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The Shadow And Bone Line That Ben Barnes Fought To Include

In an ideal world, it should be part of everyone's common sense that consent is essential in relationships. It is not an optional condition but a rule that should be applied to all physical and sexual relationships between people. You've probably heard say that "consent is sexy," and this can be attributed to the fact that it shows care and concern for one's thoughts and feelings — it is undeniably an attractive quality to be asked for consent in these circumstances. "Shadow and Bone" star Ben Barnes, who plays the mysterious and manipulative General Kirigan (aka the Darkling), knows this just as well as anyone should, to the point that the actor's awareness of the importance of consent managed to seep into the TV Show in a way that was not present in Leigh Bardugo's novel.

In pushing for more explicitly-stated consent during a particular scene in the Netflix series' first season, Barnes showed how considerate he is, something which his co-star Jessie Mei Li has attested to in the past. Li described Barnes to Harper's Bazaar as such, saying, "Ben is so hardworking, and he's so considerate, and he really wants to make things work. Getting that relationship right was important to both of us, because while it's problematic and it's toxic, we don't know that at first, and we need to be invested in it."

In this particular sense, Barnes' consideration and thoughtfulness extend to the show's audience. Barnes, as well as Li, knew that as actors portraying an on-screen dynamic that grows increasingly more toxic as it progresses, there are moments when it is responsible to send the right message by setting the right example.

Even as a bad guy, you ask for consent

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ben Barnes revealed that there was much thought given to how the romantic and nearly sexual interactions between Kirigan and Alina were going to be portrayed. Concerning their first on-screen kiss, Barnes and Jessie Mei Li, along with the crew, came together to decide that Alina would be the one to initiate the amorous display. This is a shift from when the General unexpectedly smooches her in the book.

Later, Alina and Kirigan come close to having sexual relations. It had already been established that having Alina take the initiative and kiss Kirigan gave her more agency, but Barnes was not completely sold on the idea just yet. He thought Alina's initiative only gave her the semblance of agency: "She's still an orphan who doesn't really understand the rules with this man who is willing to burn things to the ground and is manipulating his power."

This should be enough to prove that Barnes has an unquestionably reliable moral compass when it comes to making sure there is enthusiastic consent. So much so that he fought for a line to be included in the scene: "I wanted to add something, which ended up being, 'Are you sure?'" 

That being said, even though Kirigan is capable of actions that are not necessarily corrupt, Barnes does not make him out to be the kind of anti-hero you should root for. The actor has more than once shown that he understands that his character is far from a saint: "He's a problematic character no matter which angle you look at him from. He's unforgivable and uncondonable in his abuses of power."

Fans have some thoughts on Ben Barnes' the Darkling

It is apparent that Ben Barnes has strived to depict his character as neither black nor white, but as the gray that represents any complex human being, even one who tends towards the darkness. In order to portray the Darkling, Barnes has said that he tried to find the humanity within him, even as closely enveloped in shadow as it might be.

Judging by some enthusiastic online reactions, adding consent to the intriguing (albeit still very problematic) relationship was the right move. Most fans seem to view Barnes' Kirigan as a more rounded character than the Darkling in the books. Redditor u/tetewhyelle wrote: "In the books, he's basically "evil" but we never like really find out why and we aren't ever really given solid motives for his actions. He's very flat. A lot of the characters are. So the show wanted to improve that and make all the characters a bit more well-rounded. And if I remember right, Ben Barnes loves giving villains like that another side."

Another fan, u/Intelligent-Term486, wrote: "They definitely made a great effort in making the Darkling less evil and more relatable, both because, in hindsight, Leigh Bardugo felt it was needed in the modern era (the book was written 10 years before the show), and Ben didn't want his character to be flat and pure evil."

Barnes has definitely made the antagonist his own, giving him a new dimension that was not in the books. As he told THR: "And it was very important to me to bring something of myself to the moment before it's revealed that he's as manipulative as he is. As an actor, I have to come up with ways to forgive him and motivate his choices."