Ms. Marvel is the Desi Superhero We Deserve, and the ‘Noor’ at the End of the Tunnel
DISCLAIMER: this review WILL contain spoilers for Ms. Marvel Season 1.
The ‘Ms. Marvel’ season finale premiered this week, and now is as good a time as any to finally discuss the biggest piece of mainstream Hollywood representation the South Asian community has seen in a while.
Overall, I think that this show is the first piece of positive Pakistani and Muslim representation that I have seen in my life. The South Asian community as a whole, not just Pakistanis, haven’t really had the opportunity to have our culture explored in mainstream media without it being the butt of the joke. When we’re not the punchline, some of us are delegated to being the villains of almost every major action movie that has premiered in the last 20 years. Not only that, so many of us are all grouped together and assumed to be the same people: “oh you’re not from India? Same thing, what’s the difference anyways?”
Ms. Marvel, for the first time, gave us the opportunity to not only be able to show a uniquely Pakistani perspective, but it was done in a way that didn’t alienate the desi community entirely. It focuses on the shared aspect of our culture, language, and history instead of the differences for a change.
Representation: A Step in the Right Direction
Firstly, I want to address one thing – I understand that this show for some Pakistanis might not be what they hoped it would be, feeling that this show took elements of the Pakistani identity and homogenised it a little with an overall South Asian identity. And while that feeling is valid, from my perspective I don’t think that what they showed can be considered an entirely incorrect representation. I also want to point out that this is a fictional show in a fictional universe, where people disappear for 5 years on end and people can turn into giant green monsters. I don’t think it’s fair at all to nit-pick at every single thing just to have something criticise at – especially when overall it does such an amazing job at depicting positive healthy relationships between Kamala and her family, as well as the Muslim community as a whole – something that we haven’t had in over 20 years.
It was so heart-warming to see Kamala’s parents, Muneeba and Yusuf, and their relationship. I think for a lot of our families, especially households that were the product of an arranged marriage (even further Muslim families), we’re not really used to our parents outwardly being affectionate to each other. As such, Muneeba and Yusuf being so loving to each other was definitely something that I appreciated seeing on the show. Not only were they so loving to each other, Kamala’s parents are officially the coolest and most supportive parents in the MCU in encouraging their daughter to live out her superhero dreams.
I think the way that they depicted family dynamics between Kamala and her parents, and her brother was absolutely spot on – I’m not joking I think 90% of her arguments with her mum about everyday things were lifted verbatim from my childhood (I know some of my Muslim gals will relate about the modesty argument).
Kamala and the Relationship with her Faith
Let’s talk about the incorporation of Kamala’s faith. It was woven into the show in a way that made perfect sense with the character’s personalities and dynamics. As a Muslim myself, I can tell you right now I have never ever seen Islam portrayed in such a peaceful way in my entire life. Throughout the show there was an emphasis either by Kamala’s dad Yusuf, Kamala herself, the community and even the Sheikh about the importance of being kind to one another, of the sanctity of life, and peace above all else.
This particular effort into emphasising how loving and fun the Muslim community can be, also made the show entertaining for overall Muslim viewers to watch as well. Especially, in the way aspects of the Quran were woven into the story, and if you aren’t Muslim, you wouldn’t have noticed – like what Yusuf told Kamala at the end about how saving one life is equivalent to saving the whole world – which is paraphrased almost directly from the Quran (and mentioned in the comics as well).
The Storytelling of the Partition…Could’ve Been Better.
The biggest, and probably most surprising, plot point of the show for me – was the dive into partition. And I think that it might be the one thing this show might have lacked a little bit in.
On the one hand I really appreciate them including such a historically significant event for the whole subcontinent on a mainstream show like this – but also because it was aimed for kids quite a lot of how traumatising partition was might have been glossed over. That’s not to say I didn’t love diving into our culture the way that it did and how it attempted to cover an aspect of the multigenerational trauma of partition – but I can also appreciate the fact that these are very niche topics that may have lost other viewers whilst watching the show.
Particularly, if you weren’t South Asian, the level of multi-generational trauma that they tried to show probably didn’t have the same emphasis that it did for South Asian audiences.
As someone whose family did experience extreme horrors in partition, I think not explaining how bad it really was, might have done it a disservice. With just showing Kamala’s great grandfather Hasan being discriminated against in his village and then the chaos at the train station – it wasn't enough. Even further I think it almost dangerously veered into just making Muslims the victims in that event when there were overall awful things happening regardless of the specific community. However, I would like to reiterate that I am not saying they should’ve gone into extreme detail about what happened because this show is marketed towards kids and that would’ve been too traumatic – but I think the important aspects of the emotion attached to partition wasn’t really explained that well.
And of course, like with almost every other MCU show that’s come out – the writing and the pacing of the show was a little inconsistent with certain plot lines being wrapped up too quickly or not explored in depth enough (e.g., the backstory into the clandestines and the entirely new universe).
Despite these pitfalls, Ms. Marvel has done amazingly well not just as an MCU show but also at introducing a brand-new set of characters that we can all love.
Regardless of the valid criticisms and concerns of the show,, I think overall it did a fantastic job portraying not only a young Pakistani woman, but specifically the Pakistani diaspora experience. There were so many aspects to Kamala’s life and personality that I could really relate to and I’m so happy that a new generation of South Asian girls will be able to see this and know that it’s okay to be exactly the way that you are – something that I definitely didn’t see growing up.
‘Ms. Marvel’ has done such a good job in introducing such a brand new and niche character to this huge franchise in a way that’s made me really excited to see more of these phase 4 MCU projects. With the hinted introduction of the X-men in the last episode, and Brie Larson showing up in the post-credit scene – as an MCU fan Ms. Marvel has officially solidified its place in this world-wide franchise.
And of course, I can’t talk about what I loved about the show without talking about the soundtrack. With the exception of ‘Jalebi Baby’ which honestly, I just think is just overplayed at this point, every single song in this show was 10/10. With artists like Riz Ahmed, Eva B, Raja Kumari, tracks from this season’s coke studio it was honestly such a pleasant surprise every single time and it just overall made the show all the more entertaining.
Finally, to conclude, I just want to repeat one last sentiment from my tweets: the DODC is the worst government agency in the MCU and I want the electric chair for Agent Deever and Agent Deever only, not just for the Islamophobia – but also for walking around on the masjid floor without taking off her boots.
All episodes of Ms. Marvel are available to watch on Disney plus.