Marvel Producer Responds to ‘Woke’ Criticism

By Richard Nebens Updated:
Marvel Woke MCU

Ms. Marvel just aired its sixth and final episode on Disney+, completing an exciting origin story for Iman Vellani's Kamala Khan as she fully evolved into an MCU superhero. However, even though the young star has seen impressive success in her first Marvel Studios venture, Ms. Marvel has also had to deal with more than its fair share of criticism over the past six weeks.

The worst part about this criticism is that much of it came before Ms. Marvel's first episode even hit Disney+, with IMDB seeing review-bombing for the show in early June. Outside the complaints regarding the drastic change in Kamala's powers, a select group of fans complained about Marvel "bowing to the woke mob" and focusing on social issues rather than stories.

While critics and many other viewers had a much more positive reaction to the MCU's sixth live-action Disney+ outing, that negativity was something difficult to ignore for the fan base and the team that brought the show to life. Recently, Ms. Marvel's creator even dove into that criticism, trying to explain some reasoning and her own reaction to the commentary.

Sana Amanat on Ms. Marvel's "Woke" Criticism

Ms Marvel woke

Ms. Marvel producer Sana Amanat spoke with NBC News about the criticism that the series has faced during its run, specifically the comments about it being too "woke."

Amanat looked at it as fans taking it from "a place of anger" due to an inability to connect with the characters or the material, though she hates seeing it put down the way it has been:

“I think it comes from a place of anger and a sense that their identities are being threatened. If they can’t connect with it, then that’s OK. I just wish they wouldn’t try to put it down."

The Kamala Khan creator admitted that she and the studio expected negative reviews, but their main goal was to focus on the positive reaction to the series. She also shared how great it was to see Kamala's connection to her culture as she learned more about who she is:

“It’s amazing to see how they’re internalizing that imagery. I just hope it gives them a sense of competency that, frankly, I didn’t have growing up, and a sense of connectedness inside of their culture and who they are because I think that’s incredibly important."

Amanat also touched on Yasmeen Fletcher's Nakia, who she wanted to make sure that the show represented the right way with her feminism and her voice:

“The biggest challenge is making sure that we represented the feminism and strong voice that Nakia specifically has."

Nakia going for a position on her mosque board not only gave her her own character development but also helped open viewers' minds about what life is like at a mosque:

"It’s a lovely way of showcasing the mosque and Nakia’s role at the mosque, but also the larger context of it because so many people have such a specific point of view of what mosque life is

Along with Amanat's comments, star Iman Vellani spoke with Stylecaster about her own experience with the representation in Ms. Marvel.

She recalled a moment from a couple of months ago running into a girl that she went to high school with, who "was in tears" as she hugged Vellani and "thanked (her) for the representation."

Vellani also got to connect with her own family life, sharing how much she loved that Kamala speaks Urdu with her parents the way Vellani does with hers, noting how Ms. Marvel "makes being brown cool again:"

“I didn’t think being brown was cool because I was so enamored with Hollywood, and those two things never went hand in hand. This show makes being brown cool again.”

While Vellani expected some of the negative reviews just like Amanat did, she doesn't focus on that part of it, noting how other Marvel heroes don't have anything taken away from them with Ms. Marvel being so successful:

“We’re not taking anything away from Captain America and Spider-Man by letting this character exist. There’s two billion Muslims and South Asians in the world. There’s space for her.”

Touching on the subject of Kamala's powers, even Vellani herself admitted that it took her some time to get used to the major change from the comics. But in the end, after talking with the team, Vellani was focused on the motivations behind Kamala and the other characters along with the humanity; she also praised the people making the show for knowing what they're doing:

“We’re invested in these characters because of their motivations and because of who they are and their humanity. We don’t relate to shooting webs or giant fists The same people who made Avengers: Endgame also had a hand in our show. You have to trust that Marvel knows what they’re doing.”

Zenobia Shroff, who plays Kamala's mother, Muneeba in the series, also responded to the criticism of the show being "woke," saying that Ms. Marvel is "inclusive" above all else:

"It’s not woke. In fact it’s one of the most traditional marvel shows. We show you a traditional Pakistani Muslim family, we sure you #eid we show you a traditional Muslim wedding, a wedding dance , there’s nothing woke about  our show it’s INCLUSIVE."

Ms. Marvel Team Ignores "Woke" Comments

Marvel Studios has dealt with plenty of this kind of criticism over the last couple of years, largely focused on LGBTQIA+ representation in both Eternals and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. While the Ms. Marvel discourse is a different kind of criticism, Sana Amanat and Iman Vellani don't seem to be worried about the negativity in any way, shape, or form.

Although it's unfortunate how much these kinds of criticisms seem to be a part of the movie world these days, the two creators are more focused on celebrating everything good that comes from the show.

Ms. Marvel earned some of the best reviews of any MCU project in Phase 4 to date, and it still stands at a near-perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes even after its full run on Disney+. It seems unlikely that this kind of commentary will stop anytime soon, but the good thing is that the team at Marvel Studios knows how to turn their attention to the right parts of the discussion surrounding the MCU.

All six episodes of Ms. Marvel are now streaming on Disney+.

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.