‘Ms. Marvel’: Everyday Girl Tackles Fandom, Religion, Culture and Magical Powers

Marvel is back doing what it does best: watching a clumsy and lovable high schooler balance life while defeating the bad guys. And nope, it’s not another Spider-Man reboot. The latest series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Ms. Marvel,” follows Muslim and Pakistani teen Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) in her adventures with her new magical abilities. 

Kamala Khan is endearing in her normalcy. She worries about strict parents, boys and interactions between the two, making her relatable and familiar. When she’d rather daydream, she has to worry about college and her future, an unfortunately common experience that creates empathy with viewers. One element I was surprised by is her love for the Avengers, particularly for Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). As a Captain Marvel fan myself, I enjoyed seeing Kamala’s cosplay and admired the talented costume design by Kamala and her friend Bruno Carrelli (Matt Lintz). While it struck me as a little odd to have fan conventions for the Avengers in a world where the Avengers really do exist, I was willing to buy the premise and found the incorporation of real-life fan activities endearing. Her love for the Avengers ties her to viewers who presumably already like the heroes, considering they are watching the show.

Courtesy of Disney Plus.

The presence of her Islamic faith is interesting within the MCU, which does not usually focus on religious characters. Kamala interacts with her faith with delightful individuality as she rushes late into the Mosque to wash herself. She and her friend Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) also challenge why the women’s section of the mosque is rundown. Kamala encourages Nakia to run for a position on the Mosque board to advocate for the women in their community. Rather than making her religious experience generic, it complements Kamala’s personality as we see her push the limits while remaining loving. Her religion and heritage are meaningful to the series but are not her only defining characteristics, as we also see her delve into fan culture with costume making and watch her struggle through homework. I look forward to learning more about the interactions between her adventures and her religious beliefs, as well as seeing her and Nakia’s respectful challenges to gender conventions in Islam. It’s nice to see the MCU expand to include characters of different faiths, and we will see if this grows into a new trend.

The series also incorporates her Pakistani heritage and discussions about the partition of India, which impacted her family history. I am interested to see if the fallout from partition becomes a more prominent theme in the series. Her culture also connects to her powers. In the background of Kamala’s everyday life, she receives new abilities from a bangle that her grandmother sent her from Pakistan. Using it to complete a cosplay, she suddenly can harness a new power. Whether she receives this power from within herself or from the bangle itself is still unclear, as well as how it connects to her family history. I look forward to seeing her develop her new abilities and discover her family’s historical connection to them.

“Ms. Marvel” is delightful in its combination of Kamala’s high school concerns, culture, religion, and magical powers in a way reminiscent of Peter Parker’s charm. I cannot wait to see her hero’s journey unfold and how it will connect to the rest of the MCU.

“Ms. Marvel” is available to stream on Disney+ with a new episode every Wednesday. Episodes 1 and 2 are available now.

By Ella Hachee

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