This is actually what inspired me to snark this series in the first place: the relationship between the Shadowhunter Alec and the warlock Magnus Bane.
This is one of those written relationships that all the series’ fans seem to cheer for, for two reasons:
- Because they think it counts as supporting LGBT people, rather than actually doing something… you know, REAL.
- Because they fetishize pretty menz bonking, rather than seeing them as human beings.
So if you read these books, you’re expected to cheer them on.
Well, I don’t. Part of that is because I hate Alec and I think Magnus would be better off with literally ANYONE else. But part of it is… well, let’s face it: this relationship is so fundamentally broken that if the author wasn’t DETERMINED to make it an eternal soulmate relationship, it would would have splintered after a few weeks. Fuck your logic and your expectations for a realistic character relationship!
- Alec is a racist. Granted, almost all of the Shadowhunters are, but he doesn’t seem to really undergo any kind of change in his viewpoints or attitudes towards Downworlders, even though he’s dating one.
You’d expect that when he started dating a Downworlder, he would start moving away from the Shadowhunter mainline of having contempt for Downworlders, and seeing them as subordinate races who need to be policed by their betters. But as far as I can tell, he stays exactly the same.
And it’s not like this is never a topic that Magnus talks about. Lady Midnight reveals that he has some VERY strong disagreements with the Clave about how Downworlders are treated, but there’s not even a whisper of a hint that Alec gives a damn.
- This relationship really shouldn’t have lasted because there is a massive gap in life experience between Alec and Magnus.
Consider: Magnus is several centuries old and has had many relationships with a wide variety of people. Alec is a teenager and has never dated anyone before Magnus (and is closeted for half the series).
There’s a HUGE difference in life experience, expectations and knowledge there. There’s not really much about an immature, melodramatic teenager that a centuries-old warlock should find appealing beyond the physical… and that’s not even getting into what an asshole Alec is.
Also, Alec is closeted about his homosexuality until the end of the third book… halfway through the series. Obviously dating someone is a big step forward for him, especially when he decides to be open about it. But this means that with zero romantic experience, the only thing he knows he wants in a future partner is a dick. He doesn’t know what kind of personality he finds appealing, what he meshes with, what personality traits appeal to him IN a relationship, what values are important… ANYTHING.
That’s what dating is for – not just to find a partner, but to discover what you WANT in a partner.
I could maybe buy this if Alec had dated some guys in secret, maybe some other gay/bisexual Shadowhunters who kept it quiet along with him. Then he’d have at least some experience.
But Alec’s not doing that. He literally goes from being so closeted that he’s never even kissed someone… to a forever-and-ever-twoo-wuv relationship with a guy who has been in many, many relationships of varying degrees of seriousness. He doesn’t have any time to get used to this, and he doesn’t come out on his own terms so much as decide to do it because he has a boyfriend.
I think Clare is trying to make us think that Alec is SO in lurv with Magnus that he’s breaking out of his closeted celibacy, but that’s not how it comes across. It feels less like they are truly and eternally in love… and more like he jumped off the deep end the first time he fell for a guy, and got way too serious, way too fast, in his very first relationship ever.
And while there are a few exceptions… that’s a bad, bad basis for a relationship, and it rarely leads to a happily-ever-after.
- And we quickly discover why this relationship shouldn’t last: Alec is incredibly insecure and jealous. Apparently it NEVER occurred to him that a centuries-old warlock MIGHT have dated a bunch of people before him, because he gets extremely pissy at the thought that Magnus might have ever loved ANYONE other than him. Especially gasp women!
And realistically, you’d expect someone like Magnus to just conclude that he doesn’t need this kind of hysterical immature drama, and break up with him. It’s ridiculous to expect that the person you’re dating NEVER have dated anyone else EVER, and never plan to date if your relationship were to end in ANY way (including death).
And this is not the kind of personal flaw that magically goes away. Jealousy and insecurity are death knells to any relationships, especially when it’s the insane, irrational type that goes, “How dare you date people before I was even born, you disgusting slut! Is there anyone you DON’T fuck?!”
- Alec is a biphobe. If I need to explain what that is, it’s a person who is bigoted against bisexuals… and before any ignorant douches try to correct me: not only can a gay person be bigoted against someone else’s sexuality, but it’s actually extremely common.
I’m not really comfortable with how Cassandra Clare depicts bisexuals in her series, to be honest. A lot of it seems to be an excuse to fantasize about hot young men making out. Also, she seems to always arrange for them to be in committed same-sex relationships, which is problematic because it kind of sends the message that bisexuals are only properly bisexual if they’re in a same-sex relationship… and thus are effectively gay. Nobody bisexual gets to have their “one and only” be the opposite sex, and dating both leads to verbal abuse.
Which is problematic because there are a lot of people, gay-or-straight-identified, who insist that bisexuals do NOT exist and they are just gay people who won’t admit that they are, when in fact the reverse is often true: a lot of straight/gay-identified people are actually on the fringes of bisexuality.
Anyway, this becomes an issue in the second half of the Mortal Instruments series, where it’s revealed that Magnus once dated Camille Belcourt, a female vampire. He doesn’t treat this as a big deal, as he shouldn’t, because it’s not.
What does Alec have to say? “You dated a vampire? A girl vampire?”
Apparently in Alec’s mind, dating someone with a vagina is just as gross as being a demonically-infected undead creature that sucks the blood of the living. M isogynistic little prick.
And it gets even worse: Alec immediately starts demanding to know how many people Magnus has been with, and gets ANGRY with Magnus for having dated other people. He even sneers at Magnus, “Or there are plenty of pretty girls here, since apparently your taste goes both ways. Is there anything you aren’t into?”
You might assume that this is merely because Alec is feeling anxious that Magnus will just outlive him and move on to someone else. But no. The fact that this ONLY came up when he found out Magnus had had female lovers pretty much suggests that Alec thinks that bisexual people are promiscuous, and so he starts pissily insisting that Magnus is some kind of rampant slut who doesn’t actually care about him… well, because he’s bi. If it were just that insecurity, he wouldn’t keep sniping about Magnus’ bisexuality.
And if you’re shrugging this off, consider this: if some Shadowhunter said “You’re dating a warlock? A boy warlock?” and then kept viciously sniping at Alec about how promiscuous gay men are, and how they’re sluts that will fuck anything… would you shrug it off?
Of course not. You’d be disgusted and loathe the character. But we’re not meant to loathe Alec, since he’s picking on a bisexual. Homophobia? CLARE WILL CONDEMN YOU FOR YOUR EVULZ! Biphobia? Ehh, whatever.
Again, Clare doesn’t want us to see this as a massive obstacle. In fact, between these nasty little encounters with Alec, Magnus cloyingly tells Camille that “Alec is my future.” Excuse me while I barf. Not just because that line is awful, but because it really shows us that Clare is determined to force this relationship despite the fact that, realistically, it would only end in an ugly acrimonious breakup.
And seriously, what’s so special about Alec?
Keep in mind that they have only been dating for a relatively short time, and in that time, Alec has proved himself to be violently jealous, insecure, possessive and bigoted. This would give even the most besotted lover pause, and you’d expect someone as old and experienced as Magnus would pretty clearly see the warning signs. I doubt Alec would even be the first biphobic lover he would have had. Yet somehow we’re assured that Magnus wants to live happily ever after with him, even though Alec is in the midst of a jealous rage where he repeatedly insults Magnus for no reason.
Why? Because the author is determined to make this relationship a forever-and-ever-happily-ever-after, even if it’s built on rotten timbers and one of the people involved is a jealous bigoted asshole.
Nor does she seem to realize that Alec is doing exactly the same thing the Clave does. The whole idea at the beginning is that the Clave disapproves of homosexuality… although I’m not really sure why… and that is why Alec is closeted. Alec is doing the same thing: reacting negatively to another person’s sexuality, and expecting them to shamefully hide it in order to subscribe to how HE thinks sexuality should be.
In fact, I would almost think that this was supposed to be a subtle lesson for Alec… except that Clare NEVER EVEN HINTS AT THIS. There’s no indication that she thinks it’s wrong to be biphobic, and Alec doesn’t have this hypocrisy pointed out to him or realize he was wrong. He never shows any indication that he’s sorry for making those vicious comments.
This is not a minor personality flaw that can be overlooked, and it’s not a minor issue in a relationship. Clare tries to act like it’s just a symptom of a REAL problem, but being biphobic is a MAJOR ISSUE if you’re dating a bisexual. Like the jealousy and insecurity, being a bigot doesn’t just vanish if you’re “in wuv” enough.
And that’s a large part of why I think she doesn’t see bisexuality as “real,” just an extension of homosexuality.
(And before anyone tells me otherwise: Yes, I am aware that Lady Midnight features a bisexual character who does not fit the complaints mentioned here. And I will give Clare credit that I think she might be trying to fix some of these problems. HOWEVER, the bisexual character in question had a relationship with a guy because he was being tortured and abused constantly, and the guy in question was the only one who showed him kindness and love. So it’s not a normal or healthy representation of bisexuality, especially since we don’t know yet how it will turn out)
- The most unforgivable and loathsome thing that Alec does: he schemes to take away Magnus’ immortality.
I mentioned above that Alec is incredibly jealous and insecure, and apparently it just drives him nuts to think that his immortal lover not only had partners before him, but will likely have partners AFTER he dies. You know, the kind of jealous thinking that leads to murder/suicides. “I won’t let anyone else have you! NEVER!”
And yes, I can understand why someone would feel anxious about having an immortal, unaging lover. Plenty has been written on the subject. But Alec apparently wants to be the special snowflake one-and-only-true-love of an eternal life, and feels betrayed that his lover might ever be attracted to anyone else, either before or after him.
… oh hot damn. He wants to be the gay male Bella Swan.
Initially Alec looks into finding a way to become immortal… which seems excessive when you’ve only been dating for a few months. Camille Belcourt tells him that becoming immortal isn’t possible for him, but making Magnus mortal IS. And for most of the book in question… Alec is seriously considering the proposition.
THAT. IS. FUCKING. LOATHSOME.
He was seriously considering taking away the immortality of another person against their will, in effect KILLING him. Not immediately, but relatively soon. Even worse, it was a person he supposedly LOVED. I can see why it might tempt even a good person for a moment, but to coldly, seriously consider it over the course of several days is despicable. It’s even worse because he spent much of this time interacting with Magnus and even SLEEPING with him…. and he never said a word.
This is a breach of trust so horrendous that it turned my dislike of Alec into outright hate. If you “love” someone so much you seriously consider hurting them to satisfy your own jealousy and insecurity… you don’t love them. You want to possess them.
Yes, I know he eventually decided to turn down Camille’s proposition.
Yes, I know Magnus finally dumps him for being a conniving, untrustworthy little piece of shit.
But that doesn’t change the fact that for several days, Alec was seriously planning to do what Camille suggested. Changing his mind at the last minute doesn’t erase the facts about what he was planning to do, and in a more realistic book, it would probably have led to Magnus hating him for even considering something so despicable. Trust is an essential part of a relationship, and Alec just demonstrated that he couldn’t be trusted.
And as the icing on this shit sundae, you know what Alec’s reaction is? Does he blame himself for not telling Magnus, for plotting against him? Does he feel any sense of remorse or guilt?
OF COURSE NOT.
Alec decides that it’s all THAT EVIL WOMAN’S fault, and immediately goes off to kill her. Not exaggerating. Murder. He doesn’t just WANT to kill her, he walks in with his sword drawn so he could murder her for daring to break up his horrible, loathsome romance.
Ooo, that evil conniving woman with her evil vagina! He must kill her for daring to sully his perfect gay romance with that icky bisexuality! Stay with other pretty boys, pretty boys! Don’t be tempted by those evil women! And make out for the enjoyment of fangirls!
Yes, Camille tricked him, though only in the sense that she told Magnus what he was planning. But she couldn’t MAKE him be untrustworthy. If he had been honest enough and good enough to tell Magnus what Camille had offered, nothing bad would have happened.
And what happens next? Well, now that Alec has done something truly unforgivable and shown what a selfish, cruel, bratty person he is… he and Magnus get back together. Because never mind that Magnus can’t trust Alec, and Alec has shown that he is a selfish and black-hearted person. Of course Alec’s actions are seen as being a “mistake,” and somehow at least partly Magnus’ fault for not telling his boyfriend about every single person he’s fucked over the centuries.
They WUV each other, and WUV is all it takes for a successful long-term relationship.
Because God forbid anyone in this series actually suffer the consequences of their actions.
I’m writing this partly because I’ve been called homophobic by some fans of this series for daring to hold Alec and Magnus’ relationship to the same standards as those of opposite-sex couples. Yeah, seriously. If Alec were straight and dating Maggie Bane, would anyone have cheered for her to take him back after he conspired to take away her immortality, sneered at her sexuality and was jealous and possessive? Course not!
Actually… they might. Twilight fans still cheer for Bella and Edward. Ugh.
Whether you’re gay, straight or one of the many shades of bisexual, the requirements of a romantic relationship are the same – if you don’t have mutual trust and can’t overcome your jealousy and insecurity, your relationship is DOA. That’s why I hate this relationship: it forces two characters together despite the fact that their relationship is built on a rotten foundation. The author has decided that they BELONG together. She can write one of them as an attempted murderer, but that’s okay, because LOVE.
In conclusion: Alec is a piece of shit, and I’d rather see Magnus with any other character… except Jace, who should die alone and miserable.