"Do not be satisfied with stories, that which has come before. Unfold your own myth." - Rumi
Both Bollywood and comic book fans buzzed about the news that Priyanka Chopra would give voice to Avengers heroine Ms. Marvel in the TinyCo free app Marvel Avengers Academy. Kamala Khan, the girl behind the superhero’s mask, is Marvel’s first Muslim character and a superfan of superheroes. According to Marvel.com:
Kamala Khan, perennial superhero fangirl, counts herself as incredibly lucky to be around the rest of her classmates at Avengers Academy as Ms. Marvel. She works furiously to be the best teammate she can be, even though she often finds it difficult to contain her excitement when interacting with the likes of Captain America and Black Widow. Despite being younger than the rest of the crew, she has one of the biggest hearts of anyone at the Academy, and her fellow Avengers believe her insights to be just as necessary to success—both in class and in battle—as their own.
Launched in February 2014, Kamala Khan is the fourth incarnation of Ms. Marvel in the Marvel Universe. She has body-morphing powers which include stretching, deforming, expanding, or compressing her body into any size or shape she needs to achieve her goal. She also has rapidly healing powers and a bioluminescent energy signature.
Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona are responsible for bringing the story of the 16-year-old superhero to life. She is your average teenager growing up in New Jersey. Her conservative, Pakistani Muslim family is both a strength and a challenge. As a teenager, she wants go to parties and stay out past 9:00pm. While she draws on her Muslim roots in her daily life, she also feels the need to to defend her family and their beliefs. In a 2013 interview, G. Willow Wilson explained:
The Ms. Marvel mantle has passed to Kamala Khan, a high school student from Jersey City who struggles to reconcile being an American teenager with the conservative customs of her Pakistani Muslim family. So in a sense, she has a “dual identity” before she even puts on a super hero costume. Like a lot of children of immigrants, she feels torn between two worlds: the family she loves, but which drives her crazy, and her peers, who don't really understand what her home life is like.
This makes her tough and vulnerable at the same time. When you try to straddle two worlds, one of the first things you learn is that instead of defending good people from bad people, you have to spend a lot of time defending good people from each other. It's both illuminating and emotionally brutal.
In the TEDxTeen talk "Myths, misfits & masks", Marvel editor Sana Amanat explains the how Kamala Khan's story is everyone's story:
So why does a character like Kamala Khan resonate with so many people? Kamala Khan is so much larger than just a pop culture icon. She came together in response to that global subconscious desire for representation. For those Muslim-American, bacon-sniffing, short nerdy girls like me and for anyone else regardless of their gender, sexuality, race, religion - who just feel like misfits themselves.
In the actual Ms. Marvel series, Kamala Khan is just a girl trying to fit in. She's constantly negotiating, renegotiating who she is and all the rules that come with it. Where does she belong? She has no idea. She's still figuring out that journey to her authentic self. But all she knows is that she does not want to be limited by the labels imposed upon her. So really, Kamala Khan's story is everyone's. It's about confronting the labels you've been assigned and sculpting them and redefining them until you figure out who you truly are and what you actually believe.
It is no surprise that Priyanka Chopra identified Kamala Khan as her alter ego as she made the announcement about her role as Ms. Marvel via twitter.
While this isn't the first time Priyanka Chopra provided her voice for an animated character - she voiced Ishani in the Disney film Planes - this provides a new opportunity to reach a new group of fans. Just as Priyanka Chopra continues breaking down boundaries between east and west, Kamala Khan is breaking down stereotypes by dealing with real issues that anyone can relate to.
The following playlist features the origin story of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel along with several videos analyzing the character.
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