Kamala Khan turns the key in the ignition, whispers “bismillah” and takes a deep breath. There is a look of fierce determination on her face as she slams her foot on the accelerator pedal. In a sudden movement, the car backs up and slams into the car parked behind it, which belongs to its driver’s license examiner, who is watching in horror from the passenger seat.
“You thwarted it, driving it down the street with all the other cars,” Khan’s mother accusingly told the examiner.
“Madame, because of your daughter, I’m walking home,” he replies reluctantly.
It happens in the first four minutes of Disney Plus’ new MCU show, Ms. Marvel, whichas the title character Kamala Khan, an imaginative but clumsy – and often clumsy – American Muslim teenager growing up in Jersey City.
From the start, Islamic phrases such as “bismillah” (in the name of God), “assalamu alaikum” (peace be upon you) and “astaghfirullah” (I ask forgiveness from God) are sprinkled throughout the show’s dialogue. , normalizing terms that are otherwise rare in the world of television – a world in which Muslims are barely represented. I feel like I’m in a secret language.
Ms. Marvel, which premieres June 8, isn’t just a show about a young girl discovering her own superpowers. It’s about a girl struggling with a dual identity as a Pakistani American Muslim. It tells a story familiar to so many Muslims with hyphenated identities, Muslims who grew up not seeing someone like us on television, and not hearing phrases that are part of our daily existence.
Ms. Marvel feels like the culmination of decades of denial against misrepresentation in mainstream media. It feels like a celebration of what’s possible when you bring in talented Muslim writers, actors, and creators to create something real, authentic, and enjoyable. This authenticity is reflected down to small details, like the mix of contemporary pop and Pakistani music that plays throughout the show, symbolizing the rapprochement of cultures.
For decades, Muslims have been excluded or reviled in Hollywood. We have regularly been portrayed as terrorists or “bad guys”, especially after 9/11. In recent years, more shows have incorporated authentic portrayal, like Hulu’s Ramy and NBC’s Transplant. But Ms. Marvel takes that to the next level by introducing the world to an ambitious young superhero whose most powerful attribute will undoubtedly be his ability to shatter stereotypes and show how teenage struggles can be told regardless of our origins.
The show’s first two episodes shed light on the challenges Khan faces as she navigates her religious and cultural identity. There’s the PE teacher who accidentally calls her “Camilia.” The girl who is amused by the gold necklace Khan wears and spells her name in Arabic. The terrifying strength of Pakistani women nicknamed the “IlluminAunties” who will ruthlessly criticize every aspect of your life. All of this contributes to a storyline that is sure to resonate with Muslim audiences, as well as anyone struggling to fit in or find their voice.
Additionally, Khan navigates a precarious relationship with her mother, who does not understand her daughter’s seemingly over-the-top imagination. When Khan asks to attend an event called AvengerCon in Captain Marvel cosplay, her mother says no and laments the “very tight costume” she would wear.
“It’s time to stop fantasizing,” her mother told her at one point. “I would like you to just focus on yourself. Your grades, your family, your history. I mean, who do you want to be in this world? Do you want to be good, like we raised you to be? Or do you want to be? -Do you want to be this cosmic person, head in the clouds? »
But his mother is also multifaceted. Beyond the strict immigrant parent trope, we learn some fun facts about her — like the fact that she loves Bon Jovi and has a rich family history. The source of Kamala’s powers is a bracelet passed down from her maternal great-grandmother. Superpowers are part of her history and lore, as opposed to a negative force that separates her from her family.
Still, constant family conflict has Khan wondering what she’s capable of. In one scene, she sits on a rooftop with her friend Bruno (Matt Lintz) and says in a defeated tone, “Let’s be honest, it’s not really the brunette girls of Jersey City saving the world.”
She would be forgiven for feeling this way. For so long this was the case. Heroes never looked like him – nor did they look like me. But that is finally changing. Now we’re presented with Khan in all his authentic, unruly glory. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to see this story unfold.
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