Origin stories are more ordinary than we think. Everybody has one. It’s the only thing that Kamala Khan, Scott Pilgrim, Santa Claus and Johnny Utah have in common. I have one, and you have one too. All of them involve a certain degree of uncertainty. I didn’t know if I really wanted to be a journalist, or a writer, or a musician. Kamala didn’t think she wanted to follow the path her family had set up for her and what to do once she got her superpowers. Scott didn’t know how to reconcile his interest in Ramona Flowers with doing the right thing with Knives.
After I turned the last page of Ms. Marvel, I realized that there’s a reason why Kamala seems so vulnerable. It’s hard to develop empathy towards a character you can’t relate. When you see a superhero struggle with the same daily issues that you do, it’s easier to feel complicit. If you have no stake in the story, it’s harder feel invested in what happens.
The weight of Kamala’s family heritage feels too heavy for her. She wants to be free from it, but at the same time, she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents. That’s another all too common trope that is easy to see in ourselves. For a lot of families, a career in a creative field seems like a delusion, a phase. Musicians, writers and journalists a disappointment for a lot of parents that expected doctors, lawyers and engineers instead.
Once our superhero of choice is past all these external sources of pressure, they must deal with their own insecurities. Not many harbor the certainty of being good at what we do. Some of us aren’t at first. Some of us are good from the beginning but refuse to believe it. Some of us may never be good but refuse to quit. Uncertainty and doubt are always around most (the best) superheroes because with great power, comes great responsibility.