When I finally dove into Freeform’s Shadowhunters some months ago, it was for one reason: Malec.
I read Cassandra Clare’s urban fantasy YA series years ago and mostly, I didn’t like it. I did, however, love Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane: a canonical, interracial same-sex pairing featuring a young, gay Shadowhunter and an immortal, bisexual warlock. This pairing deals with a lot of tropes and lots of xenophobia but somehow manages not to trivialize things, which I appreciate.
According to Tumblr, Freeform’s TV adaptation of the books takes Malec to new heights, and I am so here for it.
Since August, I’ve been watching two episodes a week for a quirky little column on another site, but recently, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon.
(Life, as you know, often gets in the way of fandom commitments.)
Now, after what happened with Matthew Daddario (who plays Alec)’s Facebook live stream, I’m not sure I’ll be watching the series anymore.
For those not in the fandom, here’s what happened on Tuesday, November 28: Matthew Daddario did a Facebook live stream chat with fans from his trailer on the Shadowhunters set. Toward the end, the disembodied voice of Dominic Sherwood (who plays Jace) cuts into the stream to greet Daddario like this: “What’s up, f**?”
You can watch the video here if you have the stomach for it. From Daddario’s reaction — panic, a warning that he’s streaming live, and then a so-quiet-you-can-barely-hear-it admonition that Sherwood “shouldn’t have said that” — it appears to this viewer that the f-slur is a common occurrence on the Shadowhunters set.
It also appears that Daddario, who repeatedly talks about how Alec is “the ideal kind of man,” has no interest in calling out his friends’ gross behavior. His panicked response is obviously because of how many fans are watching. What happens when he and Sherwood are hanging out alone? Surely if Sherwood feels that comfortable throwing out the word f** like it’s a nickname, then no one’s ever told him to cut the crap before.
This video is horrifying.
Daddario goes so far as to claim that the person who used the slur is “a certain background actor,” despite Sherwood’s very distinctive voice. He calls the slur “an interesting choice,” and finishes his poor, awkward attempt at a cover-up by saying, “but that’s okay.”
It’s definitely not, in any circumstance, okay to use homophobic slurs. It’s also not okay for someone — especially someone who champions his gay character and the romance that character is involved in — not to call people out for using slurs.
Matthew Daddario is a straight actor profiting off of his portrayal of a young, gay man on a series primarily watched by teenagers. Many of the people in that fandom watch the series for Alec and for Alec’s relationship with Magnus. They champion Daddario for being so open about how much he loves his character and his character’s romantic arc. They champion him for being an ally to the LGBTQ community.
But if we’ve learned anything in recent months, it’s that the public persona celebrities put on for interviews often hides darker parts of who they are when the cameras aren’t on.
In an equally awkward apology video posted to the Shadowhunters Twitter account Wednesday night, Sherwood apologizes for his behavior and says he’ll strive to do better. Daddario stands beside him, a most serious expression pasted on his face, and at the end of the video he thanks Sherwood for apologizing and then makes a statement of his own.
At no point does either actor acknowledge that Daddario attempted to cover for Sherwood’s use of a homophobic slur, nor do they acknowledge his apparent comfort with it.
Sherwood does appear contrite — but to this viewer, who’s been disappointed by straight allies time and time again, that seems to come from a place of being caught rather than from a place of feeling bad for using hate speech.
Slurs don’t trip off the tongue that easily if they’re not common to one’s vocabulary. And Daddario’s immediate panic and attempt to defend Sherwood further suggests that this isn’t the first time Sherwood has so casually used a homophobic slur.
To all the fans in the comments claiming Daddario didn’t do anything wrong: pay attention.
This kind of behavior sneaks under the radar all the time, and it’s dangerous as hell.
Want to know why LGBTQ people often don’t trust “straight allies?” It’s because of this garbage.
If we can’t rely on you to call out your friends for using harmful language when no one is watching, then how can we rely on you at all?