Since Shadowhunters premiered on Freeform last spring, I’ve become totally besotted with one of its lead characters, Magnus Bane (Harry Shum Jr.). The nearly six-foot, chiseled, bisexual “High Warlock of Brooklyn” is a storm of gusto and glamour who draws me in like a moth to the flame. Why I’m so aggressively captivated with the character, particularly as a black pansexual woman, isn’t immediately obvious. But even within the allegorical fantasy world of Shadowhunters, Magnus is a queer man of color whose distinct experience partly resembles my own. Magnus is the embodiment of ferocity. He’s the hero I’ve been waiting for.
Based on Cassandra Clare’s glossy urban fantasy novels The Mortal Instruments, Shadowhunters follows Clary Fray, a young teen who stumbles into the magical and monstrous underworld of New York City. When her mother is suddenly kidnapped by a rogue genocidal “shadowhunter”, Fray discovers her true identity as part of that half-human, half-angel race of warriors. In order to get her mother back, Clary turns to her own, a group sworn to protect humans and “downworlders,” a range of half-human, half-demon beings typically scorned by their angelic counterparts.
While the books are mostly told through Fray’s perspective, the show opted to flesh the individual perspectives of its large cast. This includes Magnus Bane, the powerful High Warlock of Brooklyn who reluctantly agrees to help the new shadowhunter with her mission. A true manifestation of the fire emoji, his comedic flare and natural wit is only surpassed by his unapologetic conviction. Outside of his rather spirited personality, Magnus’ physical frame and tactical experience make him a formidable opponent. A centuries old, incredibly versatile master of magic and supernatural combat, the warlock’s power inspires both awe and fear.
We so rarely see this mixture of electric spitfire and daunting defender on a character with his kind of layered identity, that I find myself clinging to him. The series features another LGBTQ character who challenges perceptions of gay masculinity and represents the experiences of young LGBTQ. But Magnus’ intersections speak to something that, in a more fantastical way, conveys the lived reality of someone who is completely honest about who she is, but has to defend that identity at almost every turn.