Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ms Marvel gets a multicultural makeover

1977 (via comicbookcatacombs)
Begun as a rather problematic response to second-wave feminism, Ms. Marvel was a superhero who embodied "modern woman's quest for raised consciousness, for self-liberation, for identity" — while wearing very tight and revealing clothes.

2006 (Wikimedia) You don't even want to know about the fan art versions.
That's right. Blonde, blue-eyed and buxom, she was a reminder that inside many male comic book artists is a furiously masturbating 13-year-old boy.

But there's a new Ms. Marvel in town:

Kamala Khan is "a 16-year-old high school student who lives in Jersey City with her Pakistani immigrant parents," according to AlJazeera and represents the first Muslim lead character in a Marvel comic series.

Fatemeh Fakhraie, the founder of Muslimah Media Watch, applauded the move. "She is going to be a window into the American Muslim experience," she said. "A lot of us are bumping up against that the idea that a lot of America is white, while that isn't what America is, we're not all white and Christian."

The best thing about this move is that it appears to be an attempt to move beyond the token ethnic stereotypes of 70s superheroes like Power Man. The character is inspired by the authentic experiences of Marvel editor Sana Amanat growing up as a Pakistani Muslim-American.

Sana Amanat (left) Via Marvel Comics
The character was further developed by writer G. Willow Wilson, who is herself a Muslim convert. She told
"Her religion is an integral part of who she is, and that is obvious right away. But she is not a poster child (for Islam). I’ve been wearing hijab for ten years, but I wanted to make her representative of Muslim woman at large, and the majority does not wear hijab. She is not perfect, and she doesn’t ascribe to perfection. She’s kind of shy geek girl who kind of has artsy interests. A big part of her life is trying to balance the demands of her faith with the realities of being a teenager. An interesting side story is that one of her best friends just started to wear hijab in the book and is getting more serious about the religion."
It will be interesting to watch this move by Marvel filter through American society. Conan O’Brien already got a taste of controversy when he made a stupid joke about the character on Twitter. Stephen Colbert, on the other hand, got a pass for doing much the same thing — but in strawman character.

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