Ms. Marvel

In 2014, Marvel released a new Ms. Marvel series, featuring Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim American who lives in Jersey City with her parents, who are immigrants from Pakistan. Two of the creators of the series, G. Willow Wilson and Sana Amanat, are Muslim American women who draw from their own experiences in producing the comic. The series has been highly lauded for its positive portrayal of Muslim Americans and its emphasis on many aspects of Kamala’s identity besides her religion, such as being the daughter of immigrants, a nerdy fan of comic books, and an inhuman superhero who must save the world from evil. The complexities of Kamala’s identity are presented visually in her appearance and clothing. The development of Ms. Marvel’s costume throughout the first several issues of the comic can be seen as a political statement of resistance to the over-simplification of Muslim women. Kamala’s intersectional identity is represented in her costume and clothing, as she adapts a burqini (modest swimwear) into her costume, incorporates the lightening bolt from the original Ms. Marvel superhero, and wears a red scarf, similar to a Pakistani dupatta, draped over her neck and flowing behind her.

Similar to other young Muslim Americans, Kamala/Ms. Marvel does not wear a headscarf in the series, but her identity as a Muslim is demonstrated visually in her modest clothing, actions and emotions. Ms. Marvel’s costume does political work by illustrating the positive values of Islam and Pakistani culture without relying on the headscarf trope. Instead of rejecting these elements of her faith and culture as foreign to the American life of a superhero, Kamala embraces these aspects and incorporates them into her costume.

The costume and visual portrayal of Ms. Marvel are also significant because of how fans have used Ms. Marvel’s image in cosplay, fan art and even in a public protest against racist anti-Islam advertisements. Fans have created Tumblr fan pages to highlight their artwork and cosplay. The character of Ms. Marvel made national news in 2015 when an unknown group or individual began to place Ms. Marvel’s images and quotes over Islamophobic ads that appeared on San Francisco buses.

 

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ibtihaj
Ibtihaj Muhammad Represents USA

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