“Embiggen!” Ms. Marvel yelled her catchphrase as her fists swelled up to the size of a tractor. She brought them down on an Ultron Bot, smashing the giant arachnid robot. With that one word, history was made, the first time a Muslim superhero was featured on American television. And for Kathreen Khavari, the voice behind Ms. Marvel (alter ego Kamala Khan), a glimpse of hope for positive and realistic portrayals of Muslims.
“She’s just such a fun-loving character and we can see someone who is Muslim and who is funny,” Khavari, 33, told me over the phone. “That’s not something that’s portrayed in mainstream.” Kamala Khan and Kathreen Khavari have a fair amount in common (aside from the alliterative names). Both are first generation Americans with immigrant parents—Khan’s are Pakistani, but Khavari’s parents are from Iran. Both are funny. And both like to play, Khan with her fists, and Khavari with her characters.
Obviously you can’t see Khavari in the animated Avengers Assemble, where Ms. Marvel made her TV debut last week. But you may recognize her from Brain of Terror, a short film she made that went viral back in 2014, where a young Middle Eastern American woman falls asleep watching Homeland and dreams she’s a terrorist as eleven different voices and aspects of her identity inside her head debate what it could possibly mean.