MS. Marvel Message Is Universal

Kamala Khan did the next best thing when she couldn’t go to her parents.

She went to her Auntie Ruby.

Kamala, known as Ms. Marvel once she dons her cape, wants to learn more about her great grandmother, Aisha. After all, her superpowers originate from Aisha’s bangle whenever she wears it.

“I heard she killed a man. Dead,” her Aunt Ruby told her during episode two of the Disney+ Ms. Marvel series. “Happened during the Partition.”

Kamala, a Pakistani, knew she could rely on her aunties, or as she calls them, her Illumin-Aunties. They may not be blood, but she still considers them part of her family.

“It was a responsibility and excitement that we did not take lightly,” said Anjali Bhimani about undertaking the responsibility to portray the culture and religion accurately. Wealth of Geeks talked to Bhimani over the phone about her role and experience in filming the Marvel series.

Breaking New Ground

Kamala (played by Iman Vellani) is the first Muslim superhero to star in a tv series. Bhimani said everyone on the set knew this. In addition, the character hails from Pakistan – a country carved out by Britain in 1947, partitioning British India into two parts – India and Pakistan.

Knowing this series would be a historical event, everyone on the cast knew they were a part of something special, Bhimani said.

“There’s a light-heartedness, joy to it,” she said. “It was something we felt on set.”

And the creators, the writers, the actors, and everyone who contributed to the show did what they could to ensure the series showed a genuine portrayal of not only a Muslim teenager but a Muslim family too. Bhimani added that the creators and producers made sure there were consultants on set to check the show’s accuracy.

But the show’s producers and creators spearheaded the project, bringing the character to the screen, and Bhimani credited them for the show’s success.

“There couldn’t be a more incredible way to launch this character on the screen,” she said. “They took it seriously – about the character, the story, the world she lives in.”

One part of the culture the writers expertly wove into the show’s script was the support network immigrant families, especially those from Southeast Asia, create when starting a new life in another country.

For many first-generation Southeast Asian Americans, aunties like Ruby are crucial fixtures in their lives. The aunties become a part of the family, even though they are not related by blood, because there are no other people around who share the same culture, religion, and traditions.

Most extended families live back home, and it is not easy to travel on a plane each week to see grandma, grandpa, aunts, and uncles. Therefore, the aunties and uncles take the place of family members.

Well Blended

Bhimani also noted another strength of the show: it displays the mixture of the two cultures – American and Southeast Asian Americans- to create a new, unique hybrid culture for the first-generation children.

During the wedding scene in episode 3, where Kamala’s brother, Aamir (played by Saagar Shaikh), gets married, the band “Brown Jovi” plays the music. Then, the lead singer energetically cries to the wedding crowd, “We are Brown Jovi. Now, we also do Eid, Diwali and bar mitzvahs, and Sweet Sixteens and quinceañeras. Brown Jovi does it all.”

The show creators and writers provided the perfect example of how an American band as popular as Bon Jovi gets assimilated into the Southeastern Asian culture. Earlier in the series, Kamala’s mom, Muneeba, played by Zenobia Shroff, admits her favorite song is “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

“So much of our experience is embracing the funny, embracing the puns – that’s the way we bond,” Bhimani said.

Taking Center Stage

Although Bhimani is not Muslim, she was ecstatic to see a brown person of color take a starring role. Bhimani grew up watching superheroes, but she did not see any mirror images of herself on tv. “The closest thing was Wonder Woman,” she said. “And she was a female brunette. That was the closest thing I had.”

And when Bhimani found out she got the part, she was excited. “I’ve been a fan of Marvel since I was a little girl,” she said.

When she got the part, she could not tell anyone her role or that she was even involved in the movie. “Sometimes it was challenging to put things together when you didn’t know the full story that was going on,” Bhimani said. Everything about the movie and the script was on a need-to-know basis.

However, the main takeaway Bhimani wants people to know is that this show is not only for Southeast Asian or Muslim viewers. It is for everyone to watch.

A Pakistani actress may be the star, but the message is universal. “Humans or superheroes – each of us have a set of skills and powers of things that make us who we are,” Bhimani said, referring to how Kamala has a tough time figuring out her identity. Bhimani remarked many people, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender, are trying to find their true selves. Everyone can connect to this message – having experienced an identity crisis at one point or another.

“There are some people who may have the misconception that this show is only for the demographic that is depicted here. This is a show for everyone,” she said. “Against the background in this particular culture, in this particular city, in this particular time, there is some character for you to connect to in the show.”

More Articles From the Wealth of Geeks Network:

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: Disney+

Rasha is a die-hard bookaholic, but when she's not reading, she watches TV shows with her husband. He's in charge of the remote because he certainly doesn't trust her with one. If he did, they would be watching “Law and Order” reruns all day. She is a former reporter who now works in the social work industry, connecting people with essential resources and agencies. Other than that, Rasha is currently using her superpower, writing, to deliver the news.