‘IN. Marvel’ on Disney Plus Is The Muslim Representation I’ve Been Waiting For

Kamala Khan turns the key in the ignition, whispers “bismillah” and takes a deep breath. There’s a look of fierce determination on her face as she slams her foot on the gas. In a sudden movement, the car backs up and hits the car parked behind her, which happens to belong to the driving test examiner, who looks on in horror from the passenger seat.

“You set her up to fail by making her drive down the street with all the other cars,” Khan’s mother tells the examiner accusingly.

“Ma’am, for your daughter’s sake, I’m going home,” he replies grudgingly.

This happens in the first four minutes of Disney Plus’ new MCU show lady marvelwhat stars Iman Vellani as the main character Kamala Khan, an imaginative but clumsy – and often clumsy – Muslim-American teenager growing up in Jersey City.

From the beginning, Islamic phrases such as “bismillah” (in the name of God), “assalamu alaikum” (peace be upon you) and “astaghfirullah” (I seek God’s forgiveness) are sprinkled in the show’s dialogue, normalizing terms that otherwise they are scarce in the world of television – one in which Muslims are hardly represented. It feels like I’m in a secret language.

Ms. Marvel, which premieres June 8, isn’t just a show about a young woman who discovers 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 without seeing anyone like us on TV and without hearing phrases that are part of our daily lives.

Ms. Marvel feels like the culmination of decades of resistance against misrepresentation in the mainstream media. It feels like a celebration of what’s possible when you get talented Muslim writers, actors and creators to build something true, authentic and enjoyable. This authenticity is reflected even in small details, such as the mix of contemporary pop and Pakistani music that plays throughout the show, symbolizing the union of cultures.

Iman Vellani as Mrs. Marvel / Kamala Khan.

Marvel Studios

For decades, Muslims have been excluded or maligned in Hollywood. We have been regularly portrayed as terrorists or “thugs”, especially after 9/11. In recent years, more shows have incorporated authentic depictions, such as Hulu’s Ramy and NBC’s Transplant. But Mrs. Marvel takes this to the next level, introducing the world to a young, ambitious superhero whose most powerful attribute will undoubtedly be her ability to shatter stereotypes and show how relatable teenage struggles can be, regardless of our background.

The show’s first two episodes highlight the challenges Khan faces as he navigates his religious and cultural identity. There’s the gym teacher who accidentally calls her “Camilia”. The girl who has fun with the gold necklace that Khan wears and who spells her name in Arabic. The terrifying force of Pakistani women dubbed the “IlluminAunties” who will ruthlessly criticize every aspect of your life. It all makes for a storyline that is sure to resonate with Muslim audiences as well as anyone who has struggled to fit in or find their voice.

Also, Khan navigates a precarious relationship with her mother, who doesn’t understand her daughter’s seemingly over-the-top imagination. When Khan asks to go to an event called AvengerCon in Captain Marvel cosplay, his mother says no and laments the “too tight suit” she would be wearing.

“It’s time to stop fantasizing,” her mother tells her at one point. “I wish you would just focus on you. 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 created you to be? clouds?”

But your mother is also multifaceted. In addition to the strict trope of immigrant parents, we learn 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, the constant family conflict forces Khan to question what she’s capable of. In one scene, she sits on a rooftop with her friend Bruno (Matt Lintz) and says in defeat, “Let’s be honest, it’s not really the brunette Jersey City girls who save the world.”

She would be forgiven for feeling this way. For so long, it was like that. Heroes never looked like her – or like me. But that is finally changing. Now we are introduced to Khan in all his genuine, uncontrollable glory. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to see this story unfold.

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