We are a superhero family. Of course, all moms are supermoms—myself included on a good (or bad) day—but that’s not quite what I mean in this instance. I mean that we are completely obsessed with superhero movies in our house.
I have pretty much insisted that my children, now 10 and 7, get a proper education in this specific sliver of pop culture. For better or worse, they have grown up on Marvel movies, since the first Avengers movie came out the same year my son was born. Yes, I love these movies and wanted to share them with my kids, but it goes beyond that. Of course, at their core, they encapsulate the fight between good and evil, and I think I find it reassuring to see the black-and-whiteness of that as opposed to the shades of gray we deal with in everyday life. Put simply, we need heroes, and they seem few and far between in our actual world these days.
Yes, our favorite superheroes are flawed, but we still root for them, perhaps more so because of that. And for kids, they end up being great role models. They always try to do the right thing, which is not always the easy thing. They fight to make the world a better place. They sometimes sacrifice everything to help others.
But my almost-seven-year-old daughter made me realize that I had a blind spot when it comes to these movies: The lack of women in them didn’t give me as much pause as it should have. She adored Captain Marvel, yes, and there are characters like Black Widow, Wanda, and Gamora in the franchise, but they tend to be overshadowed by the male protagonists.
So, she was starting to get bored, and she didn’t want to watch them during our family movie nights anymore. I chalked it up to her age, but then along came Ms. Marvel. Not only was she a female superhero—she was also a young one. A girl who my daughter could relate to in ways that I didn’t fully understand until I saw her eyes light up every time we watched an episode. Kamala was a normal girl, just like her…but with superpowers.
“This is the best Marvel movie ever, Mommy!”
Yes, I know it’s not actually a movie, but just go with it. She was enthralled. And not only was I happy for her to see this multilayered character who was struggling and trying and persevering, but I was also thrilled that Disney has continued to normalize the idea of a female superhero. Full stop.
As parents, we always talk about representation. It’s important to see yourself represented in movies and TV shows and books, and those who say it’s no big deal are generally the people who’ve always been there. But this is a huge deal for the people who have traditionally been left out of that conversation, and it has a really positive ripple effect.
That’s why this is equally great for my son to see, albeit in a different way. As he grows up, he won’t be surprised to see a strong female character on the big screen, the small screen, or in real life. It’s just a normal, everyday occurrence. Sure, it’s something I teach him all the time, but it’s reinforced in a different way when he sees it normalized in pop culture.
Of course, gender is just the tip of the iceberg in Ms. Marvel. The show also showcases the first South Asian superhero and delves into the history of India—the Partition in 1947, specifically. And it does so in a way that is seamless and smart, bringing an aspect of world history into my kids’ lives (and mine) that we otherwise probably wouldn’t have known much about. But for the kids whose history this actually is, it’s crucial.
I know what you’re going to say: It’s just entertainment. Well, yes, it is, but entertainment is a huge part of our life. And to only see yourself in one way in the media—or worse, not at all—is something that affects us in all sorts of subtle and insidious ways. I, for one, am glad that’s changing for my kids’ generation, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.