Ms. Marvel 1×01 “Generation Why” emphasizes the challenges of being a fangirling teenager in a quirky desi family. The series kicks off with no shortage of exciting characters or cultural cinematography. So let’s break it down just as Kamala did her driving instructor’s car.
Yes, we went there.
Kamala is your new favourite awkward teenager who embodies whimsical clumsiness with her entire soul. In fact, she manages to make me cringe so hard that I relive about 17 memories all at once. But she’s perfect. She’s not trying too hard, she is not the embodiment of perfection, and she makes mistakes.
Kamala can’t drive, has very destructive moments, and is socially awkward at its finest. She also doesn’t have her life figured out, which, honestly same. So when she gets called to the guidance counsellor’s office and starts daydreaming because she would rather be in fantasy land than deal with real life, I FELT that.
Iman Vellani brings to life a fascinatingly relatable character, and from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank her for being the Pakistani superhero I never got to see on TV. She was born to play this role and is just getting started.
Kamala brings to life just that — a relatable character with a relatable family and a deep dive into a culture that doesn’t get enough time on our screens.
MEET THE PARENTS
If you ever wanted to meet polar opposite desi parents with the most chaotic personalities, look no further than Ms. Marvel. Kamala’s mother is the serious, focused on her kids, reality-centered mother that feeds you all the time. Meanwhile, Kamala’s father is the house’s laid-back, funny, and modern Shakespearean poet.
Don’t get me wrong, though, Kamala’s mother runs that house. That is no question because there is no wrath like a desi mom. *cue flying slipper*
Her mother plays a significant role in her teenage angst, as it turns out her daydreaming isn’t a phase; it’s hereditary. In fact, her mother has so much anxiety about the daydreamers her family has bred that she constantly tries to bury all aspects of her past. She also tries to get Kamala away from the fangirling and closer to her graduation.
Kamala tries her best to go to the convention the right way, but it doesn’t pan out. Honestly, I understand how it feels to wait until the absolute last second to ask for something you want because at least until you ask, your parents haven’t said no. If they say yes, it’s the best feeling in the world, and if they say no…it sparks some creative compromises and pestering.
Desi parents seem unreasonable, but they have good reason to protect you. Culturally, in South-Asian families, the motto is to learn from others’ mistakes, so you don’t have to learn from your own. And while we appreciate the concern, the experience is half the lesson. So, parents never want anything to hurt you. not. a. single. time.
They can be a lot, but we love them all the same. We never want to cause them pain, and we do our best, but sometimes their worry skews the appropriate reaction. Kamala’s mom closed out that parental lesson with the hard-hitting questions about who Kamala is, but in reality, her reaction was just caused by stress, not by the fact that she doesn’t know who her daughter is.
Next time, Kamala, maybe mention the security and volunteers at the convention and throw in a little proof with photos, so you don’t have to sneak out of the house.
KO KO KORINA
The series kicks off with a beautiful mix of modern cultural representation. I have already expressed my concerns with the colloquial use of native phrases and the blended casting, but I do love many of the featured aspects.
The market scene is perfection. Those markets are distinct in their products, and you will find everything there. Some of the best mangoes and some of the worst food poisoning come from those markets. Need a shalwar kameez? The market. Need groceries? The market. Need a spare tire? The market.
However, the market is incomplete until a meddlesome auntie has filled you in on the latest gossip. Kamala summarizes this generation’s reaction by being proud of that girl for following her dreams instead of her potential husband. But, of course, a traditionalist won’t understand and will think she’s trouble, including the shopkeeper.
Now, while the scenery, products, and aunties make a tremendous visual of Pakistani culture, it’s still a bit broad. That’s where the Urdu comes in. Many common Urdu phrases and words were used throughout the episode, like “challo.”
Kamala even had a conversation with the food kart guy in Urdu, which showed that in and out flux between Urdu and English is common among this generation. Even Bruno learned an Urdu phrase so that Zuzu could be programmed in Urdu from Kamala’s parents.
That’s one very distinct Pakistani aspect: language. While language can mesh and differ, most Pakistanis speak Urdu, not Hindi or Punjabi. So, the choices made to ensure the characters converse mostly in Urdu when they use their native language prove that shows can produce authentic media.
While the cultural references started on the right foot, one of my main focuses was on whether or not the Muslim aspect would be a fleeting comment. To my delight, it was not at all. Instead, it was taught in a very natural way that started with Aamir.
Aamir. My god, he is hilarious. Yes, he is that religious, and yes, it accurately depicts people around the world. However, Aamir’s traditional frock, long beard, and extreme — I mean proper — amount of prayer makes me feel a little embarrassed about myself.
“Remember to say Bismillah before you start the car. You’re going to need all the help you can get.” WHY IS THIS ME BEFORE ANY EXAM, EVER. For the record, when the studying motivation dies, this prayer, amongst many others, really helps us believe we’ll be OK on our exams.
Aamir shows us that religion is part of our day and our identity. Meaning it doesn’t have to be perfectly serious all the time. This little comment is something many Muslims do, and it was refreshing to see that natural, small little piece of accuracy thrown in.
Now, some moments were a little inconsistent. For example, Kamala’s mom is worried about boys and a convention that she thinks is a party, but she’s okay with a boy best friend who comes over to the house? Make it make sense.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the hijabi best friend and all the other natural inclusions of faith, but while the show may be the first of its kind, inconsistencies must be ironed out.
Kamala is the best type of superhero because she shows us that not everything we dream of is actually what we need. However, she doesn’t jump into superhero mode when she discovers her powers. Instead, she is scared, confused, stressed, and trying not to make a mess.
She wanted this like no other, and now that she has it, she’s unsure if it’s something she should have wanted in the first place. It’s brand new, and it’s terrifying. But that is what is so genuine about the show. It’s a teenager with this brand new power and no clue what to do. That’s how natural and uncomfortable that transition should be.
Luckily, her best friend is there for her. Bruno helps her out in this tough time as he is sworn to secrecy. Bruno also deals with her fast-paced imagination that runs a mile a minute — and somehow keeps up. He also seems to encourage her to do the best she can and helps her believe that she will change the world.
She does everything she does out of the goodness of her heart. Her powers even proved that. She couldn’t control them, yet she still managed to save someone with just a subconscious thought. She didn’t believe that the “brown girls from Jersey City could save the world.” Yet, here she is, and now she may not have a choice.
After all, it’s cosmic.
“Generation Why” is the perfect episode to set the foundation for the series. While there is some fine-tuning required, the episode does have many correctly represented aspects. It shows us the mesh between the cultures of the subcontinent, while showing us the specs of the Pakistani-Muslim culture.
The show also embodies dysfunctional families, awkward teenagers, insecurities, discomfort, wonder, and daydreaming in the most natural ways. The story comes to life because of its connectivity to its culture and various ideals.
It also comes to life from the graphics and the cinematography. The animated text messages, storyboards for Kamala’s Youtube channel and her escape plan, the vivid colors, and the clarity of the matter from her powers manage to display a visually stunning 45 minutes.
Not to mention the music that manages to embody every situation and visual. The background score isn’t your average classical music, as it features hints of South-Asian specific sounds that add more authenticity to the show. Meanwhile, the other songs are a mix of new and old, freshening up the scene while staying true to its roots.
As I said, the show is a beautiful representation and a great start. Does it need work? Yes, there were definitely moments that were not specific to the culture or colloquial. But, most of the moments fit well and were seamless. Hopefully, the only way to go is up.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Ms. Marvel 1×01 “Generation Why”? Share with us in the comments below!