As rumors circulate that the latest possessor of the Ms. Marvel namesake Kamala Khan may be appearing in an upcoming Marvel film, the internet is showing its less flattering colors in response.
Comments arguing that her character revolves solely around her Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage are broken up only by Islamophobic jokes and people saying it’s “just not realistic” that a Muslim woman would be a superhero. These people, quite clearly, have not read the series. There is plenty of depth to Kamala’s character and there are plenty of reasons we could use a girl like her in the MCU.
1. Cool Powers
It seems obvious, but one of the most important aspects of a superhero’s identity is their superpowers, and lately we’ve seen a lot of repetition in the MCU. After Black Panther, fans lamented the overuse of supersuits and supersoldier serums, arguing that many of the heroes in the universe were starting to follow a similar formula.
This would not be the case for Kamala. Her powers are more theatrical and would translate well to screen, and most importantly, they’re unlike anything we have right now.
Kamala’s powers mostly revolve around shapeshifting and while we’ve seen Loki use shapeshifting before to look like other people, Kamala tends to use her power to morph her body in impossible ways. She might stretch her legs to give herself super speed, or enlarge her hand to squeeze an enemy into submission. Pair that with her healing factor and we have a hero that could certainly be an asset in big showdown fights.
2. Her Youth
Assuming Disney isn’t planning to pack in one of their biggest moneymakers anytime soon, it’s pertinent that they begin to introduce a new generation of heroes. This has already begun, with teenage characters like Spiderman and Shuri joining forces with the original six as well as young adult heroes who are just getting started, like Ant-Man and Scarlet Witch.
Assuming the Avengers find a way to reverse recent events in their next film, it’s safe to say we’re in the midst of preparing for a new generation of heroes. At 17, Kamala would be another valuable edition to a group of young heroes, with years of believable action heroism ahead of her.
3. Her Relatability
Arguments that Kamala’s only identity stems from her heritage are totally unfounded. Her faith is a big part of her life, but overall, she’s just a kid who wants to do the right thing. She’s a kid who gets in trouble for staying out late, who doesn’t know how to talk to her parents about the complications in her life. She’s a kid like any other kid.
Headlines calling her “Marvel’s first Muslim hero” are accurate, sure, but also reductive, and those railing against the use of her character are being similarly reductive. Just as Steve Rogers mentions God every so often in his non-threatened, socially acceptable Christian way, Kamala goes to mosque. She doesn’t eat pork. She loves God and her family. It’s quite similarly non-threatening, and quite similarly just a piece of her overall identity.
4. Representation Matters
This is an extension of my last point but the fact is, it’s good for America to have healthy representations of Muslims in the media. Especially in a post-9/11 world where people are still vapidly prejudiced against Muslims, seeing one as a hero could make a world of difference.
The fact that Kamala is a teenage girl first and a superhero second who also happens to be a Muslim, portrays Islam in a much more realistic light than the extremist impression many people have. It shows the ways in which the majority of Muslims are really just people.
Kamala also shows that it’s possible to be a strong Muslim woman, as so many people cling to the idea that all Muslim women are oppressed. While it is true that there are tenets of Islam that require submission from women, so are there such tenets in Christianity and many other religions, and those religions rarely face the same scrutiny as Islam. Kamala is opinionated, strong, and heroic. We even see her being critical of the more sexist elements of her own religion in a way that does not detract from the religion as a whole.
In the 2014 Ms. Marvel comic series, we see her living a quite functional family life. Her parents are a bit strict, but not excessively so, and we see her in a loving relationship with her protective father.
5. The MCU Knows What They’re Doing
I’m not the only nerd around here who places a lot of trust in the Marvel brand. They’ve consistently delivered quality comic book content for decades now and over the past 10 years, the MCU has developed into a collection of excellent films with great characters. Even the worst of MCU films are better than your average sci fi movie, and they become even better when you consider the ways they all connect with each other.
My point here is that the MCU will know what to do with this character. Many of the characters they have brought to screen so far had far less personality in the comics than they do in the films and I’ve yet to see one of their adaptations fall flat (villains notwithstanding- not their strong suit but they’re getting better).
If Marvel decides to bring Kamala to the screen, I trust them to do it well. Kamala Khan is not just a Muslim girl, thrown in for the sake of diversity. She has a hero’s heart and the ability to kick ass, and what else do we require of our superheroes? A few one-liners here or there, and she’ll be right on par with Peter Parker.
Kamala deserves a place in the MCU, and, more importantly, she deserves not to be dismissed because of her faith. The Ms. Marvel comic series is available on the Marvel Unlimited app with subscription, or at your local comic book shop (which could probably really use your patronage) so go on out and read for yourselves before you pass judgement on the character based on a headline alone.