Seeing someone who looks like you on screen is a life changing experience. Unfortunately, it’s not the most accessible content in Hollywood. Shows such as I have never and The Mindy Project provide a much-needed perspective on the normal life of a Southeast Asian American, but they show nothing more than that. Quantico was the first action series I’ve ever watched with a Southeast Asian woman – Alex Parrish played by Priyanka Chopra – in the lead. But the show did not address the societal implications of Parrish’s race. Marvel Studios recently started centering Asian characters. Movies such as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ringswith a majority cast from East Asia, and Eternalswith heroes from all walks of life, set a standard for the studio.
The new Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show, Ms. Marvel, puts the finger on the understanding of cultural nuances and representations. The first episode, titled “Generation Why”, was released on June 8. The show stars Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan. In the first minutes of the show, I felt seen in Hollywood for the first time. We are introduced to Khan’s father and mother, played by Mohan Kapur and Zenobia Shroff, and the way they nudge him and give him unsolicited advice is extremely similar to my life. Khan is normal, in our opinion, with his head lost in the clouds and fantasizing about superheroes. Walking the halls of her school, she is the embodiment of normality, almost blending into her school colors and being ignored or harassed by everyone she sees.
During the first episode, we meet Marvel fan and friend Bruno Carrelli, played by Matt Lintz, and Nakia, played by Yasmeen Fletcher. After that, she’s hit with a lecture from her counselor, telling her that it’s her freshman year of high school and she needs to focus, do more volunteer work, and think about college. The scene cuts to Khan and Carrelli talking about AvengerCon, a convention about all things Avengers and the main plot point of the first episode. It’s the very first AvengerCon, and Khan and Carrelli were going to sneak out to attend. They talk about Khan’s mother, and one of the moments that stood out to me the most was when Khan said his mother thought she was “kind of a weirdo.”
[Edward Maclary to retire after two decades of shaping choral activities at UMD]
As a child of immigrant parents, I had many interests that my parents didn’t understand or didn’t want me to have. His words and emotions towards his mother and father are as complicated as mine, which I’ve never really seen in Hollywood or Bollywood before. Also, her mom saying, “Don’t be so dramatic, Kamala,” felt like I was talking to my mom. Khan discovers a bracelet in a box of stuff that his Nani, his grandmother on his mother’s side, gives to the family for a wedding celebration. Her mother looks worried when Khan pulls the bracelet off, taking it off her very quickly. She accompanies her mother on a shopping trip, ending with her aunt’s natural gossip, where Khan shouldn’t voice her opinion at all. There’s more relevant content, but there aren’t enough words to cover both that and the rest of the episode.
Khan eventually works up the courage to ask her parents if she can attend AvengerCon, and her parents eventually agree on the condition that she accompany her father and wear matching Hulk costumes her mother made. Khan, who was working on a costume of her idol Captain Marvel, is furious and yells at her parents, calling them humiliating. It’s an impulse I deeply understand, but I know I get old when I think his dad is more endearing than he is awful. She refuses to go with her father, instead making a plan to sneak out to AvengerCon.
[Erasable Inc. powers through 24-hour rain-soaked performance]
Khan steals the bracelet from the attic and heads to AvengerCon – with the usual mishaps in his plan – then dons his Captain Marvel costume and adds the bracelet as the finishing touch. His arm begins to pulse with energy as what appears to be a shield covers his entire body and his eyes change color. As she gets her picture taken, she sticks out her arm, creating a massive crystalline slab through the bracelet on her wrist. She accidentally hits Antman’s massive head, causing carnage throughout the event.
She and Carrelli escape and return to the Khan’s house, where her mother catches her sneaking into the house in costume and the guilt overtakes her. The episode ends there, with a post-credits scene showing agents Sadie Deever and P. Cleary wanting to bring Khan in for questioning. Overall it was a good first episode. I thought it took a little too long to get to the peak of the action, especially for a series with only six episodes. But I think showing his family and friends, while explaining Khan as a person, was worth the delay to see his powers. My theories for the rest of the season include that Nani is somehow involved or that she held the powers before her and that one of the agents introduced in the post-credits scene turns out to be the wrong.