'Ms. Marvel', MSU's first Muslim super heroine is finally here

Jumping out of our screens on June 8th, 'Ms. Marvel' is everything you wish in a Marvel heroine, and more.
'Ms. Marvel', MSU's first Muslim super heroine is finally here

Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel is a new, original series airing on Disney+ from June 8th that introduces Kamala Khan (played by Iman Vellani), a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. An avid gamer and a voracious fan-fiction scribe, Kamala is a Super Hero megafan with an oversized imagination — particularly when it comes to her favourite, Captain Marvel. Yet Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home — that is, until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s always looked up to.

But will Kamala's life get easier with superpowers? Well, for that you'll have to tune in on June 8th. Which coincidentally, is also when the DIsney+ streaming service will begin being available in the MENA region, and what a great show to kick off the merriment with!

Things we love so far, after watching two episodes of the series in a very special preview for the press? Here we go.

We love the name of the super heroine, as another Kamala is a sort of American super icon already, our first female Vice-President.

We also love that the series is written by British-Pakistani comedienne Bisha K. Ali, and most of the episodes for the first season are directed by filmmakers Adil & Bilall, who also serve as Executive Producers on Ms. Marvel. The duo is known for their feature films, which include Image (2014), Black (2015), and Gangsta (2018), as well as directing Bad Boys for Life, the third installment of the Bad Boys franchise starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. And recent Cannes title Rebel, hailed as "an immensely powerful and nuanced portrayal of a family torn apart over a little Muslim boy’s future."

During a special press conference online, Ms. Marvel's Executive Producer Sana Amanat, who is also the Pakistani-American editor behind the comic book the series is based on, talked about getting the series greenlit. "When we were crafting this comic about eight years ago, we joked about how we're like -- Mm, this is not gonna get past issue nine." She continued, admitting that "the comic did really well. We had incredible runs. And I think what I love about it the most is that it had people from different backgrounds, people that never really read comics before showing up in comic shops for the first time because of what this meant and what it stood for. And I think that is really sort of the merits of the success of this series. And a few years later when, Kevin [Feige also Executive Producer on the series] let us know that he wanted to make this into a show, I was thrilled."

Feige also disclosed his reasonings for choosing the character for a series, "Marvel is such a privilege because not only are the re-interpretations every few years of existing wonderful characters, but every once in a while, and it does seem like every decade or so, there's a new character that comes around that catches the audiences imagination. And this character clearly did that." He continued that "it always seemed inevitable in a way that we would be able to do it and when Disney+ came around, it really gave us the opportunity to do what we really wanted do which was tell her full story in six episodes. And then have her then transition into a feature." Ms. Marvel will serve as set-up for the film The Marvels (2023), in which Vellani will reprise her role as Khan along with additional cast members from the series.

Expect the six episodes to be packed with action, fantasy but also cultural references that allow Ms. Marvel to do a little instructing along with the undeniable entertainment. There are songs mixed into the soundtrack by Riz Ahmed, A.R. Rahman as well as Bollywood sounds. Arabic words are dropped from time to time, and a peek into the Pakistani American community of Jersey City. It all works collectively and reinforces the Marvel power of inclusivity and acceptance. And that is what we're really crushing on.

Another reason to love Ms. Marvel is that two episodes are directed by double Oscar-winning director and journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose films Saving Face and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness garnered her Academy Awards, which must sit nicely next to her seven Emmy Awards and a Knight International Journalism Award.

Obaid-Chinoy pointed to the great insight the series offers and said " I think it was about letting the world into the secret that the South Asian culture is pretty freaking cool," continuing, "our food, our music, the way the parents' relationship with the kids are. I wanted to make it cool so that anybody watching it would be like, that was my argument with my mom when I wanted to go out and she's like, 'there are going to be boys there. Stay home.'" But of course, beyond the cultural references, she also mentioned the Marvel inclusivity factor, "you know, sort of make it such that anyone watching beyond, you know, the Muslim world, South Asian immigrant families watching could see a reflection of themselves on screen. And the superhero bit was just that I always believe that everyone has a superhero in them; they just have to activate it. And telling this story is going to change so much for so many people, because I know I have two young girls that when they see Kamala Khan, they too will know that they can also be a superhero."

The young actors and seasoned veterans who star in the series include Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Zenobia Shroff as Kamala's mom, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Rish Shah, Fawad Khan, Laurel Marsden, Arian Moayed, Adaku Ononogbo, Alysia Reiner, Azhar Usman, Laith Nakli, Nimra Bucha, Travina Springer and Aramis Knight.

Khan confessed that she received the casting call via a WhatsApp forward from her aunt, something she called "the brownest way this could happen!" She explained the process further, "I thought it was a scam. I don't know what a casting calls look like, but they are not white pages that say, Ms. Marvel Disney+ and headshot and resume here. I sent in a very academic resume, the one photo I had of myself. And they sent back the sides for the self-tape. I was like, I knew exactly which comic books they pulled them from. And I was like, okay this is real.  I can't do it. I was like making excuses for myself out of fear of failure. And at, like, 3:00 a.m. the night it was due, I sent in my self-tape. And two days later I get a call." To make a long story short, Khan auditioned in LA, then did a final self tape, another screen test over Zoom. "And I got casted on the last day of high school," she admitted.

At the core of Ms. Marvel is the Belgian Moroccan directing duo of Adil & Bilall. "After we were editing Bad Boys for Life, we were saying, "What's the next step?"  And next step had to be Marvel," Adil admitted, "and we were kind of joking around and saying, 'If you're gonna do a Marvel show, it's gonna have to be a Muslim character.'"

"Not knowing that it existed actually. So that's how we discovered Ms. Marvel, and knew that they were going to do something about it. And we fell in love with Kamala Khan, with her world, her character. I mean we are Moroccan Belgians, so when we were 15, 16, we were also still looking for our identity, our place in the world."

Famous last words belonged to Amanat, "I think what's really incredible about this show is this idea of, you know, we've been talking a lot about identity and sort of there's so much celebration happening in the course of these episodes. In every single episode there's just so much love and connectivity. And I feel like this show is really about sort of, you know, a reclamation of your identity, about going back to whatever households."

"Watch this show and go back to your own households, your own community and kinda relish in it. And celebrate your community and the fact that we can be proud in whatever skin color, background, sexual identity that we might have, and embrace it. We want the show and the people to feel joyous afterwards and to celebrate in the fact of who they are and who their communities are and just kinda spread that love outwards."

To watch Ms. Marvel and other cool shows, sign up for a subscription on Disney+.

You may also like