As if I could have even more of a girl-crush on Marvel editor Sana Amanat, she recently did a TEDxTeen talk last Monday that was all kinds of amazing. I know, I know. I overuse that particular world. But I double dare, even triple dare you to watch her talk and disagree with me.
You’ll remember Amanat as the co-creator of the first solo series to feature a Muslim female super hero, Ms. Marvel. Her entire 16 and a half minute talk is worth watching, but here’s one of my favorite parts. It begins at 13:17.
So when that little girl sat in rapt attention all those years ago at her television screen watching X-Men — it wasn’t just because they had taken her on an astonishing adventure. It was because they told her that it was okay to be different. In fact, you had to fight for it. Because we all want to be heroes, don’t we? And wouldn’t it be amazing if heroes looked just like us?
So why does a character like Kamala Khan resonate with so many people? Like the first African American and Latino Spiderman, Miles Morales, Kamala Khan is so much larger than just a pop culture icon. She came together in response to that global, self-conscious 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 and re-negotiating who she is. And all of the rules that come with it. Where does she belong? She has noooo 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 re-defining them. Until you figure out who you truly are. And what you actually believe.
Preach it. And in between that, she quotes a poem from Rumi, talks more about X-Men, throws in some psychology — all while rocking a superhero T-shirt. I die. Oprah, you’ve got competition.
Kishwer Vikaas is a co-founder and editor of The Aerogram. Follow her on Twitter at @phillygrrl or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.