How Marvelous Can You Even Get Ms. Marvel? From breaking down Pakistani & Muslim representation in just 2 episodes to addressing Hijab issues with a no-apologies conversation, that too, in a rest room – the places where teens have some of the most life-changing reveals – from feeling your crush to jiving on ‘Be My Baby’ and then, streaming Peechay Hutt, from rapping to Eva B, to Pakistani accents done right and then, your evergreen Bismillahs at the start of every defining (or non-defining) moment in life… did you even need to address the sub-continent partition, but you did, and that too, as sensitively as ever – the people at the Marvel studios might have planned this with their minds, (Muslim representation and all), but they played it with their hearts – and that’s why Muslims and Pakistanis all over the world can’t get enough of it!
Spot On Representation Of Muslims and Brown Culture
From Iman Vellani going down as the most magically appropriate person to play Kamala Khan to Bruno aka Matt Lintz infiltrating the desi camp like the odd white person found at all desi meet-ups, eating samosas and wearing desi garb, we love how Kamala vibes with her brother Aamir – 2 very different peas in a pod, yet lovingly close to each other despite the miles of appearance that separate them.
It is important to note that many young (and old) people saw themselves in Kamala and her family. You see, every time the west has attempted to portray brown people, or Muslims, or Pakistanis, it’s been a half-hearted walk in the park – representation matters, say brown people, but it’s not just about adding the tick mark, it’s about doing it right. And that’s why Ms. Marvel is hitting the right notes.
We see ourselves, finally!
The moment Kamala’s crush, Kamran aka Rish Shah, breaks into a Pakistani English accent, we KNEW it’s us, but without mocking us, it was downright real and relatable, and hence, we laughed.
The moment Nakia aka Yasmeen Fletcher discovered her shoes were missing from the mosque, we giggled, because we knew that’s us too. Oh, you shouldn’t bring those designer shoes to the mosque man, you KNOW that! The moment Kamala attempts to hide from her brother and his fiancée, we experience a laugh moment at the utter cuteness of it all.
“Hey, hey, I know what ammi means, okay?” brought the ultimate smile to many faces – oh I wish I could hug Kamala’s crush too. Talk about representation and talk about this dialogue – YOU HAVE Hit The Nail On The Freaking Head! You have!
Addressing Important Issues In A Subtle Manner
The series, only 2 episodes down the road has not just addressed the deeper issues through a light take on dialogues – E,g the ‘uncles’ hold’ over the mosque management and the gossiping aunties, ahem, ‘Illumin-auntie’s’ (get the reference) watch Dr. Strange if you’re wondering, we knew the narrative will address deeper issues, some with a light-hearted play on words and scenes, and some with deeper conversations, e,g the Hijab challenge with Naki and the partition conversation over the dinner table.
“Every Pakistani family has a Partition story, and none of them are good”. .. if this wasn’t enough, the conversation turned to the last refugee train. For every Pakistani who has lived through or heard partition stories as they grew up, this conversation touched a raw nerve.
And then the Hijab conversation draws us in deeper:
“Like, when I put this on, I feel like ME” – Naki just breaks down the Hijab debate right there, by telling everyone, it’s a choice, not a ‘no choice’. And then, life goes on, as it should. For all young girls who wear the Hijab or those who don’t. It’s a personal choice for many. Yeah, we hear you, loud and clear!
It is laudable that the makers have decided to sink their teeth in, full throttle, not mincing words, or shying away from topics that vibe with the heartbeat of Pakistanis in particular and Muslims at large, yet being sensitive and true to the narrative.
Don’t miss out on Zoe’s police interrogation – brown girls get more suspicion yeah? It’s part of the deal, how slick was that, inserted in, just like that!
Tribute To Pakistani Artists
It is perhaps the cherry on top that Eva B’s song Rozi, Ko Ko Korina, and Coke Studio’s Peechay Hutt were streamed not only to pay tribute to Pakistani artists but also to vibe with the youth’s current favorites and provide a platform that propels them onto a global stage.
Pakistani is a country that does not have raving OTT platforms. Hence, we always feel our stories are compromised on every level when our writers write for platforms that do not belong to US. Also, there is an element of censorship and a break from reality when stories cannot be told legitimately and with full creative freedom.
Point To Ponder
Not just that, but Pakistanis themselves have often failed to tap into a global Pakistani and local market – a burgeoning youth that sees themselves relate more to Netflix and Hollywood than India or Pakistani youth characterizations onscreen – we literally HAVE to get our heads out of the regressive Pakistani drama themes, but so strong is the old guard, the lobby that backs saas-bahu stories to spike ratings and financial gains that we have treated our youth stories as step children – to be given lip service – a mention here, an image there. Where are we celebrating our youth wins in IT, Sports, Music, or even theatre? Not one biopic have I seen that celebrates their achievements. We have heroes, yes, but our entertainment industry doesn’t feel they can tell their stories creatively enough to garner financial feasibility – hence our stories are either not told, or told from the skewed voices of those who haven’t lived them.
And this is why Ms Marvel comes out on top!
It is the story of a young girl and her family and friends, and despite the Marvellous superhero flavor, it is as real as it gets!
Messages Right, Left & Center!
Onwards to celebrate the creatives. Messages on the bedcover, really? How cool was that! Ko Ko Korina playing in the desi bazaar, Samina Ahmed emerging as Kamala’s nani, and then Nimra Buchha as the mysterious mom figure who has a lot up her sleeve. Kamala discovering her powers was CGI effects with a double punch, the blue light was truly all we needed to feel her catapulted into action, to catch her first save!
Not just that, the series hands out its fair share of humour moments, from Bruno trying hard to impress with Baazigar and Kamala starry-eyed with her first driving lesson with you know who, after she, ahem aced (?) her driving test, to her calling out the Imam at the mosque for sitting in congested quarters as the males enjoyed more space, even the Hulk moments brought laughter and of course, sympathy for poor Kamala – brown kids know how hard it is to get permission for almost anything and this was the icing on the cake!
“There is no such thing as a bad Shah Rukh Khan movie.” Kamala just scored brownie points on the brown people vibing with SRK scale right there!
And that’s why Ms. Marvel is perhaps the one watch brown kids need to watch – they will feel they belong – a phrase more powerful than any integration theory anyone needs to pull up. Acceptance is key, and I think we just found it in Disney+.
The series, so far, has been quite female-centric, but that shouldn’t take away from its success as a product that has taken a very courageous step forward to represent many people’s lives and hopefully, thrown popular Pakistani shades to the world, and why not? We have more than enough negativity to deal with online characterizations, so don’t grudge this little bit of popularity either right?
Ms. Marvel has been created by Bisma K. Ali and directed by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, and Meera Menon. The ensemble cast includes Imam Vellani, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff, Yasmeen Flectcher, Laurel Marsden, Anjali Bhimani, Rish Shah, Nimra Bucha, Mehwish Hayat, Samina Ahmed, Saagar Shaikh, Aramis Knight, and Farhan Akhtar among others.