Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

Ms. Marvel is the Family-Friendly Positive Muslim Portrayal I’ve Been Waiting For

Sarah Mina Osman

Let’s face it: most of us in high school were not cool. I know I wasn’t: I went to yearbook camp (yes, this is a thing and it is as dorky as it sounds) and was a theater geek. My friends and I would get bored and wander the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble, and if we were feeling really adventurous, do the same thing at Target. I failed my first driver’s test and could nerd out about pop culture for hours. When it came to teenagers on TV, I never saw anyone who even remotely resembled me and my friends. Instead, every teen series starred adults wearing clothes that would certainly break dress code, and who dealt with everything from murder to marriage. To make matters even less relatable, I hardly ever saw a person of color, let alone anyone who practiced Islam like my family.

Many years later, Disney+ has created a show that focuses on the type of character I desperately wanted to see growing up. Starring a plucky teenage heroine named Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), Ms. Marvel is funny, heartfelt, and action-packed. There’s a little something for everyone, and the most remarkable part about the series is that it is a positive representation of Muslims. While this shouldn’t be remarkable in 2022, Muslims are still grossly underrepresented in media, and when they are represented, they are often portrayed as terrorists.

Lazy loaded image
Yasmeen Fletcher, Matt Lintz, Iman Vellani ©Disney+/Courtesy Everett Collection.

A 2020 study conducted by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, with support from others, found that among 200 of the top-grossing movies across English-speaking countries, 90.5% of these films didn’t feature a Muslim-speaking character, and 39% of “primary and secondary” Muslim characters were perpetrators of violence. For families who have never been exposed to Muslims, or whose only knowledge of Islam is offensive stereotypes, Ms. Marvel helps to break down many of those barriers by showing a relatively normal family (relative since she does have superpowers). And for kids who come from Muslim families, they finally get to see a relatable hero.

Ms. Marvel follows Kamala Khan, who is grappling with the fact that she’s inherited a magical bangle that allows her to walk on air. At the same time, she’s also an everyday kid living in Jersey City. She loves sloths, geeks out over Captain Marvel (who, in this universe, is real) and hangs out with her buddy Bruno (Matt Lintz). She also happens to celebrate Eid, go to the Mosque with her family, and dance to Bollywood songs. Her heritage and religion aren’t the crux of who she is: they are part of who she is. By showing her in this light, the series sends a powerful message: Muslims are just like everybody else.

'Ms. Marvel' on Disney+ $7.99 Buy now Sign Up

Growing up, I never saw Eid on TV, even though we celebrated it every year. It was difficult trying to explain why we honored this holiday, especially as quite a few of my peers were convinced we were terrorists. There wasn’t a show or movie to point to that I could reference to explain my heritage. Ms. Marvel helps bridge that gap by explaining Islam and breaking down those harmful typecasts, which is why you should watch it with your family.

The rest of her family is also exceedingly relatable. Her dad loves to make dad jokes, her mother loves to fret over her, and her brother is a big goofball who’s excited to get married. She even has to deal with gossipy neighbors, who exist in pretty much every culture. Regardless of culture, most of us can see at least one of our family members in these characters. This approach is what makes Ms. Marvel such an ideal watch for families.

Lazy loaded image
Mohan Kapur, Iman Vellani, Nimra Bucha, Saagar Shaikh ©Disney+/Courtesy Everett Collection.

The series itself is appropriate for families to watch together: there is no illicit content and the teenagers behave like kids. While there is some violence, it’s at the same level of any other Marvel movie. Fans of Marvel will love the plot, which expands the Marvel universe (and if you don’t fully understand the MCU, your children will be able to explain it to you.)

As the child of a Muslim immigrant, Ms. Marvel is definitely the Muslim representation I’ve been waiting for. My family is not identical to Kamala Khan’s: we are not Pakistani, have never lived in New Jersey, and none of us have superpowers. Obviously, the writers can’t represent every type of Muslim in the series, but there were many moments that were all too relatable for me. Like Kamala’s father, Yusuf, (Mohan Kapoor), my dad (or as I call him, Baba) is a dork who loves to tell dad jokes and who is also deeply supportive of me. Like Kamala’s mother, Muneeba, (Zenobia Shroff), Baba also criticizes my wardrobe, but has a sweet side and loves to educate me about our history. I look forward to one day watching the series with my family, who I am sure will be delighted by it.

It’s time for teen shows to feature teenagers actually behaving like teenagers and who represent the cultural map that now makes up America. Hopefully, Ms. Marvel will be the start of this.

Before you go, click here to see celebrity women of color share the first movie or TV character who made them feel seen.
Diana Ross

Leave a Comment