmodeus costume and claiming the pedicab as his rightful throne. It seems Asmodeus no longer only rules Edom, but also San Diego Comic Con.
With the casts of both shows attending, two panels, a renewal announcement and a lot of press, Freeform got 4,600 mentions for #CloakandDaggerSDCC and 2,300 for #SirenSDCC. Beyond these frankly unimpressive numbers, Freeform managed to lose followers on their social media accounts. Shadowhunters, on the other hand, had a total of 104,100 mentions with the hashtag #ShadowhuntersTakeSDCC. It was the fifth most tweeted about show during the whole convention. Over the weekend, Shadowhunters also made it onto Spoiler TV’s TV Shows Trending List, claiming the number one spot during one of television’s busiest promotion weekends, and maintaining it for two consistent weeks. All of this despite the show having no attending cast members, no press and its only presence at the convention made up of fan organized projects and a guest actor willingly showing up. Talk about raising hell – figuratively and literally, thanks to the show’s very own Jack Yang.
Wanting to turn the pain into something positive, a fundraiser was set up for The Trevor Project, a U.S. organized which focuses on crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth under the age of 25. As of August 1st, more than $20,000 has been raised in the name of the campaign. Several of the cast and crew have noticed this heartfelt action. Katherine McNamara made a 500 dollar donation, stating that the reason was “the love I have for you as a fandom”, praising the way fans have come together to not only save the show, but to make a positive difference in the world. Noting the impressive $20,000 milestone, she also took to Twitter to praise the fans, saying: “The way you have come together to put effort into making a change for good in the world shows the power and love that flows in this fandom.” Members of the crew also donated, for example showrunner Darren Swimmer, thanking the fandom for its resilience while acknowledging the impact of the fundraiser.
The cast also mentioned the fundraiser at The Italian Institute – The Second Convention in July, with Matthew Daddario and Dominic Sherwood praising the fandom for its achievements and calling for everyone to be proud of themselves. Further commenting on it in an interview with Daddario Daily, Matthew spoke highly on the fandom’s decision to organize the fundraiser and what The Trevor Project will be able to achieve with the raised money, thanking the fandom for its efforts. He also commended the movement itself, calling the fandom’s effective organization remarkable. Furthermore, he was impressed by the actions carried out and the amount of knowledge behind them, pointing out the need to know what would be effective, how to move money and how to use social media in a rallying way to gather people and then build on that gathering through people responding to it. Commending the fans, he called their hard work “incredibly impressive” and “wonderful.” Matthew also expressed this on Twitter, once again thanking the fans for their contributions and complimenting the fandom on what it’s achieved for the organization. Quoting Matthew’s tweet, Harry echoed Matthew’s sentiment, thanking the fans for “being wonderful humans.”
Additionally, more than $1,300 has been raised the United Nations’ initiative for female empowerment that Katherine McNamara is involved with, Girl Up. @ShadowMerch has also been creating merchandise for the movement and the show and has raised over $5,400 for The Trevor Project and Girl Up.
The fandom has also come together with fans of other TV shows. The Lucifer and Shadowhunters fandoms came together after the cancellation of their shows in an attempt to save them. Recently, Netflix picked up Lucifer for a fourth season. Many Lucifer fans have found Shadowhunters through this, and vice versa. Lesley-Ann Brandt, who portrays Mazikeen on Lucifer, created a fundraiser, Care Like a Demon, to reunite children with their families after being separated at the U.S. border. Joining forces with the Lucifer fandom and supporting an important cause, merchandise was created for Brandt’s campaign by @ShadowMerch. Currently, more than $55,000 has been raised.
For everything the fandom has done to save the show, the fandom was awarded the 2018 TV Pure Fan-spiration Award by the website Pure Fandom – an award they coined specifically for the Shadow Family. “From billboards to banners to bikes, this fandom has completely blown us all away,” they motivated the award. And really – when it is all put together like this – who could possibly deny this being the biggest cancellation movement in history?
In honor of everything the fandom has accomplished and are still trying to achieve with the campaign, we named a star. Additionally, we also named another star to celebrate the bond that exists between the ShadowFam and the Shadowhunters cast and crew, as rare as it is beautiful. These certificates were given to the cast at The Italian Institute 2 convention in Milan, Italy on July 13-15. It’s not possible to officially buy a star, but they can be symbolically named, which is what we decided to do. The relationship between the fandom and the cast and crew, as well as resilient effort of the fandom coming together as one, deserves an infinite place in space to highlight the everlasting impact this wonder of a show has had.
These are just some of the examples of everything the fandom has accomplished with the Save Shadowhunters movement. Be sure to check out saveshadowhunters.com for more information about the campaign, as well as follow Bane & Lewis, Basic Shadowhunters Stuff and ShumDario News to stay updated.
With everything the fandom has achieved, it is an undeniable fact that this movement is unlike any other cancellation movement in history. It’s not merely a campaign to save a show; it’s a television and global phenomenon. It not only shows how dedicated the fandom is, but also highlights “a wider statement that shows how audiences now rule the TV shows they watch and not vice-versa.” Furthermore, Film Daily wrote: “As the nature by which we watch television changes, it’s becoming increasingly evident that a show’s importance isn’t solely based on live metrics and economics anymore,” pointing out how “its story and significance goes beyond the conventional restrictions of entertainment consumption” and exemplifying Shadowhunters’ LGBTQIA+ representation and independent female characters. In a later piece, Film Daily also praised the fandom for what it’s achieved in the name of the Save Shadowhunters campaign, noting that any network would be lucky to have a fandom like it; “one that is vocal and engaged enough to encourage even more viewers to join the community and bingewatch the everloving shit out of this magnificently underrated show.”
As TV After Dark put it: “If there is one thing that the #SaveShadowhunters campaign has proven is that the show has it all to succeed.” It features LGBTQIA+ representation and handles societal issues in a way no other young adult show on television does at the moment. Its cast is made up of diverse, dedicated actors who represent the multi-faceted world we live in today. The show’s fan base is fiercely passionate and loyal. All the show and its cast and crew needs is proper treatment and a chance to truly shine and show more people what they’re made of.
The cast’s response to the campaign
All the hard work and effort from the fandom hasn’t gone by unnoticed by the cast and crew, with several of them either liking tweets and/or tweeting about the movement currently taking place, or talking about it on other social media platforms. For example, in one of Katherine McNamara’s first tweets after the cancellation news dropped she made perfect use of the hashtag to save the show, urging fans to fight. Director Matt Hastings expressed how amazing the fandom is, calling its passion heart and commitment phenomenal and expressing how he’s never seen anything like it. “It’s not just a show, it’s a movement,” he wrote. Steve Byers (Underhill) encouraged the fans to keep fighting for what they believe in. Harry Shum Jr. thanked the fans for the unwavering support before talking about the honor of portraying Magnus Bane and concluding with a short but powerful “One Love,” using the movement’s hashtag. In his Instagram stories, newly announced cast member Luke Baines brought attention to some of the achievements of the campaign and told the fans to be proud of what they’ve achieved, and expressed his pride over being a part of the show. More examples of the cast talking about the campaign can be found here. For a detailed list of cast and crew showing their support of the campaign on Twitter, see this thread, aptly titled A Family United.
We were also lucky enough to interview some of them at The Hunters of Shadow 2 convention, where they both expressed how moved they are by the fandom’s dedication and passion, but also urged them to keep pushing and working toward the end goal to save the show. Emeraude said the cast is “always so thankful” and wanted the fandom to know that they’re “always on social media listening and paying attention to everything [they’re] saying.”
Jade, meanwhile, said they all see the power the movement holds while promising to continue fighting side by side with the fandom (or FAMdom, as Isaiah Mustafa lovingly dubbed the fans in response to the campaign).
Katherine McNamara said they’re all “very aware” of what’s going on. She elaborated on what the fandom’s support means to them all, saying that “seeing the tweets, seeing the support that you guys gave us from the get go was the most comforting thing and the most encouraging thing for us. We know what kind of fandom we have but seeing it first hand and seeing you guys come out of the woodwork to support us was mind blowing and it is mind boggling to see the effect you guys have.” Elaborating, she said the movement shows “what kind of fandom we have” before saying that “when we come together and we work together, when we set our sights on something, we’re unstoppable.”
Kat also mentioned the campaign in an Instagram Live on August 4th, commending the fandom on its achievements and calling them incredible. “And you guys should feel so proud of that you’ve made a real difference in the world and that you’ve come together to be a part of a movement that is surrounding love and unity and joy and something that everyone who’s a part of it genuinely is passionate about,” she said. Highlighting the rarity of the campaign and its reach, she then finished by saying: “And that’s something that doesn’t happen a lot in this world, especially on an international scale, and I think that’s really beautiful. So thank you for all you guys have done.”
Meanwhile, Dom also talked about the cast knowing what’s going on. “I think just witnessing such a wonderful plethora of people coming together, a cacophony of people who care about what we do and [who] all care about one thing is so inspiring to see,” he said. He also encouraged the fandom to not give up, whether it be with the efforts to save the show or in anything else they’re passionate about. “It is proof that if you have a voice and it’s something you’re passionate about, you should speak your mind and be vocal about it. As long as you’re not hurting anyone with your voice or your passions or whatever you’re trying to say then – absolutely come together and try to change the world. It’s the only way change happens,” he said.
Alberto said he’s been “very much monitoring” the progress of the movement, and called the fandom’s dedication and support inspiring. Quoting one of his “favorite goofy movies” Galaxy Quest, he offered some encouraging words to the fandom and its fight: “Never give up. Never surrender.” Moreover, he also expressed how the network, through the cancellation of the show, “messed with the wrong people,” showing just how aware he is of the fandom’s hard work and various projects to save the show. And honestly? We think he’s right.
Harry also talked about the fandom’s support, highlighting how incredible it is since the cancellation news were as shocking to the fans as they were to the cast. Talking about the movement, he said: “The beauty was seeing what the show meant to them and how it affected them and the beautiful story that came behind it.” He praised fans for their support and their resilience before expressing his and the cast’s gratitude, not just now during the movement but ever since the beginning of the show.
Furthermore, Harry also did an Instagram Live from his trailer on the last day of filming episode 3×21 and 3×22 on August 3rd. In it, he expressed his gratitude to the fans and read a few fan letters highlighting the show’s impact on them. He also took the time to talk about the fandom’s achievements with the campaign, saying: “What I’m also impressed with is, you know … you guys rallying together and donating over $20,000 to The Trevor Project, and all the billboards, and flying a plane with the banner.” Noticeably touched, he concluded: “You guys have just really, really been a special part of the show.”
In the midst of the cancellation news and the efforts to save the show, The Hunters of Shadow 2 convention took place in Paris. During the closing ceremony, the attending cast – Matthew Daddario, Jade Hassouné, Katherine McNamara, Alberto Rosende, Dominic Sherwood, Harry Shum Jr., Emeraude Toubia and Will Tudor – were shown a heartfelt fanmade video to Jessie Ware’s “Hearts” which was featured in season 3, episode 8. The video highlighted the fandom’s love for the show as well as the unrelenting efforts to save it. Between fans crying in the audience and the cast being visibly affected, everyone was touched by the video’s message. Voiced by Katherine McNamara, the cast promised to give the fans their everything in the episodes to come – no matter how many that may turn out to be – and in return, the fans vowed to not stop fighting for the show whose cast and fandom they’ve found a family in. It was a powerful moment that left no one unaffected. It also highlighted the powerful bond between the cast and the fandom that’s only been strengthened with the campaign. Beyond that, it was also made obvious just how attached the cast are to their characters. While it’s easy to claim that it’s not just a job and that they legitimately care, the closing ceremony made it obvious just much of themselves the cast pour into their characters and what they mean to them. That also makes the cancellation that much worse – most of the cast have spoken out about how they were as blindsided by the news as the fans were, finding out on social media along with the rest of the world. For a cast like ours, they deserve better. They deserve to tell all the untold stories that are left, and they deserve to close their characters’ chapters when it is time; not long before the show has run its course because of supposed financial reasons.
While the closing ceremony was a bittersweet moment, the cast and the over 400 attending fans left the convention venue knowing one thing for certain: none of us are giving up.
At the end of the day, none of the reasons we have listed in this article are new. Fans of the show have known about its positive impact in terms of LGBTQIA+ representation, diversity, showcasing strong female characters and dealing with socially and culturally relevant topics ever since it first went on air. The show’s popularity has been a widely known fact, bordering on phenomenal. Its deliberate and diverse casting has been highlighted ever since the beginning, only growing more prominent and relevant because of the show’s development, breaking ground within the television industry. How it has shifted LGBTQIA+ representation on the small screen as well as within the sci-fi genre has been talked about countless of times before. Even GLAAD has fundamentally been changed because of the show due to them now being able to include asexual characters in their “Where We Are on TV” report. The impact of Magnus Bane being an Asian bisexual man – one of only 18 on all TV platforms – who’s portrayed as multifaceted and nuanced while tearing down harmful stereotypes about bisexuals has been highlighted not only by GLAAD but countless of media outlets, and even called groundbreaking. Alec’s non-stereotypical characterization has long challenged other shows’ sometimes stereotypical portrayal of gay men. The show’s deviation from harmful LGBT tropes and how they’ve showcased LGBTQIA+ people as happy and embracing of themselves has been noted all over the internet. Its pointed effort to develop their LGBTQIA+ characters both individually and within Magnus and Alec’s relationship, as well as to portray their non-straight characters as nuanced, flawed and realistically as their straight characters have never gone unnoticed, neither by fans nor media. The show’s positive effect and how it’s helped fans come to terms with their own identity and sexuality has always been unmistakeable, among media as well as the cast and crew. Its avoidance of toxic masculinity stereotypes and non-stereotypical portrayal of male characters, allowing them to simply be themselves, hasn’t gone by unrecognized. Its diverse female characters and the relationships between them have been commended since the beginning. How the show has been dedicated to realistically portraying society, both in terms of diverse casting and dealing with relevant issues such as discrimination and homophobia, has been one of most talked about aspects of the show.
However, in light of Freeform’s decision to cancel the show, it is clear they haven’t been talked about enough. The network’s proudly used slogan “a little forward” rings false in light of what the cancellation will mean for LGBTQIA+ representation, diversity and the way societal issues are handled on television. Rather, Freeform seems to be doing everything they possibly can to be the most regressive network possible. All of the above mentioned aspects are highly important reasons as to why Shadowhunters deserves – and needs – to be renewed for a fourth season (and hopefully beyond).
The relationship between the show’s cast and crew and its fandom is unprecedented. It is no understatement to say that it’s truly evolved into a family. Whether it’s for the show’s renewal or anything else, the fandom fights for them as they fight for the fandom. One of the most distinctive examples of that is Freeform’s decision to schedule production of the 2-hour finale at the same time as The Italian Institute – The Second Convention was taking place in Milan, July 13th-15th. With several of the main cast set to attend as well as what conventions mean to them and in turn them knowing what they mean to the fans, they “fought their own network and took risks” to still be able to attend. If that doesn’t show the family ties between the cast and the fandom, we don’t know what will.
There is a give and take between the fans and the cast and crew: the fans hold the show accountable for the representation the cast and crew want to deliver and that they want to see, as well as the work they do. The cast and crew, on the other hand, listen to the fans and take their opinions into account when furthering the show’s storylines, paying attention to the voices of the communities they represent. While fandoms certainly aren’t rare, this kind of feedback within a show is quite rare. While a television show aims to entertain its audience, what happens beyond that goal is up to how the content is perceived and how it aims to be perceived. Shadowhunters, with its themes and vital representation, has a significant “organic and real connection with its audience” that “is something that one can only dream of in this industry.” This kind of correspondence tells of just how much the show matters, and furthermore, it highlights just how badly stories like it are needed, now more so than ever before.
While Shadowhunters’ impact in terms of racial diversity and realistic LGBTQIA+ portrayal is permanent, its work is nowhere near done. Alec has only just started to tell his story. He needs to be allowed to thrive in his position as Head of the New York Institute, in his repairing relationship with his family while maintaining his relationship with Magnus – a combination of things he once thought he would never be able to have. Fans deserve to see more of him happy and comfortable with himself, finding that peace and acceptance themselves along the way.
With Magnus, the show has only just started to go beyond the surface of who he is. He – as well as the man who portrays him and his fans – needs to be fleshed out more, his backstory given more time to be addressed. Being one of the few examples of positive bisexual representation on TV, there is no way Magnus’ story can be allowed to end so abruptly. There are so many more chapters to be told, and the fans deserve to be there for every single one, and to draw strength from everything he represents.
And while Magnus and Alec’s relationship is already one of the healthiest, most positive and progressive LGBTQIA+ relationships on TV, their story is only just beginning. Too many stories of minorities go untold. Alec and Magnus’ relationship needs to be allowed to develop, and all of its nuances and layers deserve to be explored. Matthew and Harry deserve getting to tell the stories of the characters they hold so close to their hearts and that they’ve put so much care and so much of themselves into. In today’s TV landscape, the depiction of Magnus and Alec’s relationship is desperately needed. Fans deserve more time with the characters that have already helped them so much. They deserve to see them reach their – not rushed – happy ending, to have their stories told by characters who show them in a realistic, honest light. To see that they, too, can find that kind of happiness. Magnus’ and Alec’s story – individually and together – needs to be allowed to develop and continue for the people who see themselves in their characters. The impact the show has already had with its depiction of Magnus and Alec is undeniable and permanent, but it is also not even close to being done with breaking ground in terms of LGBTQIA+ representation. Fans have been able to see themselves in these characters for years, and have in doing so been able to embrace their own sexual orientation and identity. This kind of impact perfectly highlights just why the story is far from over. More people need to be able to find themselves through the realistic and honest portrayal of these characters. More people need to be able to think “That’s me” when they see them on screen. Non-LGBTQIA+ people need to see this kind of representation. In doing so, harmful and inaccurate LGBTQIA+ representation is combated, one step at a time. In doing so, more and more people will become accepting. In doing so, we are one step closer to a world where diversity is celebrated, where self-acceptance is the norm rather than a distinction, and where we all are truly allowed to be ourselves.
One thing is for certain: this fandom isn’t giving up. After all, Alec Lightwood taught us that “impossible just means try again,” and that you don’t walk away from something that’s difficult when you know it’s worth it. The fandom recognizes just how rare a show like Shadowhunters is, and why the light it sheds on LGBTQIA+ representation, diversity and social issues can’t be put out long before it’s time. The family that’s come together through this movement is unstoppable, and we will keep fighting for what we believe in because we know that the voices and topics raised through this monumental show deserve to be heard. In the words of Alberto Rosende (and one of his favorite movies): “Never give up. Never surrender.”
Trust us: We won’t.
23-year-old Swedish care administration student and freelance editor with about as much black in my wardrobe as Alec in season 1 and a penchant for writing overly formal messages. At this point, my middle name should be ‘Kind regards’. I have a love for writing and it’s always been a big part of my life. I joined ShumDario News as a writer and to compose articles for the website.