Marvel Studios’ Lady Marvel is immersing audiences in the world of Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American teenager exploring her new superpowers. While it may just be a coming-of-age story about a teenage heroine, Kamala’s world is shrouded in fragments of her culture and religion. Her best friend, Nakia Bahadir, deals with a similar scenario, and a conversation between the two friends in Episode 2 stands out for describing their struggles in simple terms.
The two best friends inside Lady Marvel they may have grown up in New Jersey, but they are culturally different. Iman Vellani’s Kamala has Pakistani roots, while Yasmeen Fletcher’s Nakia comes from a Turkish family, as confirmed by the comics. The two characters are what many would call third-culture children or teens, who, as Merriam-Webster defines, is “a child who grows up in a culture other than that in which his parents grew up.” They often struggle to adapt due to their cultural or religious beliefs, and Nakia manages to voice the situation effortlessly.
During the second episode of Lady Marvel, the two friends are seen having a heart to heart about life and the struggles of being a teenager. Kamala has just learned that she can shoot cosmic rays from her hands and is unable to control her power. When her nose starts to glow in the classroom, she runs to the bathroom to hide. Nakia follows her there, and although her guess as to why Kamala is hiding is out of place, the two friends are seen bonding over their personal struggles.
The conversation begins with Kamala revealing that “everything is changing very fast”. This is a concern that most teenagers have in high school and it has no cultural implications. But the fact that Nakia’s parents are unable to “make eye contact” with her due to her hijab, her veil, is a different story. About her Her revelations about how to grow up in a society that was not in line with her culture is the true definition of being a third-culture child. On the one hand she tries to keep up with her daily life, but on the other hand she has to deal with the judgments of her parents on her choices, based on their culture.
“All my life I have been too white for some people or too ethnic for others,” she says. She refers to the whole situation as “a very uncomfortable and lousy middle ground”. This situation is recognizable for anyone who grew up in a country other than that of their parents’ origin. While third-culture kids try very hard to adapt to their current environment, they either look different, have a different skin color than the mass population, or are too “ethnic” by traditional country standards. To cope with the situation, Nakia decided to wear the hijab, but she didn’t exactly solve the problem.
He reveals that when he first wore it, “he was hoping to silence some people.” However, when people’s attitudes remained the same, she quickly realized that it didn’t even matter. “I realized that I don’t really need to prove anything to anyone. When I wear it, I feel like me. Like I have a purpose, “she says. It’s great that Nakia was able to deal with the situation, despite being a third-culture daughter, because many of them usually end up living long-term racism and Islamophobia. It doesn’t help that. that even the representation of minorities in the mainstream media is not the most positive.
For years, South Asian or Muslim characters have been designed around racist stereotypes. Anyone from India or Pakistan in Western cinema speaks with an accent and is often shown as ignorant of certain politics or world issues. Over the past decade, the involvement of Pakistani and Indian actors has increased in Hollywood, with relatively more significant roles. But, unfortunately, most are still shown as villains, terrorists or, at the other extreme, noble of some sort. There seems to be no balance. However, what many studios are missing out on is the fact that many of the South Asian actors studied or lived in the West at some point in their lives, and many even grew up here. So, although they appear different, they carry similar ideologies.
Raised in New Jersey, Kamala’s life Lady Marvel it is obviously influenced by the surrounding environment, friends, classmates and many external factors. She knows the culture of her homeland well and is just a teenager trying to deal with the sudden changes in her life. The only difference is that when she is home, her family says “bismillah” before starting a business or says “Assalamu alaikum”, which literally translates to “peace be upon you” when she greets theirs. fellow Muslims. Judging her based on these traits and forming racist stereotypes would be unfair, because she is basically just a girl living in New Jersey.
So far inside Lady Marvel, Kamala’s ethnicity and race were not an important part of the narrative. Yes, she wears a necklace that is her name in Arabic, but she is not called for it, nor outcast for her faith. However, incorporating Nakia’s experience into the narrative was a major decision by Marvel Studios. While racism hasn’t been overly exposed in the show so far, the conversation between the two friends confirms its existence. The underlying problem still exists, and although these two girls are just trying to be themselves, they are seen as strangers on both sides. Their so-called friends think they are “too ethnic”, while their own families think they are “too white”. It’s hard already being a teenager, having to understand your own lives at such a young age, but facing the judgment of those around them for what they believe can be a difficult experience. And this is something that all who have been children of a third culture will relate to entirely.
Lady Marvel is streaming on Disney Plus.
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