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Ms. Marvel’s Showrunner Discusses About Muslim Representation & Making It Feel Grounded
Ms. Marvel is slated to premiere on Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia starting from 8 June 2022.
Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel is a new, original series that introduces Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. An avid gamer and a voracious fan-fiction scribe, Kamala is a Super Hero megafan with an oversized imagination, particularly when it comes to Captain Marvel. Yet? Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home, that is, until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s always looked up to. Life gets better with superpowers, right?
Courtesy of Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia, we were given the opportunity to interview Ms. Marvel showrunner and head writer, Bisha K. Ali. Just like Kamala Khan, Bisha K. Ali is Pakistani (but she’s British instead of American). She previously worked on Netflix’s Sex Education, Hulu’s Four Weddings And A Funeral, and Disney+’s Loki (Episode 3: Lamentis). You can follow her on Twitter here.
The interview below has been edited for clarity.
Bisha K. Ali: Wildly emotional, unbelievable, and just, I still can’t believe that I’m a part of it. It’s so weird. (laughs) I feel really honoured to be a part of it and I feel just so many people’s hearts went into this and so many people’s personal experiences and people were so giving of their stories. Yeah, I just feel very, very lucky.
Bisha K. Ali: I think it’s interesting, I get asked this question a lot about why it’s important. I think it’s important for any community that’s been globally maligned and has been a marginalised community that hasn’t been seen in its fullness and its wholeness and its joy and its compassion and its love. We have had examples of it, but I think we haven’t had that on this scale and a place that has this much audience like Marvel does.
That’s incredibly important to me. Also, it’s just because that’s part of our lives and part of who we are. There’s nothing scary about it, there’s nothing terrifying about it, there’s nothing alien about it.
Like teenagers doing wudu really fast, don’t tell me you’ve never been late to masjid and been like, “oh my god, I’m so late, let’s go!” Those scenes felt really specific and I think we talked about it in the writers’ room and we were like, they’re beautiful and small moments but they mean so much to us that we get to put them on screen, and that the whole team at Marvel was like, “yeah, let’s do it!”.
It’s just a thrill, it’s so thrilling. And thank you for noticing the details! It was awesome that you did, it made me so happy when you brought that up, thank you!
Bisha K. Ali: Absolutely, great question, actually. The way to approach it that we did, I think, was that being Muslim was just part of her (Kamala Khan) life. She goes to masjid, she comes back home, there’s Eid, we all know there’s Eid, she goes to Eid, she participates in that, it’s just a part of her grounded everyday life.
She’s not a superhero because she’s Muslim. That’s not what’s happening here. She is a teenage girl who is Muslim from that community and I think there’s a big difference. And so, making sure all those things are grounded and a big part of her normal life and some of the things that influences her in terms of her emotional life and her spiritual life.
Those things are there, but those aren’t presented as fantastical elements that are part of mythology in any way. I think that line was really important for us to hold, and also, it’s just a part of her everyday life, right. Representing it in that way felt so important for so many reasons, but I think one of those reasons were the reason that you brought up today.
Bisha K. Ali: I hope she just brings people joy. She brings me so much joy, she’s so alive, so vibrant, so optimistic and so compassionate. I think those are really important values and really important traits that I don’t necessarily have (laughs). I think that’s aspirational to me, and I just hope that she just fills people with that feeling and she’s someone you’ll enjoy hanging out with and wanna spend time with. You just want to be in her world, I really hope that’s what she brings to audiences and that’s certainly what she brought to my life.
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