There’s groundbreaking and then there’s groundbreaking on a level which reaches an engaged, mainstream audience.
For many Marvel fans, Ms Marvel had many of the hallmarks of what you’d expect from the brand – emotional stakes, action sequences and pithy one-liners.
But mrs marvel had an extra element that elevates the series above a run-of-the-mill superhero show – a story centered on Muslim-American teenager Kamala Khan, showing not only her community but also her family’s historical trauma with a narrative focus on the 1947 Partition of India.
That is not something you’d ever expect to come up in a mainstream superhero series.
“We grew up watching so many movies and TV shows where there were certain portrayals of Muslims and Islam, and we felt that [with Ms Marvel]we are somehow creating history or TV history or Hollywood history,” mrs marvel episodes one and six co-director Adil El Arbi told news.com.au.
“That was a big honour.”
El Arbi’s co-director Bilall Fallah agreed that the series had a huge impact on fans who saw themselves reflected, but said it’s been the reactions from the wider community that has really moved him.
“You have this reaction from the Muslim community and Muslim girls who are super proud,” Fallah said. “But there are people who have nothing to do with being a Muslim girl from New Jersey. Seeing the series touch all these people around the world from different countries – somebody from Brazil, somebody from South Korea – that’s the thing that keeps me going.”
For executive producer Sana Amanat, it’s been a much longer and personal journey. She was one of the creators of mrs marvel when the character first appeared in comic book form.
A Pakistani-American woman, Amanat has lived many of Kamala Khan’s experiences, including a love of dance – “She did a full dance sequence after she met a boy, we got two dance sequences in this show, which is a huge, huge accomplishment , one of the dreams of my life”.
Amanat has found joy in the series’ largely positive reception. “For the most part, it’s been so positive, and seeing the relief and excitement in people’s voices to have this type representation out there.
“People feel like it’s got some cheese in it, it’s cute and it’s vibrant but people really feel like it was authentic and real and honest, and that makes me so happy.”
There was, unfortunately, a backlash from certain segments of the internet community, who “review bombed” the show, targeting it for daring to feature a superhero who was female and Muslim.
“It is disappointing when people get that angry about something and it’s like, ‘I don’t know why we’re offending you,’” Amanat said. “We’re just trying to make a show and entertain some people. And art doesn’t have to be for every single person in the same way.
“I don’t like everything that’s out there either, that’s part of life. I just wish they wouldn’t try to take us down, don’t review bomb us. Come on, guys.”
Preferring to focus on the good and not the regressive, Amanat has been “overwhelmed” by the response to the show’s finale. She was up until 3am after its release (it drops at midnight in the US, where Amanat lives) looking at reviews and feedback.
And one of the aspects of the show that has really resonated with fans has been the dive into Kamala’s family history, including a half-episode set in the past in the years leading up to Partition, the event in which the former British colony of India was divided into what is now India and Pakistan, splitting the country along religious lines.
Partition displaced millions of people, causing chaos and heartbreak for those who lost their homes, their lives and their families. Weaving Kamala’s family history into that ugly episode positions mrs marvel as a show that cares deeply about the lasting effects of historical and generational trauma.
It was a thread from the comic books but one which was only a few pages across dozens of issues. The team behind the series decided to pull on that thread to see where it went.
“That was the anchor point, because you’re talking about a really important moment in history that affected so many lives,” Amanat explained. “We told it in a simple way, through the perspective of one family and a family whose lives were forever changed by this moment in history, like so many families’ lives were.
“What does that do to the character dynamics of these individuals, of these women specifically? What is lost when trauma happens? You lose not just your sense of power but the understanding of what your power is and how to wield it. That’s truly the story of Kamala and her de ella family, this power that was passed down to her.
Kamala’s claim of that power by discovering her family history is why mrs marvel hits so hard. And connecting it to literal superpowers is a potent manifestation of that. When Amanat heard the word “reclamation” in relation to mrs marvelshe noticeably perked up.
“Reclamation is what this show is about in many, many ways,” she said excitedly. “She needs to understand her history of her and where her power of her came from to reclaim it.
“I love that. I think that word resonates with me so much because as South Asians, as Muslims, as people of colour, we’re also trying to reclaim our story. This show is about reclaiming it and celebrating it.”
Ms Marvel is streaming now on Disney+