I was truly amazed by the idea of Black Panther and Marvel’s effort to break stereotypes, by giving a different superhero, and proving that diverse stories can sell. Though the story-line and the movie advocated for this unique idea, there was still something being misrepresented. Within the first ten minutes, a single scene, three seconds, and a one dialogue were enough for me to get disappointed. While trying to fight against one kind of stereotype, Marvel failed to fight against a similar narrative, it was rather reinforced in those few seconds.
Like in every other story, there is always a bad guy used as a ‘guest appearance.’ One whom you can kill with ease, using him as a leverage to introduce your ‘hero’ in a fancy manner. Someone who is a terrorist or a trafficker or a kidnapper. A person who doesn’t even usually need any dialogue. Even then, in a movie which is aimed to give a different point of view, that guest-bad-guy yells ‘Wallahi’ (By Allah) and proves that he is none other than a Muslim. Even in a sci-fi, that terrorist holding a gun must wear a turban, and where he could’ve easily been any other random person, yelling ‘I’ll shoot her,’ has to add ‘Wallahi’ to end his sentence and reveal his religious identity.
Most of the people watching this record-breaking superhero movie might not have noticed this. Pretty normal, isn’t it, an outlaw speaking Arabic? Because this has now been accepted, socially and politically, that Muslims are terrorists. Because these small appearances of a couple of minutes in two-hours long shows are nothing strange. These have shaped, rather carved, a narrative so deep that no one bothers to think against it.
It is strange that whenever we talk about stereotypes, we conveniently say that religious matters and differences are not a stereotype, but then things like this happen. Then an episode of a highly-rated TV show is released where a woman clad in a burqa is about to be beheaded in Pakistan. Then a Hollywood comedy, mocking autocracy is released, which features a Muslim ruler. Then a movie advocating diversity and fighting racism fails to fight religious discrimination.
Black superheroes matter. Yes.
Women as Generals of the army. Great job, Marvel!
CIA agents are always the best humans ever. Agreed.
But was that one word necessary? I think not.
I wonder whether the next (or any) Marvel/DC movie will feature a superhero who has ‘Mohammad’ in his name, who has a beard, and whose cries of ‘Allah o Akbar’ are not for killing the innocent or burning buildings down but for protecting the people. I wonder if in a ‘free country,’ I’ll ever be able to say any term with the word ‘Allah’ in it loud enough as I hear people saying ‘Jesus’ and not be looked at in a suspicious way.
I wish that Muslims don’t have to prove again and again that just because they’re Muslims, doesn’t mean they’re terrorists. I hope someone, Marvel, DC, Disney, or anyone thinks about this discrimination as well. The story will sell. It will break records. I’m sure of it.