With the premiere of Ms. Marvel on Disney+ on June 8, Twitter and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief: Kamala Khan is the superhero we’ve been waiting for.
When I first learned that Kamala Khan would hit the small screen as Ms. Marvel, my joy was quickly followed by anxiety. As an Indian American Muslim woman, I was uncomfortably familiar with how South Asians and Muslims — and our culture — haven’t always been portrayed in the best light on television. The first episode of Ms. Marvel is a pleasant surprise, beautifully weaving in aspects of South Asian culture and Islam into Khan’s daily life.
And the internet agrees.
Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teen from New Jersey, is Marvel’s first Muslim superhero. Obsessed with the Avengers, Khan is bullied in school and reprimanded at home for daydreaming too much about superheroes. After she discovers that she has superpowers of her own, Khan chooses to become Ms. Marvel: a spin on Khan’s favorite superhero, Captain Marvel.
She makes this discovery while attending an Avengers convention, in which Khan incorporates her Nani’s (grandmother’s) bangle into her Captain Marvel costume. A piece of her Pakistani heritage, the bangle leads to the pivotal moment of Khan realizing her superpower of harnessing cosmic energy to throw discs and stretch her limbs.
Hearing the way Khan’s mother spoke to her daughter in Urdu, gently nudging her to leave by saying “chalo” (“let’s go” or “walk”) and affectionately calling Bruno, Khan’s best friend, beta (“son,” but also a term of endearment towards children by elders), made me feel so much affection toward her and her family.
Kamala Khan tries on Pakistani clothes while shopping with her mother.
Credit: Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
So many scenes hit close to home. For starters, Khan’s older brother, Aamir, shares the same first name as my younger brother. When Khan goes shopping with her mother for Pakistani clothes and jewelry, I felt nostalgic for the days my mom and I would go shopping around Jackson Heights, Queens, a neighborhood known for its large South Asian population. While Khan’s mother gossiping with an “aunty” in the Pakistani clothing store gave me painful flashbacks of Indian aunties and their unprovoked comments, I appreciated the solidarity. The scene where Khan is begging her parents to go to an event at night? Been there, done that.
While I still wish that I could’ve had a Ms. Marvel to look up to when I was younger, I’m glad that South Asian and Muslim teens will finally get to see a superhero that looks like them.