Ms. Marvel not only has the pleasure of introducing a brand new hero to the MCU, but it also gets to thrust its star into the spotlight for the very first time. Iman Vellani, who plays Marvel Studio's on-screen Kamala Khan, made her acting debut with the Marvel series, going from real-life MCU super-fan to MCU superhero in a matter of months.
The teenage actress has captured the minds and hearts of Marvel fans everywhere, being one of the most celebrated aspects of the series' first five episodes. Following an in-universe superhero enthusiast, Ms. Marvel tells the story of Kamala Khan, a young Pakistani-American who finds herself coming to grips with powers of her own after receiving a mysterious bangle.
The show has garnered mostly positive reviews; however, it has also (like other recent MCU projects) been the victim of review bombing, a practice where ill-intentioned audience members bombard various review aggregate pages with 1-star reviews in an effort to make it seem worse than it is.
Ms. Marvel has seen its fair share of review bombs as it wears its representation and diversity on its sleeve, but the show's star has finally spoken out against the attacks.
Iman Vellani Reacts to MCU Review Bombing
Speaking with NME, Ms. Marvel star Iman Vellani broke down audience reactions to the Disney+ series, her experience being in the spotlight for the first time, and her thoughts on the recent review bombing of the show.
When addressing the review-bombing the MCU epic has faced, Vellani called the practice "honestly quite laughable," mentioning that "change is scary for a lot of people:"
“I’m not on social media. I hear things that my mother tells me though. It’s honestly quite laughable and I think change is scary for a lot of people. And having a show that surrounds a 16-year-old girl who’s Pakistani and Muslim and a superhero is scary for a lot of people. I think this is just gonna rip the Band Aid off and hopefully people will fall in love with her.”
She went on to say Ms. Marvel is a "show...for Marvel fans" and if these review bombers "consider themselves a Marvel fan, then this show’s for them too:"
“This show is for Marvel fans. If you’re a real Marvel fan, if any of those review bombers consider themselves a Marvel fan, then this show’s for them too. We wanted Ms. Marvel to be a love letter to Marvel fans. So yeah, I don’t care about them!”
When talking about Kamala's heritage and seeing representation on-screen, Vellani said that "every time we see Muslims and South Asians [on screen]" they are "never proud of their culture." And in making Ms. Marvel, they tried to use Kamala's "cultural identity as something that motivates her and guides her:"
“For some reason, every time we see Muslims and South Asians [on screen], especially teenagers, they’re never proud of their culture. It’s always something that’s dragging them down. That’s so not true. Kamala’s story has always been about using her cultural identity as something that motivates her and guides her. That was really important to us [when making Ms. Marvel].”
The young actress also brought up how she handled her first full press tour. She called the experience "cathartic" and that it makes her very happy that "this character is getting the light she deserves:"
“It’s honestly so cathartic to finally talk about the show. For a long time, it felt like this little indie movie that we were making. It makes me really happy that this character is getting the light she deserves.”
In terms of the attention she is now receiving, she labeled the whole experience of going from fan to fan-favorite as "trippy and weird" but also a little "scary:"
“It’s trippy and weird because people are very possessive over celebrities. People can access them whenever they want through a Google search or Disney+. That’s scary – and, you know, that’s not me. I think I’ve kept my real self quite private. I am still processing the fact that the show is even out and that people know my name.”
Ms. Marvel is Making Moves
Not only is Iman Vellani electric on-screen as Kamala Khan, but she also sounds wise beyond her years. The fact that she, like others involved in the show, outright defies those involved in the review bombing of her (or any) MCU project, shows a lot of confidence from the young actress.
She knows what she is doing/has done with Ms. Marvel is important. The representation seen in the series is groundbreaking.
Some of the best superhero stories ever (i.e. Spider-Man) prove that heroes can come from anywhere, and the story of Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan is only the most recent example of that. For the first time, young girls that look just like Kamala can look at an MCU character and say "Hey, she looks just like me."
Vellani says it best - Ms. Marvel is for Marvel fans. And if people are going to speak out against that, they need to rethink their Marvel fandom entirely.
Ms. Marvel concludes the first season of its streaming run on Disney+ this coming Wednesday.