By Alyssa Diaz
Again, Marvel history was made this summer. The new Disney Plus series “Ms. Marvel” excited fans as it featured the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU) first Muslim superhero. The first thrilling season of the show came out June 8, debuting the six-episode journey of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teen.
Actress Iman Vellani plays the teenager who turns into a superhero after she gains abilities from a bracelet handed down from her grandmother. The female Pakistani character was first introduced in 2014 but has since only just now been brought to life, adding more diversity to the MCU franchise. The show has been a hit binge-watch this summer with 775,000 household viewers in its first five days, according to SambaTV. Viewers of the show have raved over Vellani's acting and depiction of the teen character, according to MovieWeb.
Khan's backstory is as a 16-year-old Pakistani American from New Jersey handling the difficulties of teenage life. Khan gets her driver's license, crushes on boys, and conflicts with overprotective parents.
Like her original comics, Khan is motivated to be a hero like Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel epitomizes independence to Khan and the hero inspires Khan to follow in her footsteps, choosing her name as a tribute.
Khan's connection to Danvers will strengthen on July 23, 2023, in “The Marvels,” the eagerly anticipated sequel to “Captain Marvel.” Three separate Captain Marvels will unite, including Danvers, Khan, and Monica Rambeau, a former Captain Marvel from the comics who received superhuman abilities through events in “WandaVision.”
“Ms. Marvel” takes place in Phase Four of the MCU with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” coming Nov. 11 and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” coming Feb. 17, 2023.
“Conceived and crafted by Muslim and Pakistani creatives, the show pushes back against Hollywood’s dehumanizing and racist handling of brown individuals and their communities,” wrote Jalal Baig for The Washington Post.
It was always the intention of Marvel Studios to honor cultural foundations of the comic book characters. Ever since the ‘70s, Marvel heroes have sprung from comic book pages onto the screens of theaters and televisions. But what are not as frequent are advances made to diversify its heroes and their cast.
“When I heard the news about the release of “Ms. Marvel,” I was excited to see the way Marvel brought this amazing character to life,” said Brianna Torres, a junior majoring in television and digital media.
Marvel has tried to maintain the characters' various origins thus far, but there is room for improvement. We still haven't seen many characters from many other cultures around the world.
“I feel someone of Latin or Asian culture should be represented next,” said Sara Madera, a senior majoring in communications.
She pointed out how for many years Marvel movies have been filled by mostly white casts, lacking the diversity found in their fans.
“Having women play leads is one thing but introducing different ethnicities is another. It’s important, especially for the younger generation, to see women in leads and of different ethnicities,” Madera said. “We have had other women superheroes, but this couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time.”
Cody Ferguson, a sophomore majoring in communications applauds diverse superheroes.
“It's easier to prove that everyone can be a superhero, not just a white person, we only got “Black Panther” recently and that was controversial at first. It became one of the world’s favorite Marvel movies,” he said.
The new cultural representation and the reversal of the traditionally masculine superhero narrative gives the show a special depth. Vellani has gotten a flood of encouragement for standing up for the Muslim community.
“’Ms. Marvel’ is an extremely fun, deeply charming watch with a cast of great new characters and gravity that other Disney+ MCU projects have been lacking,” said Mason Downey in a review on GameSpot.
“Ms. Marvel” joins the likes of “Coco,” “Turning Red,” and “Encanto” as transformative movies that broaden the range of depictions.
Torres said, “It is extremely important for both Marvel and societies to see how diverse they are and how beautiful their culture is. It was long overdue.”