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Thoughts on Ms. Marvel

It is rare to see South-East Asian representation in Hollywood. However, it is virtually unseen to have South-East Asian representation that does not allude to a racist and offensive picture. Representations of groups in media can make it abundantly clear that no South-East Asian perspective was included in making the media product in question.


Admittedly, media has a significant impact on all of us. It provides us with information, thereby giving us a sense of understanding of the world.


The media’s most significant power, however, is to give consumers a sense of what is right and wrong. It does this by cultivating biases in their thinking. Don’t get me wrong; the media can convey many positive messages. Recently, I saw an online episode of the Burka Avenger where the superhero tackles misinformation spreading in their village by the portrayed villain. It is a step in the right direction for children growing up in the digital age to understand these concepts.


Contrary to the educative message conveyed in the Burka Avenger, I have also seen a caricature of South-East Asian people by The Simpsons in its Apu character.


However, when Ms. Marvel was released, we had several reasons to be excited at the prospect of more realistic Pakistani and South-East Asian representation in Hollywood. It was the first time Pakistani and South-East Asian actors, artists and art creators came together to tell an important story. Ms. Marvel is the first time my generation has been able to see a depiction of the 1947 Partition of India, an event we all have family stories about, on television and the big screen (Ms. Marvel was shown in theatres in Pakistan).


If this is the point where you think you will see a “however” before I talk about the problems of the series, you are mistaken. I think the series is spectacular. The storytelling is unique in that it blends the many facets of Pakistani culture with a story that has elements of action, romance, and discovering one’s passion. The storytelling is combined with a great colour scheme which adds to the incentive of watching the series to completion.


Ms. Marvel allowed many veteran actors of the Pakistani film and television industry to show their mettle in Hollywood. Fawad Khan, Mehwish Hayat, and Nimra Bucha are all household names in Pakistan. Meeting the requirements of an action show is no small feat, especially whilst conveying emotions effectively.


Moreover, many up-and-coming South-East Asian music artists had their work featured in the production. Some notable songs include Pasoori, Jalebi Baby, and Peechay Hutt among others.


While the show was not shot in Pakistan, it did show snippets of Karachi to establish that part of the story was taking place there.


Ms. Marvel, therefore, established itself as a showcase of South-East Asian talent, ideas, and places. It made us feel seen.


But should we be satisfied with the portrayal? The show has undoubtedly given space to South-East Asia. However, there are contestations that the aeroplane scene of passengers taking out their luggage despite the contrary announcement was a form of stereotyping Pakistanis. Additionally, some of Kamala’s conversations with her family are unnatural and not how Pakistanis talk with each other.


It is important to remember that Ms. Marvel is just one form of telling a Pakistani story. It takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is the first of its kind, and there are bound to be some number of issues. Research on Partition and associated topics are still being done, with many conversations still taking place. The luggage scene could have been intended only for comic relief. Nonetheless, voicing your concerns and taking an active part in the telling of your stories is essential.


I think Ms. Marvel has left viewers excited. However, engaging in discourse and discussion will allow us to ensure the representation of more realistic, and by extension, more nuanced South-East Asian stories.


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7 Comments


Abdul Rehman Mirza
Abdul Rehman Mirza
Aug 07, 2022

A great blog indeed. I think the show makers did a great job while representing the culture and tradition of the Pakistani people. The mention of Bismillah, the Urdu language, well-known Pakistani and Indian songs, traditional clothes, desi family banter, and many other elements have helped the show's creators present an almost authentic portrayal of Muslim and South Asian culture. Though just wanted to add a point that despite being a successful hit, there have been some review bombings too. Some individuals gave the show poor reviews, and there may have been a number of factors, including unrelatable representation and racism, and Islamophobia. The mini-series received one-star ratings three minutes after it was released and some indicated that viewers may…

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I think the creators have done a fantastic job. It is that unique of a take and this fact affords it some leeway in terms of making its mistakes. The airplane scene however is something I'd want to talk about since power dynamics come into play here once again.


South Asians have already been subjected to a lot of stereotyping. This has resulted in a lot of preconceived notions being fed to the audience. I think reinforcing these adds to the issues. I would not be as forgiving as calling it an attempt at comedy since Marvel does a great job of it without otherising the average white superhero. They can do better here too.

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The way you have articulated your thoughts is commendable! I had a great time reading your blog. I liked how your blog praised Ms. Marvel's beauty and the pride it conveyed to Pakistanis or South Asian culture in general, rather than just focusing on all the problems it had.

As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I believe there have always been issues with the depiction of South Asian or Pakistani people. I recall that the slightest mention of Pakistan or the usage of the Urdu language in Iron Man movies was not done in a flattering way. However, now the narratives have been changed. A multinational entertainment platform like the MCU has now warmly welcomed the diversity that…

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Very well covered blog in terms of details and ideas.


So, before Ms. Marvel I had never watched an MCU production willingly, and by that I mean my brothers are HUGE fans but I just never really gave it much thought, and if we were going to watch a new release in the cinema, it was for me like any other family outing. Given that, I was surprised at myself for looking forward to Ms. Marvel as much as I did and practically binge watching the entire show so I could watch the last 2 episodes on the big screen with family friends who are practically veteran fans.


About the airplane scene I don't think I'd fully agree that it…


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Hi Sabeeh! So I am really glad to know that you enjoyed reading the blog. Moreover, thank you for speaking so generously on what you liked and disliked regarding what is in discussion.


Having said that, I think you have touched upon three areas in your comment: Is Ms. Marvel Pakistani enough? Can Ms. Marvel not be enjoyed by all levels of Pakistani society? Lastly, to what extent does Ms. Marvels depiction of Partition aid the pre-existing discourse on it?


Well, to answer your first question I will say that the sole objective of the Kamala Khan was not to give the Pakistani viewers someone they could find themselves in. Kamala Khan is a character that has grown up around…


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Sabeeh - 24020369
Sabeeh - 24020369
Jul 31, 2022
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Thank you for the detailed reply Jehangir! Really appreciate the time you took out to write this. I do agree with your points here and they have definitely opened up my perspective on Ms Marvel. Thank you!

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