I recently started rewatching Shadowhunters because I deserve that joy in my life, and I have been obviously most excited about getting to watch Magnus & Alec fall in love again. As I’m drafting this, I just got to their first meeting, and Alec is all flustered after being such a grouchy old man for the first several episodes, and it’s just so lovely to witness. However, they’re not the only queer couple in Shadowhunters, and queer representation has never been something that Cassandra Clare has down simply because everyone else was, and she deserves a little spotlight for that.
City of Bones released back in 2007, and I’m sorry for how old that made some of us just feel because damn, that was fifteen years ago, which was literally half of my life ago, holy shit, I’ve been reading Shadowhunters for half of my life. That’s pretty damn amazing. But think about 2007. Take yourself back. I was a sophomore in high school? Or a freshman, I’m not sure which, but I was fifteen at the time, and it was not great. I was big in the OC scene for music, my fashion was actually horrendous, and if it wasn’t emo, I wasn’t into it. We used to call queer fanfiction slash, and if it had sex in it, it was lemons. I absolutely was not about to talk about that fanfiction to anyone but my closest friends, and I definitely didn’t promote it anywhere. I had one queer friend, I wasn’t out myself, and I probably knew of, like, two other queer people in my school? There certainly weren’t any in the media, and when I first cracked open City of Bones, I think I can say with confidence that that was the first time I’d read about a queer relationship in a published book.
I didn’t even know it was a thing you could do. 2007 both sounds like a long time ago and really doesn’t, but it was a different world back then. Sure, Pride parades were a thing, duh, but Target didn’t have a Pride collection, and you didn’t see people wearing rainbows out and about to celebrate their queerness. It was simply not talked about. The most I had ever seen was in Will & Grace, and is there ever any actual gayness on that show? Do we see Will or Jack with anyone? I’m sure we did, but I definitely don’t remember it, so whatever it was, it was very lowkey.
Having a queer couple in mainstream media was simply not done, but Cassandra Clare didn’t care. And she didn’t care in a big way because, when Jace & Clary, the main couple of the TMI series, isn’t together, the romantic spotlight doesn’t slide to Clary & Simon, but to Magnus & Alec. She devotes entire chapters to their relationship that don’t involve anyone else, and that was wild. And it doesn’t stop there.
I want you to think of all the queer television that you know, and then take it back six years and watch that number severely dwindle. Yes, we’ve got a lot–though not enough–now, but six years ago? When Magnus & Alec were the only romantic couple on a highly popular cable television channel? Y’all, what! The sheer amount of on-screen romance that we got from them was pretty much matched with Jace & Clary and Simon & Isabelle, and I can honestly say that I can’t think of another show like that? I’m not counting Sense8 because every single character in that show is queer. And I’m thinking of, like, fairly mainstream shows. I’m thinking of the fact that the entire Supernatural fandom campaigned for any kind of queer romance in the show and just got queercoding for years instead. Shadowhunters, whether in book or television form, has been ahead of the curve for a long time.
And if you’re over there rolling your eyes because I’ve just been talking about Magnus & Alec this whole time, please let me get on my soapbox about the only love triangle in the entire world that I will ever support–Cristina, Mark, and Kieran from TDA. Fuck all the other love triangles in a world, they’re just a wonky V with no actual triangle, but Cristina falls for Mark, who’s in love with Kieran, but he’s broken up with him because he’s finally gotten out of the Wild Hunt, but Kieran’s still around because plot things, and he starts falling for Cristina, who falls for him while they’re trying to help Mark, but instead of Mark and Kieran fighting over Cristina, they just fuck each other instead. All three of them. That’s how you do a love triangle.
Or perhaps we should talk about Aline & Helen, who are sacrifice everything to be together, and who Alec holds up as one of his reasons for even being able to go forward with having a public relationship with Magnus. Or maybe we should chat about my sweet boy, Raphael, who is on-page asexual and has actual conversations about it rather than just doing that weird alluding thing that authors are always trying to do. Labels are important, and seeing Raphael say out loud that he’s ace is powerful. Or the subplot between Anna and Ariadne in TLH that ends up being one of the main focal points of the whole plot? Or Diana finally standing before the Clave after years of hiding her youth in fear that they’d discover she’s exactly who she’s meant to be now and telling them to go shove it up their transphobic asses instead and the entire Blackthorn family standing behind her?
I’m gonna level with you. I don’t know another series that has this much representation, not just in its side characters, but in its main characters, in its main plots, in every facet of every story, regardless of what time of history it takes place in. There is always just as much queer romance as there is straight romance in Shadowhunters, and it’s probably one of the biggest things that keeps drawing me back to it. I am the last person who’s going to enjoy Alastair much more than a begrudging fine you’re kind of growing on me, but the fact that Clare gives us Anna in a way that obviously we’re going to love her and Alastair in all his rudeness, and they’re both queer? Clare’s not just here for representation, she’s here to show us that we belong everywhere.
There are nearly twenty books in the Shadowhunters universe, and I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t have some kind of queer representation, so I’m going to keep on keeping on with my soapbox of it being of the best series in the world.