The audience members of “Ms. Marvel” have been taken on a whirlwind journey that spans both time and space during the course of the show’s six episodes. The conclusion of Kamala Khan’s heroic origin tale took place on Wednesday, and throughout that day, the young woman from New Jersey who was obsessed with the Avengers learned about the secret supernatural past of her family while also incorporating real historical events into the plot.
“Ms. Marvel” has the potential to become another Marvel Cinematic Universe program that appeals to people outside the typical Marvel devout thanks to its young tone, inclusive narrative, and loose links to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These are the elements. Lorraine Ali, the TV reviewer for The New York Times, and Tracy Brown, a staff writer for The New York Times, explore what worked, the show’s representational achievements, and other topics now that the series has come to an end.
Tracy Brown: There are a handful of moments in the “Ms. Marvel” finale that truly made me scream, but there is a great deal we should talk about before I disrupt our discussion by digging into what I felt were the most thrilling disclosures from the episode.
It is impossible for me to adequately describe how entertaining it has been to watch “Ms. Marvel.” It really leaned into the fun and young energy and the cultural uniqueness that I have always felt to be the comic book Ms. Marvel’s strengths, and I don’t want to rehash everything you nailed in your original assessment of the series because I don’t want to repeat what you said there.
People love to speak about superhero weariness or reject any film or TV program that falls into the genre, but “Ms. Marvel” is a beautiful example of the varied sort of storytelling that can happen inside the superhero realm and is a great illustration of why people love to talk about superhero fatigue. When was the last time an American television program even mentioned how India and Pakistan were split up?
In spite of this, one of Kamala Khan’s legacies will be the fact that her comic books found an audience among readers who had not previously been interested in superhero comics. I believe that with the exception of a few standouts like “WandaVision,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe episodes on Disney+ have failed to garner an audience that is comprised of more than just existing Marvel fans. I know you are not new to Marvel programs or the genre in general, Lorraine, but I was wondering where you were able to obtain the whole series. How accessible do you think it is for fans who haven’t been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as a whole?
In my opinion, two of the most important components that make “Ms. Marvel’s” secret sauce work so well are its youthful vitality and its cultural distinctiveness. Watching this series has been a treat for a number of different reasons. Even while each of Marvel’s Disney+ shows has had a unique tone and method to telling their stories, “Ms. Marvel” stands out as a true anomaly — and this is a quality that should be praised.
To begin, our protagonist, Kamala Khan, is an American-Pakistani teenager who practices Islam. Iman Vellani, who plays Kamala Khan, is a very engaging young actor. The arc of her character and the sources of her power all have significant roots in her ancestry, gender, and religious beliefs. And the music and aesthetic embellishments in the series — including all of the moving animation on billboards, chalkboards, and in the sky — come across as completely unique. The series has a profound respect for Marvel’s canonical narratives and mythologies, but it also demonstrates an understanding of immigrant culture. This is demonstrated in a number of ways, including conflicts that arise between South Asian parents and the American-born children they have, as well as the experience of a young person from the United States who investigates his or her own ancient origins. The outcome is a superhero program that does not seem like simply another superhero show because of the natural way in which two worlds are blended together in “Ms. Marvel.” Viewers who aren’t already involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will likely find it easier to follow along because of this.
Brown: Reports say that “Ms. Marvel” hasn’t been getting many viewers. As you said, the show is about a teenage Pakistani-American girl, and there are a lot of people, even MCU fans, who won’t watch a show just because the main character is from that background. But I think people who liked Kamala Khan before and people who have been waiting for the MCU to be more open-minded have welcomed it.
I will say that when Kamala’s DNA is revealed in the finale, almost every MCU fan will be talking about it.
As a kid who liked comic books and often drew her favorite characters instead of doing her homework, I can relate to Kamala in many ways. But I think what I liked most about this show was how it showed how a second-generation immigrant kid grows up and accepts all parts of who she is. I think that for a long time, stories about being an Asian American kid with immigrant parents fell into two categories: traditional Asian bad, modern American good; traditional parents bad, modern friends and found family good. But not all of us are like that.
Stories in shows like “Ms. Marvel” and movies like “Turning Red” by Pixar show how “tension” comes from a place of love. Kamala clearly loves her parents, and she loves being Pakistani American and Muslim just as much as she loves being a huge superhero nerd. As we grow up, it can be hard to figure out how to combine different parts of who we are, but it’s never about rejecting one or the other.
We’ve talked a little bit about how “Ms. Marvel” is a turning point for both the MCU and TV in general, but not so much about Kamala’s faith. How did it feel to see the first Muslim superhero in the MCU? How do you think that part of Kamala’s story was told in this series?
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