Over the past several weeks I have become hopelessly obsessed with Magnus Bane. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this fabulous bisexual character, Magnus Bane is a warlock in The Shadowhunter Chronicles books by Cassandra Clare and the Shadowhunters TV show. I liked him even before I started reading the books a while back, but it is his wonderful TV portrayal and finally reading The Bane Chronicles that has elevated Magnus to one of my favorite bisexual characters ever. Not only is he the leader of a warlock community, he is a good and caring person, always ready to help others and to fall in love despite the many heartbreaks he’s had before. He is glittery and flamboyant and unapologetically bisexual, but he’s not hypersexual and he doesn’t use his sexuality as a tool to get what he wants. This may not seem like much, but such a combination of character traits is pretty darn unusual in a bisexual character.
Some spoilers for the Shadowhunters TV show, as well as The Shadowhunter Chronicles books, below.
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to bisexual representation is that so many characters who are bisexual are also morally corrupt or at best dubious. Notable examples include Loki, Constantine, and recently Lucifer and Eretrea from The Shannara Chronicles. Magnus is a warlock, which in the Shadowhunters’ world means that he is half-human, half-demon and belongs to the Downworld. According to the Nephilim, who protect the humans from demons, Downworld creatures are supposedly slaves to their base desires. Therefore, Magnus could easily fall into the “immoral bi” category, but he doesn’t (in fact, it quickly becomes apparent that most Downworlders live, love, and have a sense of good just as humans do, but that’s a topic for another post). Instead, he is portrayed as a leader and a protector of those in need, Nephilim and Downworlder alike. It’s also worth noting that the TV show establishes this side of his character much more quickly than the books, where, at first, it is often emphasized that Magnus is getting paid for his help, making his motives less clear.
That being said, Magnus also has an adorable, frivolous, carefree, party-boy side to him. His extravagant manner of dress, glitter eyeliner, witty remarks, and a history of years-long vacations (including the one where he got banned from ever returning to Peru) wouldn’t normally suggest someone who risks his life to protect werewolf children. It adds complexity and a lighter touch to his character. It makes it seem like Magnus is a happy person despite all the heartbreak and sadness he’s experienced in his life, which is a pleasant change from the many dark and brooding bisexual characters, such as Constantine or The Good Wife’s Kalinda Sharma.
Which brings me to one of the trickier points about Magnus’s character: the problem of tragic queer stories. The fact that Magnus is immortal and doesn’t age means that pretty much any relationship he enters is likely to end sadly. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Fairytales and stories all too often sell the “happily ever after” as the only way “true” love can be. But love doesn’t have to last forever to be real and meaningful and people can fall in love multiple times. So, yes, Magnus gets his heart broken sometimes because a person he loves doesn’t want to be with him anymore or turns out to be a horrible evil person. But he doesn’t become jaded or stop falling in love with people.
Actually, Magnus seems to fall in love a lot, which is something I really love in queer characters, bisexual characters in particular, because a queer character’s sexuality is often hypersexualized. It’s especially problematic when it comes to bisexual characters who sleep with anything that moves or, even worse, use sex to achieve their ulterior goals (see: Eretrea, Kalinda Sharma, and even the love of my live Nolan Ross from Revenge). It is lovely to see a character whose sexuality is more about who he falls in love with rather than who he sleeps with. With so many hypersexual bisexual characters out there, it’s nice to have the opposite represented.
Also, I just have to mention how adorable and dorky Magnus is as he is falling in love. He once spent months trying to learn to play an instrument just so he could spend time with a boy. In his first meeting with Alec, Magnus called him pretty boy and mentioned how he slept with Michelangelo and proceeded to crane his neck to see whether Alec got his meaning. However, Magnus is also not afraid to be vulnerable with Alec; he wants to help him and encourages him to follow his heart.
Finally, one small but very important detail is the fact that Magnus Bane uses the word bisexual to describe himself. In the text, he calls himself “a freewheeling bisexual” (City of Lost Souls). That is so wonderful because it’s so rare that I could love Magnus just for this reason alone. Unfortunately, the bi word hasn’t been mentioned on the TV show yet, but Magnus has expressed that he can fall in love with women and men.
In summary, Magnus Bane is a kind, caring person and leader, who does the right thing and protects those who in need. But he is also glittery, witty, adorable and fun. He falls in love a lot and isn’t afraid to show it and pursue it. And he is bisexual, but not hypersexual, and doesn’t use his sexuality as a tool to achieve morally reprehensible goals. He may fall victim to the tragic queer story trope occasionally, but he lives on and falls in love again. All of this makes him an interesting and complex bisexual character that I, as a bisexual person, can relate to and aspire to be like.