Shadowhunters' Magnus Bane is a sassy, powerful LGBTQ+ icon made more relatable with a tragic past and inherent flaws
There's a certain uniqueness to the aura of Harry Shum Jr's Magnus Bane - a certain panache - that sets him apart from the other Shadowhunters we have grown to love and adore.
Freeform's fantasy show, 'Shadowhunters,' based on the bestselling young adult novel by Cassandra Clare called 'The Mortal Instruments,' showcases a diverse range of characters - both in terms of sexuality, gender, and race. And while all of them are bound by the common supernatural gift they possess, they are also similar in terms of the tragic past they have lived before they reached where they are today. And among those traumatic backstories, the one that happens to stand out the most in terms of pain and heartbreak, is that of Magnus Bane (Harry Shum Jr).
Known as the High Warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus' childhood was painful in the sense that he felt abandoned by his own biological mother and her husband. Born to a half-Dutch and half-Indonesian woman and the Prince of Hell Asmodeus in the 17th century in Jakarta, Indonesia, the only discerning traits that set him apart from his parents were his signature amber eyes and the lack of a belly button. He was dearly loved as a child, which is probably why what ensued eventually had such a brutal impact on the man - closing him off from the entire wavelength of emotions and compassion for the longest part of his life.
As he grew up, it wasn't long before the Warlock mark appeared on his body, and this is what changed everything. His parents realized he was the son of a demon and they started fearing him. This, in turn, led to Magnus despising himself, and soon after, his mother hung herself in the barn of the farm Magnus was raised in. The tragedies didn't stop at that as Magus' father tried to drown him too when he was all of 10, and suddenly all hell broke loose. The agony of the incident caused Magnus to lash out with his powers at his stepfather and ended up burning the man, and it is this very incident that explains the cold exterior of our High Warlock, because if you can't find acceptance at home, where else does one go looking for it?
Luckily for Magnus, he didn't have to look far and beyond; after the accident with his stepfather, it was the churchmen of the Silent Brothers of Madrid, Spain that brought him up and raised him all the way back in the 17th century. It was also them who gave him the name "Magnus Bane"and it was in Spain itself where Magnus was fronted with the idea of compassion and friendship for the first time, when later on he met Catarina Loss and saved her from being burned as a witch, thus sparking a friendship with a fellow immortal that proved to be a lifelong bond.
But it wouldn't be right to classify Magnus as a stereotypical emotionally closeted loner because looking at his progression, it becomes clear just how far and wide this centuries-old man was ready to go by offering affection and comradeship, just to satiate his hunger for power. It starts off at an early age for Magnus; he soon starts identifying the traits of his demonic father Asmodeous in him and begins getting his work done and charging for his services by bragging about his age, notoriety, and power.
What really favored his cause was his appearance, which went impeccably with the image he was trying to portray. Tall, slender and at least partly Asian, with his signature black spiked hair and at least some level of glitter in his ensemble, Magnus gives off the flamboyant, queer vibe that some of the legendary icons of the LGBT+ community resonate with. What is important is that despite the connotations of a femme gay men in media, Magnus is representated as the one of the most powerful beings in the Shadowhunter universe, who just happens to love the company of menm women and most other beings in between.
Having overcome all the battles he had in his past probably contributed to him embracing his sexuality as unflinchingly as he does with his rainbow leather pants and several other flashy accessories that he so uninhibitedly flaunts. And it is this very characteristic of Magnus that has helped him emerge as one of the most relatable characters from modern television with a multifaceted representation of sexual diversity making him far more relatable than any of the others without being a cliche.
But Magnus' flare and overall charm isn't restricted to fans in the real world only, as he woos his way to the heart of one of the other central characters of the show, Alec Lightwood (Matthew Daddario). Be it raising a toast, creating an antidote, or just engaging in deadly fights - there's a certain uniqueness to the in general aura of Magnus - a certain panache that sets him apart from the other Shadowhunters we have grown to love and adore. And this is exactly what helps Magnus transcend beyond the constraints of a vast, extensive dating history and find true love in the arms of Alec.
The character of Alec, when it comes to romantic pursuits, is nothing short of clueless. He is fiercely loyal and overly protective, but at the same time, an extreme level novice and amateur to the idea of love and relationships. This trait, as immense a drawback as it seems, doesn't prove to be a hassle in his and Magnus' relationship because of the latter's copious experience and emotional bandwidth when it comes to those aspects of life.
As Shadowhunters' last and third season's first half beautifully highlights, Magnus' abilities to identify where Alec seems to falter as a romantic partner only helps strengthen their bond. They want their love to blossom and progress but aren't unaware of the need for space between them at times either. Despite being troubled at sharing his emotions, Magnus isn't afraid to point out when his partner is soaring too high with his fantasies, and neither does he shy away from offering him reality checks every now and then. And this just makes the two - or the fan-favorite 'Malec' - even more like two perfectly sculpted puzzle pieces coming together.
True, even after centuries on this planet, our High Warlock of Brooklyn still struggles to find his place sometimes, and at other times this nail-paint sporting bicon (bi-icon) with dark eye makeup and a fierce personality might come off as a little intimidating. But at the end of the day, Magnus is still the sassy, life of the party, with a penchant for going out of his way to help and provide for those in need. And that should be all the more reason to raise him on a pedestal and praise him despite his flaws - which are pretty minor, to begin with.