Hug Your Inner Outcast: Ms. Marvel Creator Sana Amanat Nails Her TEDxTeen Talk
New hero alert. AS IF creating Ms. Marvel—the world’s first Muslim-American superhero to have her own series—wasn’t enough, Sana Amanat then has to go ahead and be all brave and inspiring in person, too?! Our Lady of the Lightning Bolt kicks off her recent TEDxTeen talk with a request so terrifying it immediately gave us flop sweats—she asked the audience to go on and judge her in their heads. And it only got more kick-ass from there. We are officially in crush territory, people. Buckle up and hit the jump for the video.
Amanat’s story is one many of us can probably recognize in some form or fashion. Growing up as a Muslim-American in New Jersey, Amanat felt like an outsider a lot of the time. But when she
got bitten by a radioactive spider discovered the glorious mutants of The X-Men—you know, blue fur, laser eyes, all that jazz—suddenly, having to wear a long t-shirt over her bathing suit or not being able to eat bacon like her friends did suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
“These people she understood because they, too, were different,” Amanat says of her younger self and her superhero pals.
It’s this idea of identification that’s at the heart of both her presentation and (surprise!) the inspiration behind Ms. Marvel. She asks us to consider, just for a sec, what labels apply to us. She acknowledges her own: “woman,” “Muslim,” “nerd.” What might these labels mean about her? How does she accept or reject these labels? (Spoiler alert: one way she defined herself is by becoming one of the only South Asian female comic-book editors out there IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD). Amanat goes on to chat about how post-9/11, she had a difficult time suddenly seeing her religion associated with such extreme violence and accompanied by the word “terrorist.” “How can everything I am be encompassed into a label?” she asks.
And, as she explains, the good news is—it can’t be! The bad news is—people try to stereotype us anyway! But the better news is that we have the power to constantly redefine ourselves! This is why we have superheroes in the first place, right? They’re the outcasts, the wallflowers, the weirdos—and because they, like us, are flawed and complicated, they give us permission to be too. And maybe… juuuust maybe… as we root for them to accept what makes them different, we can begin to accept what makes us different. So she challenges us: "Why not tell stories that are empowering and aspirational and challenge us to be better?” Anyone got an answer? We don’t, because there is no reason why not!
Which leads us, then, to everyone everywhere having major brain explosions over Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel. “She came together in response to that global subconscious desire for representation,” Amanat says. And it’s not just Muslim-American women who can see themselves in Khan’s rad boots. It’s something we all can relate to as we “unfold our own myth” (if you need to add boots to this, feel free).
Find what makes you different and celebrate it! Also Sana if you're reading this, please be our best friend! Thanks bye!