Growing up as a geeky brown Muslim girl, it was rare to see my reflection in the mainstream Western media.
However, the popularity of Asian actors increased in the late 2010s, as 'bringing diversity' became more of a demand from general audiences.
Unfortunately, the screenplays of these movies or TV shows often constituted stereotypical and merely tokenistic screenplays that misrepresented the South Asian Muslim population due to cultural blindness on the part of the creators. But with Kamala Khan, the first MCU muslim superhero in history, there is now a glimmer of hope for many whitewashed minds to become more familiar about our rich culture.
After Moon Knight, MCU has upgraded its list in a quite refreshing manner by introducing many unfamiliar faces in their latest series 'Ms Marvel' including the protagonist Kamala (Iman Vellani) herself. Farhan Akhter and Fawad Khan's cameos were simply cherries on top.
Kamala as the geeky Pakistani American teenager, suffering from an identity crisis was the highlight of the show. The merging of cultural and racial aspects gave an interesting edge to the story. Whether it's about strict parents, fangirling over Shahrukh Khan or praying together in the mosque, Ms Marvel's attempt to showcase positive representation of the Muslim or South Asian community did justice to the respective communities.
Yes, it was not about how oppressed a woman feels to wear a hijab. Rather, it showed the vibrant side of the desi culture, their humble attempts to preserve their identity and how progressive the community is.
Initially, some may say it's a Desi teenage drama in the English language. However, after a few episodes, we see Kamala's journey to rediscover herself through many action-packed sequences. Dealing with the usual high-school struggles with her peers Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) and Bruno (Mattz Ritz), Kamala would have never thought her wildest fantasy would soon be a reality as her great-grandmother's magical bangle unleashes Kamala's latent potential. Next thing we know, New Jersey gets Night light AKA Ms Marvel as their superhero whose crystalline light powers can both harm and help people.
The story did not limit itself to New Jersey. Kamala and her mother's (Zenobia Shroff) visit their ancestral home in Karachi which adds a compelling layer to the already rich backstory, all the while retaining that trademark Marvel humour bolstered by striking visuals and comic book-like art-style direction.
There is another fact that might feel very personal to many Muslims that Kamala is later revealed as a clandestine or more commonly known as Djinn. Her nemesis in the series is also a clandestine gang leader, Najma (Nimra Bucha), who comes from a different timeline and a different dimension.
In terms of music, Ms Marvel embraced many famous Urdu and Hindi songs including Pasoori and Dil Bole Hadippa. Some people might find new bangers while watching this series. Moreover, Kamala's mother's obsession with Bon Jovi and playing 'Living On a Prayer' at her son's wedding shows the multicultural appreciation beautifully.
The tag 'first Muslim superhero' comes with many expectations and weight, but Imam Vellani's confident presence was a perfect fit for the show. Yasmeen and Matt did well playing Kamala's friends but they would have done better if they were not absent in the middle of the story arc. Kamala's father Mohan Kapoor did a decent job whereas Zenoiba as her mother served as a very authentic portrayal of desi mothers.
The series provided not two but three potential love interests for Kamala, even though romance is not a predominant facet in Kamala's life in this season. However, Kamala's grandparents (Mehwish and Fawad) love story set during the India- Pakistan partition story was riveting and emotional to watch.
Ms Marvel is targeted at teens and young adults but it is a show you can enjoy with your family as well. It failed to build up a proper nemesis but Kamala's positive energy carried the show well. Shooting a few more episodes would have made the execution of the story smoother. Nonetheless, the effort it gave to represent the Muslim community, Kamala's eye catching costume with a red dupatta and of course its mind-boggling end credit scene will not disappoint the viewers.