In the Right Skin

 

Reading the reviews for Ms. Marvel, one sees a bevy of praise on both the social commentary and the actual action of the comic itself. We as a class are primarily interested in the former, and my reaction upon seeing Kamala become a white Ms. Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, was a curt “This is garbage”.

A bit strong some would say. A bit rash, others would posit. I’ll stand by it though – south Asian people are particularly involved in a beauty standard that affirms lighter skin as beautiful, evidenced by the “Fair and Lovely/Fair and Handsome” skin whitening brands reaching $450 million in yearly sales (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2016/01/dark-what-behind-india-s-obsession-skin-whitening).

Society imposes beauty standards on its denizens through fashion, film, marketing, amongst a slew of other formats as well. These trends are very provocative, and very effective. It is so effective that people of alternative complexions or ethnicities argue when their demographic is not represented. The superhero business is primarily a male dominated one, and a caucasian male one at that. The reason is because the writers at DC and Marvel, in the times that they created these characters, wanted a character that could both resonate with the primary populace of the United States as well as exemplify a certain ideal. The reason that James Bond is white is because the creators wanted to establish a prototypical savvy English gentleman of the times – that the times are changing, and Idris Elba invokes the wrath of the fore bearers, is doubly important in light of both what Britain was and is becoming.

This point is raised because Kamala, if she is ever to serve the societal role that superhero(ines) do, must be affirmed for what she is, and not for what society wants her to be.

She is a Pakistani Muslim girl with brown skin, and there is nothing wrong with that, Zoe and Josh be damned. One of the saving graces of the novel is that Bruno Carrelli (http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Bruno_Carrelli_(Earth-616), who is a second generation Italian-American, is an ally to Kamala and Nakia. His character dances the fence, both bearing Caucasian features yet being relatively close to an immigrant group that was also previously disdained by the general public. It mirrors our modern society, in which some people immediately dismiss Muslims as primitive and deny them common courtesy, whereas others are willing to sift through prejudices and get to know the people as they are, and not as they are purported to be.

Kamala understands this herself, as she goes to rescue Zoe and unwillingly transforms back into Carol Danvers, stating “It’s almost like a reflex, like a fake smile. As soon as Zoe shows up I feel… uncomfortable. Like I have to be someone else. Someone cool,”. A few pages later, Kamala realizes an immaculate truth “Being someone else isn’t liberating. It’s exhausting,”.

It’s this very realization that causes her to make her future transformations different variants of Kamala Khan. Before she could save others, she first decided to save herself, and that is the most important victory in the entire comic.

 

Here is a song designed by Adam WarRock specifically for our very own Kamala Khan.

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