Desi Dad review of Ms Marvel S1E1

Kamala Khan Lives!

I know one of the creators of Ms. Marvel personally so I admit I am biased out of loyalty and love for my friend. As an MCU fan, I’m also internally wired to just love everything about this show. Far better MCU analysts than myself can provide far more interesting commentary than I can about the lore and the canon and the easter eggs. On one level, I just watched Ms. Matrvel as a fan and geeked out and loved it.

There’s another angle however that I can’t escape, and one I can’t ignore because the Pakistani representation is being given almost equal billing to the incredible performance (see? biased) of Iman Vellani as Kamala. My angle, quite simply, is that I’m almost 50, and I have two teenage daughters. (Well, one is 20).

(spoilers….)

I am grateful for the cultural beats and the unabashed inclusion-without-spotlighting of Islamic elements. (honestly, though, Aamir is a bit stiff and Yusuf a bit too loose). The problem here is more fundamental to the very character of Kamala herself, the same struggle that the character embodies and was conceived to address. Identity, for a Muslim, and a brown kid, in a western culture automatically entails sacrifices and compromises, not to mention a genuine sense of confusion at times that we never really outgrow. I am ABCDEFG myself, from Chicago rather than HIJ, and my childhood was straight outta Stranger Things. My life had both D&D and bike rides as well as masjid and madrasah. Everyone who is brown can relate to this duality, Deen and Dunya, wearing one (sometimes literal) hat here and another hat there.

The problem I have is that the solution in media always seems to be the same. Ultimately, the culture and the faith are always portrayed as obstacles rather than empowering. Here’s where I express hope that Aamir can be a source of wisdom to Kamala for the latter. We are one episode in and we see that Kamala has a lovesick gora sidekick who surely will trigger a “you were in front of me this whole time” moment before season 1 concludes, she gets off ridiculously easy for lying to her mom (again, Yusuf is not really a factor beyond goofball and guilt trip), and apart from casual tosses of words like astaghfirullah and salaam wa aleikum here and there, the faith is largely relegated to wall hangings. Muneeba is rigid as expected (authentic in that regard) but her reasoning is devoid of any actual moral content. A convention is a party, parties are bad, we don’t trust you. (Yusuf weakly chimes in to moderate the point). Why are parties bad? She said haram things happen. True, but is that really why parties are bad? Haram things happen everywhere in Jersey and yet the Khans remain.

Yes, it’s a TV show, but ultimately having one devout side character go through the ritual motions, and having the main identity conflict be simplistically rooted in “my mom is mean and old fashioned” rather than give some airtime to the values that inform the other side of the conflict, makes Kamala’s identity crisis largely meaningless. I didn’t feel like my 16-year-old self would have related to Kamala, at least not yet. She could easily be any other Asian kid or daughter of conservative white parents and the conflict dialogue would have barely changed.

The mention of the girl Fatima who went off to Europe is instructive. On one level, of course it’s cool that she did so and Kamala is rightfully jealous and admires it. But the way that the mom and the auntie talked about it was rooted in the scene needing to show culture (and mom) as where fun goes to die. There wasn’t even a cursory attempt to understand why a European trip solo to “find yourself” would be problematic from a cultural POV, or an Islamic one. The critique is reduced to “she won’t have a ring on her finger” which is ultra generic to every immigrant culture on the planet. Those concerns have merit, but the show doesn’t allow for that at all.

What is my specific critique? Well, I don’t have one yet. I know the writing is on the wall here – Kamala is going to defy her parents, lie, and start dating Bruno (and not talk about him, no, no). But if she’s going to make these decisions, I’d like for her to feel the weight of them. Bruno speaks Urdu and is already in with the family so maybe the inevitable reveal of their relationship won’t even have plot consequences. That’s a shame because it should.

This is a TV show, not a feature film so there is time to explore what it means to literally be stuck between two worlds even before you put on the magic bracelet. I hope that the writing team is willing to explore that inside world with as much curiosity as they are the supernatural fictional one. That’s what true representation would look like.

H2G2 at Hulu begins production

Yay, I guess. No word yet on cast and crew though.

Though this is certainly an interesting tidbit:

The series is said to have a completely different plot from the 2005 movie and 1981 six-episode television series directed and produced by Alan J. W. Bell.

And yet later on we also find:

The series has reportedly renewed for season 2 as well with no official confirmation yet. It is likely to adopt all the five novels in the series which include, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” “Life, the Universe and Everything,” “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish,” and “Mostly Harmless.” 

So honestly who knows?

The 12 million body problem

Chinese authorities: “this is normal”

I’m aghast at this.

Five Republican US senators have asked Netflix to reconsider its plans to adapt the bestselling Chinese author Liu Cixin’s book The Three-Body Problem, citing Liu’s comments in support of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.

In a letter to Netflix, the senators said they had “significant concerns with Netflix’s decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda”. The letter cites Liu’s interview with the New Yorker last year, in which the Chinese novelist was asked about the mass internment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

“Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks? If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty,” Liu said, adding: “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.”

The Guardian, “Netflix faces call to rethink Liu Cixin adaptation after his Uighur comments”

The question of separating the art from the artist doesn’t have an easy answer. Usually, I can – for example, Orson Scott Card’s political views are at odds with mine, but I am still able to enjoy Ender’s Game. However, Dan Simmons went completely overboard back in April 2006 to an unforgivable degree and rendering Hyperion completely unreadable to me. The above, from Liu, is equivalent in my view and arguably worse as he is glibly parroting CCP propaganda and justifying religious and cultural genocide.

I just finished saying that I try to avoid politics on this blog, but the simple fact is that science fiction is about the human condition. When writers of other genres offend me, it doesn’t sting. And at least with Card I can see where he’s coming from (I disagree profoundly, but I get it). Liu and Simmons made it personal.

I don’t begrudge him his Hugo but I sincerely hope that Netflix doesn’t reward Chinese propaganda with a TV deal. If they do, then I will not be watching.

Concept Art from Star Wars: Duel of the Fates

This is official concept art created for the earlier version that would have been directed by Colin Trevorrow. Images have leaked online via https://twitter.com/DRMovieNews1/, which provides the following descriptions:

  • Force Ghost Luke blocking Kylo Ren’s saber with his hand
  • C3PO comforting a damaged R2
  • Rey being trained by Luke
  • Kylo Ren fighting Vader
  • Rey (with double bladed saber) fighting Kylo Ren
  • Rey taking out Stormtroopers
  • Hux commits suicide with a lightsaber after Coruscant falls to the Resistance
  • Leia delivering a message to BB-8 (callback to A New Hope)
  • C3PO & R2 exploring the Coruscant ruins
  • The Falcon lands on a new planet
  • The First Order resuming control over Coruscant (pre-defeat)
  • Finn yelling “REY!” during a battle scene
  • The Final Battle on Coruscant

The script itself was leaked and discussed by Robert Meyer Burnett in the following video:

Trevorrow was fired by Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, who also was behind the director change for the Solo movie for similar reasons of “different vision.”

another Galactica reboot???

NBC Universal’s new streaming service will be called Peacock. It seems they have decided to go the mix of old content/new content route like everyone else, which is understandable. Less so is this:

The streaming service will offer a slate of original series from showrunners who have worked with NBCUniversal on a series of other shows, including Mike Schur (The Good Place, Parks and Recreation) and Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot). Schur will oversee the reboot of comedy Punky Brewster for the service, while Esmail will handle a reboot of beloved sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica.

All this has happened before, and will happen again.

Duet Battle: Community vs Stranger Things

Finished Season 3, and it was exactly the nostalgia/dopamine rush that I wanted. Like everyone else, the most delightful part for me was Dusty-bun and Susie-poo’s duet: (visual spoilers)

It gave me the exact same wistful childhood feeling as another homage duet – from Community season 1, “Environmental Science”:

H2G2 on Hulu

it’s not even thursday yet, and i have to deal with this?

Hulu is developing a TV series adaptation of the novels from prolific showrunner Carlton Cuse (Lost, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Locke & Key) and feature writer Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman, Ice Age: Continental Drift).

Cuse and Fuchs, both fans of the iconic title, will write, executive produce and showrun the proposed series, a modern updating of the classic story now in development at Hulu via ABC Signature and Cuse’ Genre Arts. Fuchs is writing the pilot script.

considering that the last reboot seemed to have been conceived by Ark B types, my expectations are as low as a Poghril’s morale. But fine, whatever. I always have the radio scripts – of which the latest radio sequel was superb (and the audiobook of Colfer’s sequal was even better).

The recent BBC adaption of Dirk Gently was actually pretty good, though it had a Game of Thrones/LOTR like relationship with the source material. If anything I’d rather see more development there than yet another swing for the Heart of Gold. But hey, these guys are fans of the material, who knows. No one can take the radio scripts away from me, at least.