Disney+ has finally found its Ms. Marvel, a newcomer ready to break down barriers and stereotypes. Canadian Iman Vellani, the daughter of Pakastani Muslim immigrants, will play Ms. Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager growing up in New Jersey. While Ms. Marvel first appeared in 2014 as Marvel’s first Muslim character to star in her own title — including TV shows Avengers Assemble and Marvel Rising: Initiation — Vellani’s casting will make Kamala Marvel Studios’ first live-action, on-screen Muslim hero. Per reports, Vellani will play the character in an eponymous series on Disney+, as well as making appearances in future Marvel films. In doing so, she’ll take the Marvel Cinematic Universe a few steps closer to encapsulating the real one.
Middle Eastern and Muslim-Americans rarely hear news like this. In fact, it wasn’t until recently, when Hulu’s Ramy burst onto the scene in 2019, that for the first time in 29 years, I finally saw myself, my family, and my culture represented on screen. I can’t stress how moving it was to see a portrayal of a first-generation Middle Eastern and Muslim-American that was funny, real, emotional, and stereotypical in all the best ways. The tropes of the “terrorist” were nowhere to be found. The actors and crew were Middle Eastern. This show was made for us. And what felt even greater was that when I suggested the show to my non-Middle Eastern friends, they loved it just as much. There’s a sense of pride in that series, as if in some way, it belongs to us, too. Having the validation that others outside of our Middle Eastern bubble also sang its praises was something I’ve never experienced.