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Mortal Instruments fans outraged over casting of Asian actor

Although Magnus Bane is described as Asian in the Mortal Instruments novels, some fans are upset that the movie version of the character won't be played by ex-American Idol star Adam Lambert.


Aja Romano


Posted on Jul 24, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 2:00 pm CDT

While the rest of fandom anxiously wondered who would play Finnick Odair in the next Hunger Games movie, fans of Cassandra Clare’s mega-bestselling Mortal Instruments were holding their breath over the casting of one of their own favorite characters.

A hefty YA series chock-full of demons and vampires, the Shadowhunters series of which Mortal Instruments is a part has sold over 6 million copies and garnered a huge fanbase. On sites like the Shadowhunters Wiki, one of the largest Clare fansites on the Internet, fans have invested deeply in the casting of the series’ first film adaptation, City of Bones, due out in August of 2013.

Fans especially adore Magnus Bane, a wizard who develops an incredibly popular relationship with another male character through the series. On July 20, casting was announced: Godfrey Gao, whom the author called “the hottest man in the world,” would be playing the beloved role.

So why aren’t fans happy?

Because to many of them, nothing says “gay wizard” like Adam Lambert. Ever since the pop star’s rise to fame three years ago on American Idol, he’s been the fan favorite to play Magnus.

Magnus, however, has been described in the series as being of Southeast Asian descent. Whitewashing and racebending are nothing new in Hollywood, but in this case, unlike other less fortunate authors, Clare had the clout to insist that Magnus be played by an actor who shared the character’s ethnic origins.

“[W]e emailed briefly,” said Clare in her jubilant announcement, “and [Gao] said ‘I’m half Southeast Asian, because my mom is Peranakan Malaysian And my dad is Shanghainese – Soo hopefully the fans will like me playing Magnus!’”

Although Clare has always made her views about the importance of accurate casting clear; many fans either refused to listen or simply didn’t get the memo. As news of Gao’s casting spread, fans who’ve spent years wishing for Lambert to play the part erupted in outrage.

“There goes Adam’s chance,” opined one fan on Twitter.  

By the end of the day, there was even a Magnus Casting drinking game on Tumblr.

“Well, that was fast,” Racebending posted on Tumblr in response to the backlash. Referring to similar backlash over Amandla Stenberg’s casting in The Hunger Games, they added, “Seems eerily [similar] to Hunger Games tweets and fans surprised that Rue was black.”

Condemnation was swift around fan communities, especially once Clare herself stepped into the fray. Reblogging a post from June 27, wherein she discussed putting her foot down over the role, Clare added, “I thought it bore reblogging (especially now that we do have a Magnus, and he is, as I hoped and prayed and insisted, going to be played by an Asian actor. A really talented, really handsome, really awesome Asian actor.)”

As for Gao, he thanked fans for the support on his Twitter, and added that he was “anxious to play Magnus Bane.”  

With a year to go before the movie release, Shadowhunters fans will have plenty of time to get used to the idea.

Photo via Twitter

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*First Published: Jul 24, 2012, 2:55 pm CDT