Welcome to the 18th installment of our 2019 Pride Month Series! Each day this month, we will be highlighting a different person or character in the LGBTQ+ community, who is making an impact on representation in mainstream media.
Today’s spotlight focuses on Shadowhunters‘ Alec Lightwood.
Shadowhunters may bring to mind the imagery of runes scattered across a character’s body, and more specifically a deflect neck rune. But the hit Young Adult literary adaptation has created a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community.
Alec Lightwood, portrayed by Matthew Daddario, first comes across in the short-lied series as someone who is inevitably sour no matter the situation he is in. He immediately doesn’t take a liking to Clary and believes she is the common denominator in their world suddenly turning upside down. Although their back-and-forth witty quips work like an electrified tennis match, there is an oppression of his identity as a homosexual man.
This is largely attributed to the societal behaviors placed around the Clave — something that Alec is privy to because of the Lightwoods’ close attachment: the patriarch of the family, Robert Lightwood, is the leader of the New York Institute.
While, into the future, his parents’ marriage may have fallen to pieces following Robert cheating on Maryse, Alec always felt loved by his family. Unfortunately, this is not a common sentiment when it comes to other Shadowhunters.
Enter: Jace Herondale. After Jace is abandoned by his parents, the Lightwoods take him underneath their wing, and Alec uniquely bonds with him as his parabatai. (A buzzword for the series if you will, a parabatai relationship is governed on a life-long commitment to being there for the other to the point where they can instinctively feel what the other is going through.) The only problem is that Alec’s feelings towards Jace isn’t strictly platonic and they, in fact, intensify when Clary comes into the picture. A fire of jealousy in him can easily be seen by Isabelle who doesn’t quite realize the chaos that could potentially unfold if Alec were to come out.
If that doesn’t make Alec’s life a little more complicated, Magnus, the “out there” bisexual warlock who takes a liking to him, certainly does. From the get-go, Magnus sees Alec as being special, which is significant, considering Alec had always taken a backseat to Jace. He understands what Alec is going through and tells him that it’s time to start living for himself (even if the advice falls on deaf ears when he plans to marry Lydia). This scene results in a powerful rotation of Alec’s life when he decides to forgo the restrictions that he’s placed onto himself, forgetting everything around him when he stops his own wedding to embrace Magnus in front of a sea of both his friends and family.
Since then, the writers beautifully explored the trials and tribulations of their relationship, making it relatable but with a spice of the supernatural. Watching Maryse’s journey from not being able to accept her son’s relationship to claiming Magnus as her own, as well as seeing everyone’s pain when Magnus falls into a deep depression when he loses his magic, were beautiful and heartbreaking moments to witness.
In a lot of ways, Alec brings a grounding to Magnus’ life which, up to this point, has been created of glamour and extravagance whilst Magnus works as a guiding light. He helped strip Alec down to collectively mend the pieces back together. What makes their relationship unique, though, is that one of them is falling in love for the first time and the other has a century underneath his belt. While careful at first, Alec has always been so vulnerable with his feelings; he’s able to wear his heart on his sleeve. Whilst Magnus mirrors this, it’s as if he’s re-learning things. In the process, he understands that, although he has loved before, the love he has with Alec is different.
In the final episode of the series, instead of the couple having a grand wedding like Magnus would have preferred, they decide to go Alec’s route and wed in the presence of the institute. This is incredibly important for Alec’s development, as it not only states that he’s finally content with who he is, but he also wants to set an example for those like him.He’s come from following the rules to governing his own as Inquisitor, and there’s even a second where he would trade everything that he is to become a vampire and inevitably save Magnus’ life.
Daddario perfectly executed the spectrum of emotions Alec went through, and as a result, he was able to create a character who made his mark on millennials. The actor explained more in an interview with TVGuide:
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.
Alec is the thread of the series that connects a world built on laws to the one they created where there is no division among sexual orientation or race. He also represents the time between young adulthood and coming into our own. Often it is in the between where we latch onto our own potential, and the fear of what others could potentially think about us melts away.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our 2019 Pride Month Series. And check out what we’ve published so far here.