How Ms. Marvel Showcases Pakistani and Muslim Culture
Kamala Khan would do anything to get to Avenger Con. The premiere episode Ms. MarvelThe 16-year old Captain Marvel fan is looking to dress up as her favorite superhero at Disney+. But her parents’ conditions are strict. After initially refusing her permission, she was eventually open to it and they even surprised her with a dress: a baggy Green. Salwar kameez This traditional Pakistani outfit features Hulk-inspired elements such as a prominent eight-pack and is complemented by traditional Pakistani clothes. Kamala, a Pakistani Canadian actor, is disgusted. “It is so humiliating,” she tells her parents. Her mother doubles down, saying there’s no way she will be allowed to wear a “skimpy” outfit. Or she can choose to wear this. Salwar kameez and attend with her father—or stay home.
It’s an exchange that many Muslim and Pakistani viewers will find relateable—the push and pull between children and their parents navigating pressures to hold onto tradition and dress in a particular way. “There are a lot of children growing up in immigrant communities who are finding it difficult to hold on to what their parents’ values are,” says Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an Oscar-winning Pakistani documentarian who directed two episodes of the series. She says that Kamala is relatable because of this struggle.
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So, Ms. Marvel, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, seamlessly integrates audiences into Kamala’s world—specifically, the world of an immigrant, Muslim, Pakistani American family living in Jersey City. In an industry that has rarely portrayed Muslim characters outside of harmful stereotypes, it’s significant to see a character like Kamala. Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (University of Southern California) found that only 2% of the 200 movies containing Muslim characters came from the U.S.A, U.K. and Australia. While Kamala is not the first Muslim superhero to appear in the MCU—Sooraya Qadir, a member of the X-men, wears a niqab and was born in Afghanistan—she is the most fully developed. Some Marvel fans have criticised Sooraya’s portrayal of Sooraya, claiming that it was written from an orientalist viewpoint.
Ms. MarvelAl-Baab Khan, who was a researcher on the Annenberg project, said that it offers Muslim girls and their mothers a chance to see a hero in their lives. “Feeling connected to a superhero who is experiencing similar dynamics may make viewers feel less alone and isolated,” she says. “This then allows Muslim girls and women to feel empowered in who they are, and, maybe for the first time, understood.” The excitement felt by Muslim communities ahead of Ms. Marvel’sThe excitement around release is very similar. Black Panther Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings—and how those films resonated deeply with Black and Asian viewers.
Iman Vellani portrays Kamala Khan on ‘Ms. Marvel, a brand new series on Disney+
Daniel McFadden—Marvel Studios 2022
These are the creators Ms. Marvel They were conscious of creating a place that showcases South Asian culture, history, and language through their scenes and dialogue. Kamala and Kamran, Kamala’s schoolmate, discuss their favourite Bollywood movie. Kamala discredits the fan favorite. Dilwale Dulhania Le JayengeIn favor of Baazigar. They discuss Riz Ahmed’s musical group Swet Shop Boys, while her parents listen to “Ko Ko Korina”—a song from the ’60s—on their television. The show even features the fun and fast-paced “Peechay Hutt,” a song from Coke Studio PakistanThe popular music franchise “[…]”, is a favorite among Pakistani teenagers at home as well as abroad.
These are the first and second Ms. Marvel episodes hint that the show will explore Kamala’s family’s experience of the traumatic 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. At the dinner table, Kamala’s mother explains to her son’s fiancé, “The British left us with a mess… every Pakistani family has a partition story.”
It is also mentioned in the story as religion. Kamala and her friend Nakia are shown doing wudu, a ritual cleansing before prayer, and in a brief exchange at their mosque, they discuss how the men’s sections are so much better cared for than the women’s sections are. The show also nods to a common experience—the difficulty of finding one’s shoes outside after each service—when Nakia complains that she can’t find her Versace shoes.
The show’s matter-of-fact portrayal of different Muslims shows there are many ways to practice Islam and treats each with equal validity. “Kamala doesn’t cover her hair, but Nakia does and she chose to—but she also cares about fashion,” says Sana Amanat, an executive producer on the series and an original creator of the comic book character. “I do believe Islam to be a pluralistic faith. Many people exist. We in our own community have to be more accepting of that.” Kamala “may or may not pray five times a day,” Amanat says, “but she does go to the mosque. She’s part of our community and she’s proud of it.”
Kamala’s character in the original comics was inspired in part by Amanat’s life story. Amanat is a Pakistani American Muslim, who also grew up New Jersey. To create comics, she shared stories from her childhood with Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Stephen Wacker.. “It was me talking about trying to go to prom by myself, trying to find clothes that I could wear to prom that weren’t too revealing, trying to fast and play lacrosse or basketball,” she says. “Those were things no one really understood.”
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In helping to translate Kamala’s world from page to screen, Amanat was cognizant that most MCU heroes are white and that young people of color may not see themselves reflected in their idols. “How do you tell a story about a young woman influenced by these big heroes in the world who are saving the day, who look really amazing and beautiful and powerful, and are rich and—oh, wait a second—they’re actually white?” Amanat says. “How is this young brown woman influenced by that?”
This is to make sure the stories are authentic. Ms. Marvel You will find many big-name South Asian stars on the camera as well as behind the scenes. The film features Pakistani actors Fawad Khan (Nimra Bucha) and Bollywood actor Farhan Ashtar. Obaid-Chinoy’s social justice documentaries focusing on women are her most prominent feature. Face SavingsAbout acid attacks against Pakistani women. “I’ve always told stories about ordinary women who are superheroes in their own right,” she says. “And in that same vein, Kamala Khan is trying to traverse this flood. In finding her superpowers, she will enable millions of people around the world to see a reflection of themselves in her.”
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