"I constantly found myself saying, 'Oh! That's like me!' or 'I do that too!'" said 17-year-old Labanya from Texas, in response to the first four episodes of Ms Marvel, the most recent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Since the release of its trailer in March, the show has been all the rage among South Asian kids. The show's protagonist, Kamala Khan, is a Pakistani-American teenage girl, making her the first Muslim and South Asian superhero in the MCU!
Played by Pakistani-Canadian actress Iman Vellani, Kamala is a passionate 16-year-old superfan of Carol Danvers, or Captain Marvel, with an overactive imagination. She learns that she, too, has unique powers akin to her favourite superheroes.
Four South Asian kids living in the US spoke to The Quint about their impressions of the show, which was aimed at representing them in the superhero universe.
They opened up about the value of mainstream representation, the ways in which Kamala's cultural identity resonated with them, and the accuracy of the on-screen portrayal of South Asian family dynamics and culture.
The Joy of Watching a Brown Superhero
"I am proud that my native race/region is being shown in the MCU. I love the movies, and having the main character be of my race, and a superhero, makes me proud," said 12-year-old Krishna from Texas.
Ten-year-old Annika, also from Texas, added, "It feels nice to see a Brown superhero, to see representation and diversity in The Avengers, and also to see a similar culture being shown inside the Marvel universe."
Eeshan, aged 12, from Massachusetts, shared similar sentiments, adding that it was interesting to see a character with Pakistani roots, who was born in the US, facing identity struggles. "Her peers find her way too Pakistani, while her parents find her too American," he said.
Ms Marvel's Dual Identity… Relate Max!
All of them expressed how deeply Ms Marvel's struggle with a dual identity resonated with them.
"I have a sort of dual identity," said Labanya, a 17-year-old from Texas. "I have always wanted to stay close to my roots: the roots of my family, the roots of my parents, but also to connect with the community I find myself surrounded with in America."
She went on to express her love for how the show reflected a lot of the experience, the hopes, the insecurities, and the cultural views that South Asian kids growing up in America have.
"She is stuck between two different identities, and is an outsider no matter where she goes," said Eeshan. "I can relate to this struggle because I also face it. My parents sometimes find me a bit too American, although in school I don't face this problem."
Family and Culture: Did 'Ms Marvel' Get It Right?
Eeshan added that the show's depiction of South Asian parents as "a bit too overprotective" was on point, and that it added a humorous streak to the show as well.
Krishna had mixed feeling towards the representation of South Asian family and culture in the show: "I feel that the family is the real source of the culture, and Kamala is too American. One can't blame her, because of the school/social environment she is in … Though Kamala may not fully be the source of her culture, and she is mostly American, I like the fact that it really is her cultural background that gives her her powers," he added.
"Her roots, traditions, and family life could have just been there to support her and the plot, but her family's bangle is the source of her powers, and I like that piece of representation."