Ms. Kamala Marvel takes off

Kamala soon discovers that shapeshifting doesn’t make her life easier, but it gives her more power, more agency, and the ability to reflect on and create her sense of self.

Tammy Oler

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Awesome. That’s, like, the definition of navigating multiple identities, and to have it illustrated (literally) by a teenage, Muslim, female, superhero in the Marvel universe…well, yes, I think awesome really is the word to describe it. I’m talking about Kamala Khan, the newest incarnation of Ms. Marvel. She’s a teenager, a Muslim, a woman, a shape shifter, and a resident of New Jersey. And she’s getting rave reviews.

How great is it to have a major universe (Marvel) do this for an established franchise (Ms. Marvel has been kicking ass since the late 1970’s). It warms my heart to have a popular Asian American superhero.

I Like Mindy Lahiri

I like Mindy Lahiri. I like her and her creator, Mindy Kaling. The character might make kind of a crazy friend (the kind that that you love telling stories about later even though you’re really annoyed at her while those memories are being made), but she’s not a role model. She’s insecure and self-centered and boy crazy and that’s ok. Because that makes for good TV. Some people have wondered aloud and publicly “Why doesn’t Mindy Lahiri date an Asian guy? Why’s she always dating white guys? Does Mindy (the creator, not the character) not care about creating healthy portrayals of Asian American relationships? Is she trying to white wash her character? What’s going on? She could find a funny South Asian American guy to do an episode…”

You can see Mindy Kaling address her take on the character’s South Asian American-ness, or you can read mine. Which is this: Mindy Lahiri isn’t a role model, remember? I know, I know, singer and movie stars and professional athletes have asked not to be held up as role models, but this is a fictional character. She’s a fictional hot mess and racial pairings aside, her relationships aren’t particularly healthy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it a liberating sign of social progress that women of color can play flawed characters that don’t reflect on an entire race?

 

Movie Review: Innocent Blood

From the Boston Asian American Film Festival last weekend, Innocent Blood — a closed case reopens, his son is kidnapped, and ex-LA detective James Park must confront past transgressions to save his family.

 

Why should you watch the movie?

If you like thrillers, it delivers. It keeps the suspense coiled tight through the whole movie, which is an impressive feat. If you’re not interested in ethnic studies or issues of social justice, it focuses less on issues of Asian American community/identity/racial politics, so much as it questions whether the pursuit of justice can be both noble and effective. The freedom to present broken, fully developed, Asian American characters in a full length feature film, without having to defend of define their racial identity is refreshingly fun. If you like buddy cops, damn. The supporting tall/short detective combo is funny.

 

Why shouldn’t you watch the movie?

If you’re distracted by clunky dialog, the story and the actors are solid, but the writing tends to feel a little stilted and forced. If you don’t like violence and moral ambiguity, you may feel a bit uncomfortable with how often both make their way into the movie. If you’re tired of Christianity being used as a shorthand for morality, there’s that trope, too. Also, the pan-ethnicity of the movie gets a bit muddy.