Visibility and Representation: Ms. Marvel’s Journey of Becoming

Curator's Note

Ms. Marvel subverts our expectations and allows the main character Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) to discover her own identity throughout the series. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we are asked to reimagine Kamala as a Djinn, a ClanDestine, a member of the Noor dimension, and even as a (spoiler!) mutant. Kamala’s comic origin includes neither a Noor dimension nor her being part Djinn. The inclusion of both enriches our understanding of the character and draws on cultural elements that an audience with a similar background as Kamala would be familiar with. Noor, for example, is an Arabic word that translates to light. The light dimension in the comics has no connection to Kamala, but the writers take the opportunity to use the light dimension to explain how she receives her powers and to reference the dimension using language authentic to the character’s cultural heritage. 

While some in the Marvel fan base argue against these changes, we believe that this reimagining of her origin to align with elements of her culture enriches Kamala as a character and allows her to become grounded in what matters to her most: her family and her community. Images of a loving family and supportive religious community are important for the audience to see. 

Ms. Marvel is at its best when it focuses on getting to know Kamala Khan. We see Kamala at home joking with her brother and running errands with her mom. We see her attending services at the Mosque and grounding her superhero morality in advice from her Imam. We watch Kamala and her best friend Nakia navigate self-expression, religion, and boys. These slices of life that the show offers, highlight how Marvel’s inclusion of diverse writers, directors, and actors allows them to tell cultural stories in a way that allows brown girls like Kamala to do more than see someone who looks like them, but who also exists in a world that they can relate to. This approach charts a path forward for the telling of diverse stories and moving from visibility to representation.

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