62 Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (2016-2019)

The Impacts of a Passionate Fandom on Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (2016-2019)

By Bethany Leach


Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (Shadowhunters) is a television show created and produced by Ed Dector that aired on Freeform in 2016-2019. The show is loosely based on Cassandra Clare’s book series The Mortal Instruments. Shadowhunters is a Sci-Fi drama centered around Clary, who finds out on her 18th birthday that she is a shadowhunter, which is a secret hidden race that protects humans from demons, and other supernatural beings. The show is known for having many diverse characters, and there is something for everyone. There are straight, lesbian, bisexual, gay, biracial characters and couples in the show. The way Shadowhunters is unique is that the fandom who watched the show were able to influence storylines and the way writers and producers thought of the show. Shadowhunters fandom has fought hard for the things they believed in and they were able to achieve some of their dreams.


For some background information about the show, Shadowhunters was been nominated for various awards at the Teen and People’s Choice Awards. Several Categories Shadowhunters has been nominated for or won include best Sci-fi show, best tv show, best actor, best actress, best villain, and best relationship/couple. One of the more prominent awards Shadowhunters won would be the “Outstanding Drama Show” at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards. GLAAD is an American non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in media. The cast and crew took a lot of pride in having a gay couple on the small screen. Many of the cast members embraced the LBGT community and supported the decision to have characters with those sexualities. The cast and producers of the show wanted the queer community to feel loved and accepted by representing them in the show accurately. Main cast member Katherine McNamara, who plays Clary Fairchild, has always embraced “Malec” (Which is the ship name for Magnus and Alec) and the Shadowhunters‘ fandom. Katherine McNamara who was the main actress on Shadowhunters said in an acceptance speech for her best actress award at the people’s choice award. “Shadowhunters is a story of unlikely heroes who form an alliance in divided worlds,” McNamara continued. “It has been a real privilege to watch you, the fandom, do the same, to create a community of love and acceptance in our divided world. Our characters might be your heroes, but you angels are undoubtedly mine.”


While there are several different relationships on the show, I am focusing on the characters of Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane played by Mathew Daddario and Harry Shum Jr. Alec is a character who has struggled with being gay and was in the closet for a long time, not being brave enough to come out and accept himself. In the show, he meets another character, Magnus Bane. Magnus is a man who is bi but takes an interest in Alec. Magnus recognizes that Alec is gay and tries to convince him to be with him and to come out as gay. The characters end up together after facing various advertises and struggles which prevent them from being together. While being together they face many problems, which try and tear them apart, but they overcome the obstacles, judgment, and discrimination.


At Alec’s wedding in season 1 episode 12 titled “Malec”, Alec is under extreme pressure from his parents to be a responsible leader by following all the normal standards, while continuing his family legacy and living up to the Lightwood name. Because of this Alec ends up having an arranged marriage to a woman named Lydia. On Alec’s wedding day at the altar, Magnus crashes the wedding. While the crowd is watching Alec’s every move, he decides to come out to the world as gay, and leaves Lydia at the altar, to kiss Magnus in front of everyone. This causes many emotions and reactions to come out. Some of Alec’s siblings and friends are happy and proud of their friend, while other people like Alec’s parents and mentors are shocked, appalled, and furious. This scene caused a chain reaction and allowed many people of the LGBT community to come out and be vocal with their sexuality because they saw their favorite characters be brave enough to be themselves.


Screenshot from Shadowhunters
Screenshot from Shadowhunters


When it comes to the technical aspect of this scene, there were several things I noticed. The editing of the shots was very fast-paced. The whole scene took less than thirty seconds. The editing of the scene was shot that way to show the significance, drama, and climax of the scene. The editing helped signified the audience to know that this was a big moment for Alec, as well as the LGBT community’s representation in television.


When dealing with cinematography, Alec was walking up to Magnus, and the camera follows Alec as he walks to Magnus. When it comes to the kiss, the camera slowly zooms onto them kissing, the shot zooms in from a medium-long shot into a close. Followed are the rest of the shots of everybody’s reactions taken from a medium close up, while the parents shot is taken from a medium-long shot. The camera work brought the scene to life. For the Mise-En-Scene, the costumes were styled for a wedding. Actors were wearing dresses, tuxedos, a wedding dress. The location in the scene was set in a church, which was decorated with white flowers. The lighting in the scene was natural lighting coming from the stained glass windows. All these factors created an epic scene, which fans appreciated. Although many of the fans did not care for how the show was filmed or edited, but rather they cared for the relationships, plot lines, and character development


The sound in this scene has a few words of dialogue at the beginning of the scene. In the background of the whole scene is a high-pitched song with a fast beat and drums to signify the importance of the decision and action taken place. The producers had contacted an artist named Ruelle, to write and record songs for each couple on the show. These songs would play in the background of important steps in the couple’s relationships and were written specifically for that scene or episode. The song that played in the background of this scene was called War of Hearts. The song symbolized the struggles of falling in loving someone that you’re not supposed to love. Since these songs were written personally for the show, these songs became people’s anthems and were very important to the fans and what the songs represented.


Shadowhunters has a huge fan base. When the showed aired many people connected with the characters and couples. The actors Mathew Daddario and Harry Shum Jr. who played Alec and Magnus have represented the LGBT community in a strong way. The actors were dedicated to their roles while taking on the responsibility of accurately portraying the gay couple. The fan base is so huge and passionate about the show that they heavily influenced the writer’s decisions of the show. There was an incident where the main straight couple had finally got together, and the characters had a love scene. When the LGBT community discovered that the love scene that the gay characters had was shorter, and was not accurately represented, the fans were furious. They demanded that they get a true accurately represented love scene between the gay characters. Because the LGBT community was so vocal with the injustice of the scenes, the writers went back to the drawing table and wrote an accurately representative love scene between the two male characters. Once the fans saw the love scene between Alec and Magnus, they were happy and satisfied, knowing the writers and actors listened to what they wanted.


This show was so loved and supported by its fans. In 2019, the show was canceled unexpectedly after shooting the third season. The fans were furious and hurt. These characters meant so much to them, just to let them go without any closure. Almost as soon as the announcement was made, the fans went to Twitter and other various social media platforms to which they started trending #saveshadowhunters. The fans were not going to stop until they got some resolve. The fans started a petition to save Shadowhunters, to this day there are 197,000 plus signatures. Fans also paid for billboards in Times Square, Los Angeles, Toronto Canada, Seoul South Korea. They but ads on busses in London. The most extreme act the fandom did was fly a plane over Netflix headquarters with a banner attached (Lovely).


The fandom managed to raise $25,000 for The Trevor Project (which is an organization that provides crisis and suicide prevention to LGBT Youth) in the name of Shadowhunters. The Freeform Network had noted the accomplishments the fandom made to try and save the show by matching the amount the fandom raised and donating it to the charity (Lovely). Although the show was not saved, the network did decide to give the show two last episodes to tie everything up and give the show a good ending. The writers wanted to make everyone pleased with the ending. Since the gay couple on the show was so developed as a couple, the writers and producers decided to give the LGBT community a wedding between the gay couple. This gave a lot of people peace of mind because they did not have to wonder what happened after a cliffhanger. The characters’ storylines and relationships were wrapped up so nicely it did the justice that the fans wanted to happen.



Clare, Cassandra. The Mortal Instruments. Simon & Schuster, 2007.


Freeform Network, 6 Sept. 2017, https://freeform.go.com/shows/shadowhunters/news/the-fabulous-singer-ruelle-answers-all-your-questions-in-this-exclusive-video. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.


Lovely, Brittany, and Danielle Zimmerman. “Freeform Matches ‘Shadowhunters’ Fans’ Donation to The Trevor Project.” Hypable, 28 Mar. 2019, www.hypable.com/freeform-save-shadowhunters-trevor-project/.


Mansour, Mariam. “Dissertation: Fan Subculture and Participatory Authorship.” Mems Breaks Spines, 2016, memsbreaksspines.co.uk/fan-subculture-dissertation/.


Wylde, Sarah. “Hail and Farewell to ‘Shadowhunters’.” Nerds and Beyond, 11 May 2019, www.nerdsandbeyond.com/2019/05/11/hail-and-farewell-to-shadowhunters/.




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Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays Copyright © by Students at Linn-Benton Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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