So 2×10 of Freeform’s TV show Shadowhunters aired last night and I want to discuss one certain scene. The scene is the “coming out” scene between characters Raphael Santiago and Isabelle Lightwood.
Raphael Santiago before the show is/was what you call “word of God” or “post-it representation” because author of The Mortal Instruments series confirmed that Raphael was both aromantic and asexual in two different tweets. For years this was always a taboo subject within The Shadowhunter Chronicles fandom because people who weren’t aromantic and/or asexual would say this didn’t count as canon because it wasn’t “explicitly stated in the books”.
Now to my actual point, in 2×10 Raphael somewhat comes out as asexual, and in my opinion aromantic too. I’ve discussed this both on Twitter and Tumblr but I want to talk about it in more detail. The scene plays out like this:
It begins with Izzy is lying in Raphael’s arms & he’s stroking her hair, they’re talking about Alec at first.
Then Raphael says “Your happiness, your well being is all I care about.”
Isabelle: “That sounds like the Shadowhunter blood talking.”
Raphael: “It’s true. I haven’t felt this way about anyone in a long long time.”
Isabelle goes in for a kiss Raphael looks away, avoiding it, and tries to drink the blood from her wrist instead
Raphael:“It’s not like that. I’m not like that. I’m just not interested in sex.”
Isabelle: “Being a vampire made you this way?”
Raphael:“No. I’ve always been like this.”
*Raphael goes to say something else but gets interrupted by Isabelle’s phone ringing.*
First I’m going to start with the first 3 lines focusing mostly on “that sounds like the Shadowhunter blood talking” said by Isabelle and Raphael’s response “that’s true. I haven’t felt this way about anyone in a long long time.” This is aro coding. Whether it was intentional or not I don’t know but this is very obviously aro coded. The reason is because with Isabelle’s statement it implies that Raphael drinking Isabelle’s Shadowhunter blood is being used as a stimulant and symbol for romantic attraction. There’s two ways you can look at this statement. 1) He’s talking about being demiromantic (an identity on the aromantic spectrum) or 2) He’s saying that the blood is like a drug that has allowed him to feel something that he didn’t before.
Secondly, the most obvious part, is the ace coding from the minute he shows his disdain towards Isabelle’s kiss it shows asexuality and what really puts the cherry on top of the cake is when he says “It’s not like that. I’m not like that. I’m just not interested in sex.” Honestly they could’ve stopped there and I would’ve been satisfied but the best part of all of this is the fact that Isabelle asked him if was because he became a vampire and his answer was “no I’ve always been like this”. I can’t put it into words what this response means to me. The fact that it wasn’t caused by his vampirism is so important. It’s so important that they emphasised this, and that becoming a vampire didn’t change him. This part, about how he’s always been like this, is also slightly aro coded as well.
The issue I have overall with this scene is the lack of labels and the arophobia that is coming from it. I’m so thankful that people are emphasising and celebrating the fact that this obviously shouts that Raphael is asexual. But there is a lot of aromantic erasure happening in the fandom both deliberately and accidentally. I’ve seen a lot of people not realise that the scene was also aro coded because the first bit goes by so fast and the fact that just after he emphasises his disinterest in sex. But people have also deliberately denied Raphael’s aromanticism because of shipping. And saying things like “he can’t be aromantic because he’s in love with [insert character here]”, which hasn’t actually been stated in canon.
I have another issue with how allorom aces are celebrating and also ignoring the aromantic side of Raphael. Yes we should celebrate but this is very harmful erasure for the aromantic community. I’m both aroace, like Raphael, and even though I’m really excited and happy about this scene, the lack of acknowledgement of his aromanticism is damaging and upsetting. Because he was confirmed aroace by Cassandra Clare. Please don’t throw aromantic aces under the bus, because this was our representation. He’s always been aromantic and asexual, not one, both.
I want to end on a positive note and this scene was really beautiful, they handled it really well and I couldn’t have asked for anything better to be honest (except the labels being mentioned). I’m glad that the writers decided to keep this important part of Raphael’s character in the show and that they had always planned to do this. From the bottom of my heart thank you for doing something that other shows decided to ignore. Thank you so much. I’m really interested in seeing how they handle this. I feel like the scene was definitely unfinished so I can’t wait to see how they’ll handle it when the show returns in June. They’ve handled sexuality really well in the show so far and I’m so excited to see the rest of Raphael’s story.
I will be honest when my friend who was watching the show live told me that this scene happened I cried. This meant so much to me as both an aromantic and asexual person, this week wasn’t nice towards aromantics especially with a certain article that came out about a certain show about a certain character who was aroace in the canon by a certain actor who plays the character. And just getting this made my week so much better. It’s only up from here, one step at a time.
Raphael Santiago is canon asexual (and hopefully aromantic) in Shadowhunters. There’s a canon asexual character on my TV screen. I honestly can’t believe it’s happened.