22 February 2016 // At University of Northern Iowa

Why Alec Lightwood From 'Shadowhunters' Is Important

Accurate and healthy depictions of queer people are vital to good representation.

Johnathan Galbreath

Freeform's new show "Shadowhunters" has been doing some tremendous things in the way of representation both in terms of culture and sexuality. But I'd like to take a moment to appreciate the representation of sexuality that they've provided with the character of Alec Lightwood.

Alec's character has been very inspiring since the original book series came out. He was a strong, smart, and responsible young man who comes out to his friends and family in an unaccepting society, one with stricter rules than our own. However, there has been some flaws with Alec as a character: after his coming out, he's reduced to a stereotype and serves the story only to function as a gay romance subplot. Even his interactions with others become less dynamic, coming down to 'sassy' comebacks and out-of-character remarks. Along with that, his friends begin to act differently toward him, especially his very protective sister shifts to the classic "girl with a gay best friend" sort of attitude.

Fans like myself were very excited to see Alec brought to life when "The Mortal Instruments" series was adapted into a film, "City of Bones." However, what we saw was a poor representation of repressed homosexuality. He was jealous, rude, and downright aggressive. When questioned about his sexuality, he literally threatened another character. This is very untrue to Alec's character, first off, but it's also just a poor image for people to see. It gives off the idea that this is how non-heterosexual people should react to this question, as if it is normal and healthy. It never gets addressed, left alone to be normalized by the audience.

Freeform, formerly ABC Family, has definitely made significant improvements to this entire situation. Alec is always shown to be very controlled and collected, and his sexuality is obviously something he's struggling with. But it does not cause him to become violent towards others. Not only that, but it's not something that often interferes with his professional life. I cannot blame the movie completely, as it is much easier to develop a story over the course of several episodes than it is within only an hour and a half.

I believe that "Shadowhunters" will be doing a lot of good in portraying Alec's coming out narrative in not only a healthy way, but in a very realistic way as well. His character will be met with obstacles, but he will overcome them without perpetuating awful misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, once he does get to the point where he is openly gay, I hope we see him stay as in-character as he is now. Being a gay character doesn't mean you have to resort to filling out a stereotype in an attempt at humor.