Ms. Marvel’s 1×02 “Crushed” continues on the upward trajectory set by the premiere. In this episode, a whole host of emotions are at play, with subtle and specific references to Pakistani-Muslim culture.
Kamala is the definition of angel energy. She is the sweetest woman to her friends and family. She is adorable when she talks — like when she says “thank you” to being called the budget Captain Marvel. Overall, Kamala embodies the proper naïve teenage spirit of a daydreamer.
Also, she happens to be a kick-ass superhero, but not in the fast transitional way most superheroes come to life. Instead, Kamala struggles with learning, controlling, and manifesting her powers. By the end of her training montage, she is not an expert, and she doesn’t have it all figured out. However, she makes real progress and also makes real mistakes.
When she saves that boy, she doesn’t have complete control yet, so when that glitch happens, she does her best to save him again. But, even though it doesn’t feel like a win because the kid hurt his ankle, she does something unique. Kamala is that type of energy that is focused on preservation and safety.
She doesn’t want to hurt a single soul and doesn’t believe she is made to save the world. Of course, she believes she is meant to help the world, but she embraces a level of humility we don’t see in most superheroes. In addition, she chooses to learn about her powers by learning about her community.
After all, it is an idea come to life, so the more you know, the better.
“DAMN.” Yes, Nakia. You are right. Damn is correct.
In the second installment of the season, we meet Kamran, your average, captivating new student, who miraculously doesn’t feel a thing when bellyflopping off a 20ft high roof. Instead, he seems to be your average run-of-the-mill Joe and hits it off with Kamala.
Also, I would like to take this moment and appreciate the show’s soundtrack? Jalebi Baby was the perfect song to use at that moment. Not only was that it perfect at that moment, but all the songs were well-timed, well-placed, and well-selected.
That moment, in the car? When they start bonding over their favourite desi-related things? Yeah, that’s what it feels like when one south-Asian individual meets another, and they’re not related and haven’t had chai at some mutual third party’s house before.
It’s a pretty special moment when you find someone remotely similar in interests or background, and it’s even more special when the package is oh-so-handsome. Just kidding (not really). Kamala and Kamran are a great duo, and I must say he won a couple thousand brownie points when he calmed Kamala down.
By the way, that is every Muslim girl’s worst nightmare: running into someone they knows when speaking to a guy. Mainly because aunties are the worst. While we know our boundaries, and everyone has a different take on how they approach relationships, it’s always unfortunate when innocent intentions fuel the rumor fireground.
So far, my take on Kamran is a solid 10/10 desi man who is slightly suspicious. When he pulled up in the end, and his mom was there, I screamed, “I KNEW IT!” because you cannot bellyflop from that distance and not feel something. This must be related to her powers, potentially his powers, and the storyline yet to come.
SHOE THIEF AND THE MOSQUE BOARD
Nakia’s running commentary, passionate analysis, and overall personality have won me over wholeheartedly. She makes me feel seen on levels I didn’t know were possible. From the beginning of this episode, she talked about the changes that could assist the women’s side of the mosque and how to balance the scales.
Nakia also really wants her shoes back. Just for context, the shoe thief is a real thing. Sometimes, kids pull asinine antics and decide that nabbing shoes is how they want to spend their time in the mosque. So, for her to walk out with slippers is factual because many mosques keep spare shoes.
Nakia knows that times have changed, and the only way for women to be represented is to have one sitting on the board. She fights valiantly in this episode to secure votes and even manages to hit Kamala’s dad where it hurts. Talk about dismantling the uncle brigade.
Speaking of the uncle brigade, let’s talk about accuracy for a second. There was a vital representative piece missing here. None of the uncles were standing with their hands behind their backs! It’s the classic uncle stance; honestly, it needs to be included.
While I love Nakia’s fight for change within her community, my favourite part of this episode was her conversation with Kamala in the bathroom. No, I’m not talking about the Tampon vs. Pad desi-woman struggle… although that was pretty spot on. Instead, I’m talking about her hijab.
“My whole life, I’ve either been too white for some people or too ethnic for others. And it’s been this very uncomfortable, sucky, in-between. So, when I first put this on, I was hoping to shut some people up, but I kinda realized I don’t really need to prove anything to anybody.”
This quote is the embodiment of many spiritual and cultural journeys. I went to school in a primarily white neighbourhood, and I always thought I was too ethnic for those kids, so I tried not to be. But then, when I tried to fit in with my culture, I thought I was “too white.”
The funny thing is no matter how hard you try to fit in with a culture that’s not yours; it’ll never be enough for them. The people of my own culture always kept it honest, and they told me when I started losing myself. They never thought I was “too white” because I was born in a western country or because I was part of a different generation; it was because I was trying to be something I’m not.
It’s a struggle, and that sucky in-between is very well known to many of us, but in the end, the culture is who you are, and you only need to be yourself.
Nakia was perfect in the delivery of her struggles and her passions. However, I wish we got to hear Muslim women talk about the various everyday struggles because talking about Muslim life is not a sole responsibility belonging to Nakia. This show needs to ensure it doesn’t explain things too heavily for a non-Desi audience or tokenize its characters.
THE EVIL EYE
This episode included many subtle cultural references. Let’s start with my favourite subtle little moment: “am I drunk?” Why was this me after drinking butterbeer (cream soda) and thinking there was actual beer in it when I was ten? I came home with a headache and was CONVINCED I was hungover. Did I rationalize that maybe the headache was brought on by walking around all day in the sun? Not. At. All.
This is a fairly typical response among Muslims after an accidental sip or potential suggestion/inclusion of Alcohol. That solid moment of panic is not from a religious perspective but more like fearing a foreign substance entering our bodies. The point is, that reaction, is all of us.
There were also many other moments, such as Aamir saying a prayer over Kamala’s unconscious body, that made me feel seen. Considering that anytime I’ve ever gotten sick, I can hear my mother mumbling prayers to make me feel better; I appreciated this inclusion.
Including these subtle, non-explanatory moments is critical because it doesn’t feel like catering to a non-desi community. Including subtle moments makes us feel seen. It makes us feel like the show is for us.
It’s good that the show doesn’t try to explain things we already know. Also, subtle moments are how culture is balanced through modern families. There is not usually a big massive cultural moment that handles everything all the time. Typically it’s just the little things.
One essential aspect that was discussed at dinner was the Partition. Aamir was spot on when saying, “Every Pakistani family has a partition story. None of them are good.” The Partition left a mess for everyone, as there were between 200 000 – 2 million deaths and 10-20 million displaced.
It was imperative that they talked about this topic in a way that didn’t make it seem like they were teaching a history lesson but instead talking about their familial stories. They touched upon Muneeba’s pain from her family’s history with the Partition and managed to inform Fariha at the same time.
The explanation would be incorrect in this scene, even though they have a new member sitting at the table, because it’s common in south-Asian history to learn about this. So for them to explain something that is usually very well known in south-Asian families would have taken away from the scene.
It was natural how they talked about the rough history and how families overcame calamities from the Partition.
Something else to point out is the fact that they talked about the Partition and yet they still cast Indian actors to play Pakistani characters. I know perfection is never the expectation for minorities at this point, but casting really should have been as close to perfection as possible.
ILLUMIN-AUNTIES AND MOSQUE BROS
Nakia’s name for every single clique at the mosque is by far the most accurate dialogue included in Ms. Marvel. We have nicknames for everyone. Let’s not forget that Eid cannot be Eid unless we have all these cliques and busybody aunties tell us everything they think they know.
The Eid scene brought together a lot of pieces to deliver a vibrant and culturally appropriate moment. This scene had everything from the clothes to the food, to Bruno being a little over-dressed, to the insta-clique and the mosque bros.
Kamala choosing to find out about the bangle after her grandmother swiftly shut her down by going to the illumin-aunties is a dangerous move. I’m glad she had the filter to know what was ridiculous and what could have been partially true. After all, aunties keep spinning the rumor mill until something so ridiculous comes up that it fully halts.
I mean “…she killed a man. dead.” I’m sorry if someone kills someone, doesn’t that automatically mean they’re dead? I’ve never heard someone say, “she killed a man. alive.” I mean, the phrase was accurate because I’ve heard many people state the obvious in that way, but seriously why do they do that?
LET’S TALK ABOUT BRUNO (+ FRIENDS)
Bruno is the big white elephant in the room. Don’t get me wrong, I love their friendship, and I’ve seen the potential for more, but we don’t want this turning into a classic white saviour situation.
It’s conflicting because many Muslim relationships are not strictly religious or culturally selective, but for a lot of us, we can only relate to relationships within the same culture. That’s why Kamran is such a great addition because it brings to life real potential for south-Asian relationships.
BUT… I do love Bruno, and I love how he cares for Kamala. He knows her family well, and he respects her. It would be interesting, if done correctly, to see a solid south-Asian female superhero, and her sidekick as the white guy that she saves.
I’m not sure yet. But, I know that Bruno is a brilliant best friend every girl should have. So many of Kamala’s friends are levels of supportive I’ve never seen before. They embrace, challenge, and help one another. Nakia also happens to be hilarious when Kamala has a crush.
Furthermore, Bruno is adorable when he’s jealous. Flexing the brown movies he’s seen put the cherry on top of the car scene. It’s obvious he feels for her, and maybe, just maybe, she might look at him like that one day. Right, Brian?
Overall, the series continues to amaze me with its milestones touching upon the specific Pakistani and Muslim cultures. From the subtle to the in-depth, we touch upon friendships, new powers, crushes, family and even foes.
The show brings to life natural, seamless, non-explanatory inclusion with a balanced hit of this modern life.
Here’s to hoping that it continues to break barriers every new episode.