Since Iron Man served as the catalyst for the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (MCU) in 2008, the films have mainly centered on iconic figures from the 1960s comic book era. The vast majority of the heroic figures who have been on our televisions over the past 14 years have therefore been American, male, and white. The trend is changed by Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel delves into the life of Pakistani American girl Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), she then evolves into a superhero. The TV show, depicting Pakistani American teenager Kamala Khan, the first Muslim character to lead in her own comic — debuted in Pakistan on June 16 and was aired on Disney+ on June 2022.

Kamala, a 16-year-old girl, realizes she has superpowers owing to a bangle descended from her grandmother. Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, is a regular girl from Jersey City, New Jersey, and a huge Marvel enthusiast. She has to deal with both school trolls and inappropriate crushes. Kamala has her own goals, desires, and ambitions, and also her own struggles, uncertainties, and challenges to conquer, which almost everyone can relate to.

Somewhat from casting to historical aspects to the portrayal of Pakistani women, Pakistani popular media experts and teenagers weigh in on the series. Kamala, a Pakistani-American teenager, has become one of Marvel’s finest iconic characters over the last decade, with a large fan base. The show has gotten a lot of great reviews, and Kamala’s representation is groundbreaking, notably for Muslims and South Asian fans.   Regretfully, the series has gotten racist and discriminatory criticism from review bombers.


Breaking the stereotypes

It’s not every day that a hero in an American television show mentions Pakistan. Ms. Marvel, which features a teen Muslim lead, looks to be redefining the conversation. Many people adore Ms. Marvel because she breaks stereotypes of how Pakistani women in movies have always been portrayed. Women are portrayed as victims in several of Pakistan’s greatest famous TV programs and movies. In the drama named Pyar Ke Sadqay, the protagonist was shown blissfully reuniting with her unfaithful husband. And in a 2012 drama, Humsafar was hit from Lahore to Toronto, depicted a character who was also a victim and was forced out of her home by her abusive mother-in-law.

On the flip side, Ms. Marvel features female protagonists that display extraordinary fortitude in the midst of hardship.

People expressed delight at discovering Kamala in American superheroes as a diverse, three-dimensional warrior because she symbolizes a change from the recurrent terrorist and victimized women themes combined with depictions of the Islamic religion that have characterized western modern culture. Since she has ties to both her own country and her ancestral one, fans find her to be “relatable.”

People who identify as South Asian Muslims were thrilled for her since she not only embodies many of their traditions but also breaks with the misconception that Muslims are equal to Middle Eastern.


India-Pakistan trauma

Historians believe that the partition of the subcontinent, which resulted in the migration of around 15 million individuals and the loss of nearly a million, to be one of the most massive migrations in human history.

Sana, the protagonist Kamala Khan’s grandmother, refers to the 1947 partition that led to the creation of India and Pakistan. Critics lauded the six-episode series for portraying that heinous event sensitively and subtly.

The anguish and suffering of the partition have been shown on screen by both the Indian and Pakistani movie studios. Ms. Marvel, on the other hand, portrays it from the contemporary time, weaving together numerous generations to tell a multigenerational story of tragedy, grief, and identity.


Cultural and religious references

Another significant aspect is Kamala Khan’s Pakistani culture. India has frequently overshadowed representations of South Asia by Westerners, but Pakistanis also have their own unique culture in addition to many shared traditions and characteristics. That’s why rumors circulated that Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World, and Bollywood star, was the early favorite to get the role.

Ms. Marvel’s producers consciously crafted a setting that exhibits South Asian heritage and history through its themes and words. Kamala and Kamran mock their favorite Shahrukh Khan film, Baazigar. Kamala substitutes the popular “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” with Baazigar. Her parents are watching “Ko Ko Korina,” a 1960s tune while talking about Riz Ahmed’s band. The show also includes the upbeat “Peechay Hutt,” a song from Coke Studio Pakistan that has become popular with Pakistani youth, both locally and around the world.

Most Pakistanis Muslims have appreciated the series’s religious touches as well. Others argue that the favorable image of Muslims in the western media accomplishes little to combat racial hostility and state-sanctioned extreme violence towards Muslims in various countries. Ms. Marvel referred to similar ideas, including when the US Department of Damage Control accused the local mosque of sheltering criminals. In everyday life, a hero might not always conquer the world, but she shows us how to seize the moment: by putting on your nicest shalwar kameez, On Eid calling your friends, eating biryani with relatives, and dancing at celebrations.



Ms. Marvel, the most recent series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, totally captivates viewers in Kamala’s reality, particularly the world of an immigrant, Muslim, Pakistani American community residing in Jersey City. It’s significant to see a person like Kamala in an area where Muslim characters are often excluded due to unfavorable perceptions. Ms. Marvel has given the opportunity to Muslim girls and women to connect with a superhero.

The show continues to be a visual delight that contributes greatly to offering audiences worldwide unexpected and unique perspectives into South Asian portrayal. Vellani highlighted her enthusiasm over the significant presence of South Asians in the show, stating that she thought this would lead the road for more South Asians to produce content in Hollywood. Kamala’s inclusion in the MCU, like her appearance in the books in 2013, has surely started a debate about South Asian inclusion in contemporary culture; hopefully, this debate will have an impact well beyond the show.

Published in Global Affairs August 2022 Edition

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Zahra Nayyer

Written by Zahra Nayyer

Zahra Nayyer is an intern at Global Affairs. She is pursuing her Bachelors from National Defense University Islamabad. Her areas of interest includes the Middle East, South Asia, International Politics, and International Relations.

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