On March 15, Marvel released the trailer for its live-action series, “Ms. Marvel.” And introduced fans to its first Muslim superhero, Kamala Khan. The Pakistani-American high schooler (played by Iman Vellani) deals with racial microaggressions, teenage angst, and…superpowers. We’re Skimm’ng how Vellani and her role are making super big strides in Hollywood representation.
Marvel Studios always planned to stay true to the comic book character's cultural roots. Even if that meant casting a newcomer who was unknown to the public. And after a lengthy search, they found her. Enter: Iman Vellani. The 19-year-old Pakistani-Canadian actress hails from Ontario. And while she's a fresh face on screen, she's worked behind the scenes in the industry to make films more diverse.
Back in 2019, Vellani was one of 12 students chosen for the Toronto Film Festival's (TIFF) Next Wave Committee — which selects films for the TIFF Next Wave Festival, among other things. When asked by the committee who would play her in a movie, she quipped, “Iron Man… duh.” And now, she’s playing a character under the same umbrella. This brings us to...
While the trailer doesn’t reveal too much, we do learn that the show focuses on Khan’s origin story. Specifically, how the 16-year-old Pakistani-American from New Jersey deals with everyday struggles of teenage life (like talking to boys and navigating social situations). And her newfound superpowers sprinkled on top.
In the comics, Ms. Marvel is a polymorph (aka, a shapeshifter). But her powers vary a bit in the trailer. We see her throw punches with an enlarged fist. While also using cosmic, blue energy to walk hop through the air.
Clips from the trailer show flashes into Khan’s daily life: People mispronouncing her name, attending high school and mosque, meeting boys, and running around town in her red and blue supersuit. These glimpses into Khan’s world have had an effect on the communities she represents, with an outpouring of support for the South Asian representation. For example, Colorado state Rep. Iman Jodeh tweeted, “Seeing a #Muslim, female superhero as a starring member of the #MarvelUniverse makes my heart soar. Any one of us could be a superhero.”
“Ms. Marvel” joins the ranks of “Encanto,” “Batgirl,” and “Turning Red” — films changing the narrative and opening up the spectrum of representation. And while the show doesn’t solve Hollywood’s longstanding casting issues, it does mark another step toward progress made. And this one will be on the small screen very soon…
Disney+. On June 8, "Ms. Marvel" will be available for streaming, after a lengthy pandemic delay. And while it’s only six episodes long, it’s not the only place you’ll be able to watch Khan. In the show, she’s a superhero-obsessed teenager, who particularly looks up to Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson). And rumor has it, Vellani’s character will make an appearance in the 2023 movie, “The Marvels.”
Audiences are ready for the first teen Muslim superhero. And while the TV and film industries are making progress in diversity and inclusion, it’s important to recognize that these movements are still the exception, not the rule. Which means, we have a long way to go.
PS: The Walt Disney Company is a minority investor in theSkimm
Skimm'd by Macy Alcido and Kamini Ramdeen-Chowdhury
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