Since Disney+ announced the production of a series based on Ms. Marvel, a fairly recent addition to the Marvel universe, fans have been eagerly awaiting the casting of the titular role. The wait’s up. On Sept. 30, Disney announced the casting of Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan in the upcoming series.
Since Khan’s introduction to the Marvel universe in 2013, her stories have resonated with many who chose to pick up the Ms. Marvel issues. A young Pakistani-American girl navigating her way through the world while learning to handle new superpowers intrigued many readers, especially young audiences who found it easy to relate to Khan’s quirky personality and typical teenage issues.
Though generally relatable, this character’s ethnicity and religion are distinct aspects of her story. Vellani’s casting is especially important because she shares her character’s background, allowing for authentic representation.
Cultural identity defines Khan’s story. Learning to embrace her Pakistani-American heritage is something that many young girls of similar backgrounds have also experienced. Finding a balance between her family’s culture and the culture she discovers while living in New Jersey is a difficult process for this character, but she is able to figure out that she doesn’t have to sacrifice one culture for the other. Young people look to her to realize they aren’t alone in the struggle to fit in, helping them understand that they too can attain a similar balance of cultures in their lives.
Khan’s relationship to faith is also a significant part of her story. As a young Muslim girl, her religion is essential to her identity, and she continues to learn about the role that faith plays in her life throughout her story. Originally created by two Muslim women, this character added unprecedented Muslim representation to the comic universe. American media still has limited offerings of Muslim representation, but Khan and her story are helping by adding more Muslim voices to the screen.
Vellani is also quite similar in age to Khan. Casting a teenage actress to play a teenage role is actually quite rare, as many such roles tend to be filled by adult actors in their 20s. Though casting adults to play teenage roles may seem harmless, doing so prevents younger audiences from seeing people truly like them on screen.
Though the Ms. Marvel series will not be added to the Disney+ streaming platform in the near future, Vellani has already taken significant steps towards increasing representation in her industry. By bringing Khan to life, Vellani is giving a voice to many who share her and her character’s background, which are voices that the media needs to hear.
Aditi Hukerikar is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org