Every superhero origin story has that moment – where the hero we have been following has their moment to come into their own and be the hero they have been training for, and will be known by. Where they defect the antagonist that’s meant to be their climatic challenge and for Kamala Khan, that was done by creating a space to talk to Kamran and remind him he is not alone and always has a choice.
A powerful move embraced by her Muslim faith and learned by her experiences as a south Asian, where she drew strength from choosing connection over brawn. A true testament to what women bring to the world – the importance no one can deny after that finale.
I got lucky in my first experience of watching Ms. Marvel. For one, I got to watch the first two episodes weeks before they were released, though I had to be my own self-contained echo chamber until the show debuted and I was finally allowed to talk about it as a Temple of Geek creator and writer.
The opportunity for a pre-screening was certainly a stand out, but having my first discussion on Kamala Khan with two fellow female creatives, purely expressing our joy, was an unmatched experience.
This should be surprising given how Ms. Marvel celebrates women and femininity. For one this is one of the most completely formed and strongest female leads in the MCU and on top of that, she’s MUSLIM AND SOUTH ASIAN!!!
Then the overarching themes of the familial matriarchy and how the efforts of each generation of women in the family build for the next one all lead to Kamala becoming the superhero she needs to be.
There was also the effort put into all the cultural and religious Easter eggs, with multiple layers of references and one of the most beloved Pakistani actors at the center – only a fan girl could and would see all of this and am convinced it was a labor of love for the creators behind it all.
Meanwhile, the discourse and therefore reviews have been pretty divided on the show, with the negative commentary giving a specific air of judgment possibly coming from the fact the show has a female minority lead.
Ms. Marvel’s Story
Comments suggesting it’s juvenile or an inferior project because “it’s for girls” was heavy energy and made it frustrating to navigate the hyper-masculine subtext while discussing the show. Which had already made the south Asian and Muslim representation difficult to celebrate – even though the show had accomplished a milestone of good representation in western media for these communities in an incredibly significant way.
The impact that comes from this project going unnoticed certainly didn’t make it easy for this Pakistani Muslim female creator to shake off.
There is already limited south Asian and Muslim representation that can be considered quality and female representation within this space is even harder to find, but supporting any and every project that represents us is sometimes our only chance for more.
But often this representation comes with downplaying the importance of our role in our perspective communities — because the experience of being a female Muslim, or Pakistani/Indian/Bangladeshi woman, and not to mention both Muslim and south Asian girls growing up in America — is one of the most unique stories of this very community.
But now, we have this platform in one of the most well-known and successful franchises of our lifetime. Within the first episode, a dialogue-free moment shows Kamala Khan struggling with assimilation while attending a high school gym class. From that point on, every episode brings up double standards that exist between how sons and daughters are seen treated within our family units.
Three episodes in, it captured the complicated dynamic of the mother-daughter relationships rooted in love but enveloped by unspoken expectations that becomes a wedge in its translation while the series ends with the very nature of how a woman effect and impacts our family and community is one of the strongest forces of our survival. We may be living in a patriarchal world but a Muslim/south Asian family is ruled by its matriarchs. Ms. Marvel did that, it let this very niche but inexplicably important voice of the female Muslim, south Asian American teen shine and if it could do it … then why shouldn’t we?
So In my decision to create content about the show (mostly through TikTok), I also set out to find more Muslim and south Asian creators to interact with, especially female creators. Fortunately, I found them quickly because there aren’t many of us on the app.
Throughout my time creating, I had momentary interactions with female creators specifically and felt they understood me so well … In so few words when discussing the show. It was because of these encounters I decided that there had to be a way for us to come together and just be able to talk more – To create a space for us and our intentions with our work.
Luckily I had mentioned this to the rid aka @Marvelwithrid and she was the one who made it happen! Within days of bringing it up, we had a plan. Before I knew it, she had Google docs and a group chat already started!
Not even half an hour into the conversation, my fellow creators were more than ready and eager to start meeting and discussing whatever whenever. I was amazed that so many amazing women who barely knew each other were this enthusiastic, so much so that all eight of them were ready to have a meeting the very next night!
The following night, all eight creators got together for a two and half-hour discussion finally matching the energy I had been searching for.
In those two and a half hours, we were able to celebrate the show in all the ways it could and should be -from cultural references and jokes, spoken or shown, to all the issues that were addressed and the impacts and emotions it brought out of us.
For those hours we weren’t content creators, we were all Kamala Khan simply fangirling over our new favorite superhero. We finally had room for the unspoken awareness that couldn’t be addressed where our annoyance, concerns, conflicts, criticism of the show, discourse, and our communities could exist!
And in this process of highlighting, gushing, and lifting up the show came the boosting of each other’s voices.
Opening up about Ms. Marvel meant the world to us, and so did our experiences, our individual stories were shared and the effortless connection that soon followed. Here we were eight unique experiences, very different from each other, yet many of us influenced by the identities that have shaped Kamala Khan. Identities that also created the women we are, women who chose to create content on the show for an even bigger and greater goal in mind – to be a voice that’s needed.
The power of Kamala Khan was one that we all felt could exist in us and in turn, the show gave us the ability to stand on it. And to my unimaginable surprise, this initial meeting could both restore and heal, while also strengthening us because of how it could bring us together.
For us to build on our backgrounds, build on our goals rooted in this meaningful moment of connection, inspired by an MCU TV series, was more than enough to inspire us to create our own stronger, deeper community within the content-creating world.
The real bond and effort to learn from each other, grow, process and heal through this very experience, while being a female in an underrepresented community – has easily become on of my favorite parts about watching Ms. Marvel.
Now, this loyalty is sustained by a very active group chat with a constant stream of new, evolving projects and chances to work and interact with each other. We will continue our very own Avengers-esque initiative, one for our BIPOC female creators. An initiative inspired by the efforts of Kamala Khan herself. The south Asian/Muslim female creator initiative – and its importance will not be wavering anytime soon.