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Ms. Marvel : A Journey


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It is a well known fact that the Muslim representation in Western media is – for lack of better word – quite horrible.

As stated in my previous article “Ms. Marvel: The Importance Of Muslim Representation:”

“Less than 2% of speaking characters in major movies released between 2017 and 2019 were Muslim. Additionally, “more than one-third of those characters were depicted as ‘perpetrators of violence,’ while more than half were shown to be victims of it.”

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel / Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

This is not really something to celebrate.

As a reaction to this reality, muslims have developed an automatic fear/distrust when they see a muslim character in media. We have been conditioned to believe that the muslim character is either the victim or the enforcer of violence.

This misrepresentation hurts. It is like looking into a distortion mirror: it makes everything that you love and cherish about yourself unrecognizable. There’s always this sense of dread and skepticism whenever someone that looks slightly like us shows up on tv.

That same dread came back when I heard about Ms. Marvel. I was scared that I wouldn’t recognize myself in the first muslim superhero character of the MCU. I was preparing myself to be misrepresented.

I was scared that my religious community will be hurt yet again. I was afraid that my Marvel community would see an untruthful version of my identity. However after a bit of research a new feeling emerged in me: Hope.

You see, while I was researching the character of Ms.Marvel I found this huge community of creators from different religious and ethnic background that loved Kamala Khan. Suddenly this fictional Pakistan-muslim American teenager allowed me to connect to so many people that shared my love for authentic representation.

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Watching the show was an emotional moment for me. I cannot express how I felt when I saw my identity celebrated instead of feared. I was watching Kamala and I felt seen for the first time. I felt my inner child heal…It was incredible.

Now was the Ms.Marvel a perfect show? No it wasn’t. I still believe that the Djinn plotline was unnecessary. HOWEVER, was it an amazingly authentic representation and first step into something greater? Absolutely!

The Hope given by Kamala Khan created so many new connections in my life:

I reached to Neebz once again to sort of write a ”conclusion” on this chapter of Ms. Marvel.

His thoughts are below and I have to say that I quite agree with him:

“When I first heard about Ms. Marvel, I had mixed emotions. I was excited to finally have a Pakistani superhero. However, when you’re Pakistani it’s hard to be excited about any type of representation. We have a long history of bad representation. Some may even say that we have gone thru 20 years of trauma seeing ourselves either portrayed as terrorist, oppressed, or caricatures of ourselves. For this to work it would have to be incredibly authentic. 

So for the months leading up to the release of Ms. Marvel I started talking about the character to get people familiarized with her. I was dispelling rumors and inaccuracies about the show. As I started talking about the show, amazing opportunities started coming my way. The people at the Pillar Fund got me a NYC screening and then the people at Brown Girl Magazine got me onto the Red Carpet and let me interview Iman Vellani, Sana Amanat, and many more. This show was not only opening doors for the Pakistani actors, but even Pakistani content creators like me. I put together a weekly series called “Ms. Marvel Cultural Eidster Eggs”. It got a lot of attention and really helped people understand the subtle references in the show. This got me invited to a lot of podcasts and I had such a great time sharing my culture and religion with people. 

Fawad Kahn as Hasan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

So the question everyone wants to know after this show ends is “Is Ms. Marvel good representation?”

And the answer is still “no”. This show is not “good” representation because there is no such thing as good representation. This story is fiction, not a documentary.

To think this show can represent 1 billion Muslims is an impossible ask. One that we shouldn’t even entertain. However, the problem isn’t the show. The problem is the question. The question we should be asking is “Is this authentic representation?”

To this question, I can wholeheartedly say yes. As someone who is Muslim, Pakistani, and 10 minutes from Jersey City. I promise you this show was like looking in a mirror. When critiquing representation, we shouldn’t be using words like “good” but instead words like “responsible” and “authentic”. When we frame the question like this, it’s easy to see that this show has left an incredible footprint on the Pakistani community. 

(L-R): Matthew Lintz as Bruno, Rish Shah as Kamran, and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

My hope for Kamala is to see her come into her own. I’d love to see a story similar to Civil War that has her stand up against her idol Carol Danvers and become her own person. I’d love to see her explore her powers a lot more and learn more about her origins. I think making her a mutant is very exciting and can’t wait for them to explore this more. “

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