Every community needs it hero. Every child needs to see themselves represented on TV under a positive light. Muslims and South Asians didn’t have that privilege until recently. For decades, theses communities have been starving for good representation in the media. Then out of the effort and hard work of so many people, Ms. Marvel was created.
The conversations created by the comic and later the show are simply incredible. They allowed two marginalized communities to simultaneously have a seat at the table and share their stories. One of these conversation lead to the creation of a safe space for Muslim and South Asian women.
So let’s start from the top:
There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more, and on Friday, July 15, 2022, thanks to the efforts of @Marvelwithrid and @callmebythisnamemaria a group chat was formed.
It was a group of remarkable females creators of various backgrounds and skill sets but connected by one common goal: the love and desire to boost the Ms. Marvel series.
In the process, the group decided to combine all their voices to push forward the good representation for these communities.
The following day @the_amirareview, @she.loves.marvel, @h3yd4v3, @samosasandpopcorn, @thehijabibounder, @basically_an_avenger along with @Marvelwithrid and @callmebythisnamemaria all met for two and a half hours (missing @shiv.alry but still included) to start the South Asian, Muslim Female Initiative.
During that time these creators were both able to celebrate and heal in the experience of fangirling over our new favorite superhero Kamala Khan and connect in our goals and future intentions.
As you can see, I (Amira) had the incredible privilege to be part of that amazing conversation. Inspired by it, I sent a series of questions to all the creators involved in that group to share their thoughts on Ms. Marvel and what it meant for them.
Here are their answers:
Q: What did you feel when you heard that Ms. Marvel was coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?
- @She_Loves_Marvel: “The first thing I felt was joy. That was then followed by a bunch of questions like: are they going to do it right? Will Muslims get good representation in media? Although I was excited, I admit my mind was full of doubts because of how Muslims and south Asians have been represented in American media thus far.”
- @SamosasandPopcorn: “Given how monumental I knew it’d be, I felt overjoyed knowing that I’d finally be able to see someone who looks like me in the bigger universe of Marvel. As someone who grew up on the Peninsula of the Bay Area, I barely saw anyone who looked remotely like me. I felt so isolated and uncomfortable with my identity that I didn’t want to claim South Asian as a part of who I am[…]But like many others, I had my concerns about the show regarding proper representation and how closely it would follow Kamala’s story from the comics. With the release of trailers and teaser, I felt so nervous but I had hope it would do right by young South Asian and Muslim girls. ”
- @Basically_an_avenger: “ I was skeptical. In the past, South Asians have been used as the comedic relief, and I was frightened that even a show showcasing South Asians would happen again. Not only that but with the less than poor Jewish representation in Moon Knight, I was nervous for the Muslim community that Marvel would do them in, the same way they did for our community.”
- @MarvelWithRid: “[…]I was curious and excited. She was going to be the first south asian leading a superhero project in the full superhero genre so it was historical. Growing up as a Marvel fan, I didn’t see many people on screen who looked like me or were from the same cultural background. The five minute scene from Avengers set in India or seeing Tony Stark in kurta were the 2 memorable moments that passed in a blink of an eye. Kamala Khan coming into the MCU made me ecstatic because in many ways she was like me, a brown female teenager who is obsessed with the avengers from an immigrant family.”
- @h3yd4v3: “ […]I was ecstatic. Kamala had meant a lot to me since she first came out in 2014 since it was so amazing to see not just a hero who looked and acted like me, but my favorite hero’s mantle being passed down to a girl like me. I could relate to her struggles of insecurity because I went through the same thing only having Carol Danvers as Ms Marvel to look up to. So to see her get her own show was like a dream come true […] My excitement did waver a bit after the power change occurred but as long as it still conveyed that journey from insecurity to learning how to love yourself for what you are it wouldn’t matter.”
Q: what are your thoughts now that you have watched the season finale? Did Ms.Marvel display a good representation of the communities it portrailed?
- @She_Loves_Marvel: ”I cannot speak from a Muslim point of view as I am not Muslim, but I can speak on South Asian representation as a whole. In my opinion, the show did a wonderful job at making me feel seen and highlighting the beautiful parts of South Asian culture. The show even highlighted the 1947 Partition of India- an event many people hadn’t heard about until this show. Although it was hard to see that on screen, it also meant so much to so many of us South Asians. Our history was recognized. We were recognized.”
- @SamosasandPopcorn: “Seeing Ms. Marvel become a bigger phenomenon in the MCU has changed that so much so that I have found a community of other women who have similar experiences and cultures as me. That is something that means the absolute world to me. […] I wanted this show to serve as a learning opportunity for those outside our community. Upon seeing the show to completion, despite the issues it may have had, I’m absolutely overwhelmed by how much I love Ms. Marvel. It has forced me to address my own biases and come to terms with my identity, something I hope to see for other South Asians and Muslims that have the same struggle. Ultimately, I hope to see more growth from Kamala and to see her encounter new obstacles where she’ll absolutely trip and fall, but learn how to bounce back and become stronger than ever.“
- @Basically_an_avenger: “Overall I really enjoyed the show! I think some elements could’ve been taken out, like the topic of Djin because it was noted that Ms Marvel is now a mutant rather than a Djin, but overall I enjoyed seeing myself in Nakia, as a mixed brown girl, and I enjoyed seeing South Asian culture represented without being overly saturated with jokes.”
- @MarvelWithRid: “After watching Ms Marvel, I can say that I was satisfied with the south asian representation. I could see so much of myself in Kamala. From her relationship with her family to her struggles as a teenager, Kamala was charming and a joy to watch. [The inclusion of her family, friends and community is also a theme that I loved]. It was the perfect way to tell the story as it mirrored the importance of family and loved ones in South Asian culture.[…] There were so many cultural moments that were assimilated flawlessly into the show from the music, food, events, clothes etc. Including the partition and the impact of British colonialism was also emotional as it is not something discussed often in western media but something that impacts somany Indian and Pakistani families alike, including my own. Seeing Kamala’s great grandparents journey made me tear up because it reminded me of the story I used to hear about my great grandparents journey due to the Partition […]. There are so many great elements of south asian representation and that’s all thanks to the creatives behind the screen who wanted to tell a story from their own experiences that they knew would match many others.”
- @h3yd4v3: ”Iman Vellani perfectly embodies the character and for almost everyone I could literally not ask for a better casting. It truly feels like the characters I fell in love with in the comics really do exist. At the core her family is the best part that translated so well to screen and I’m just so glad now a new generation of brown girls can see a family that looks like theirs and acts like theirs. I still remember how my eldest niece’s face lit up when she realized that Kamala calls her grandmother “nani” just like she does. […] This show has so much to say and discuss and it makes me wish it had more than six episodes so it can flesh out more aspects of Kamala that weren’t allowed as much of the spotlight [i.e establishing her as the hero of Jersey City]. Overall I’m not disappointed, I just wish we could’ve had more time for such a unique take on the universe.”
With answers like this, do you see why projects like Ms.Marvel are important?
This is what representation does when done correctly. Representation in media can lead to amazing conversations and to the creation of positive spaces. Here we have several creators, from different faiths, walks of life and ethnicities sharing our voices because we finally feel seen.
As a muslim, seeing my identity being celebrated in a popular Disney/Marvel show felt extremely foreign but incredibly welcome. Seeing it shared with everyone, seeing how everybody celebrated it with me, humbled me and made me dream of how far we can still go as a community.
Ms. Marvel is an amazing first step into the right direction. Flawed yes, but a huge win nonetheless.
“Opening up about Ms. Marvel meant [so much] to us, [we are] very different from each other but very many influenced by the identities that have shaped our very own Kamala Khan, that also created us to be the women who chose to create content on the show for an even bigger and greater goal in mind-to be the voice that was 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.”How a South Asian, Muslim. Female Creator Initiative was inspired by Kamala Khan.