TV Viewpoint: Forget about superheroes, punk is back to save the world

AND right on cue, there’s another Marvel TV show to continue the canon over the summer. But forget about Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow or Ant-Man, there’s a new hero in town.

Ms. Marvel began on Disney + last Wednesday, and is an adaptation of a character that made her first appearance in the Marvel comics in 2013. She is a second-generation Pakistani-American teen from New Jersey called Kamala Kahn who idolises Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson in the films) and can’t wait to see if she’ll make an appearance at an Avenger fanatic convention.

The only problem is getting past her stern but fair parents to attend, after some hijinks get her grounded. With the help of her best friend Bruno she manages to sneak out, and with her costume confiscated she has grabbed a couple of ornate bracelets, family heirlooms, that her mother produced earlier that week to complete the hastily put together outfit she will wear instead.

I think you know where this is going; once Kamala puts the bracelets on while on-stage competing in a Captain Marvel look-alike competition, all hell breaks loose. There are lasers, hysterics, crowds going wild, and all of it is being filmed by those quick enough to get it together in the chaos.

An at this point ubiquitous mid-credits scene indicates that the authorities will be coming for Kamala in the second episode, either to study her or to put her to good use. Ms Marvel is more firmly aimed at pre-teens than previous Marvel exercises that have a huge following over all age groups, so I couldn’t find a lot to hold my interest.

The teen-tearaway with a heart of gold, defying parents and expressing their creativity while they would prefer her to be good, obedient and studious has been done to death. The teen superhero has even been addressed before, three times and counting (hello Spiderman), and it’s difficult to see if Ms Marvel can bring anything new to the table.

That she’s Muslim is one thing of course, and a child of immigrants. Female superheroes have tended to get short shrift as well – even though Black Widow was supposed to be a fully-fledged member of the Avengers team when the first movie came out she didn’t feature on any of the promotional merchandise, for instance – so it’s also good to see studio enthusiasm backing a female central character.

Stylistically it’s interesting, using animation details similar to Kamala’s own drawings to illustrate plans and purposes. It’s an effective device, but does add to the more juvenile aspect of the show.

So, it’s not for me, purely because I’m too old and jaded to enjoy the teenage antics. But I hope it gets the reception it deserves, if only in order to continue pushing positive representation on screen.

Having plodded through the first episode, which improbably shares some of its chaotic exuberance with Ms Marvel, I went back to Pistol (also, improbably on Disney +) over the weekend and mainlined the rest of the series.

It’s the story of the Sex Pistols from the point of view of Steve Jones, the band’s de facto leader and guitarist. You could say that even though it’s based on autobiography, Steve Jones’s memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, Steve is an unreliable narrator of sorts. What do they say about remembering the 70s after all?

Pistol charts the rise of the band in a pretty traditional way for the most part, linearly and with emphasis put on different members of the scene at different times. The Vaseline over the camera lens effect is often pretty distracting, but the attention to detail is quite brilliant, from the casting to the costumes.

But for all its hyperactive mayhem it still feels strangely sanitised, even while leaning in to the swear words, sex and general debauchery; there’s a certain childish eagerness to please the audience that is almost endearing.

But the whole Punk movement was driven by young anarchists who got wrong as much as they get right, and it was messy and deranged and drove in a whole new era of music and culture. So even while the show doesn’t nail it, it’s not hard to get swept up in the ride.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 15 06 22

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