G. Willow Wilson writes the comic Ms. Marvel, a story about an American Muslim teenage girl with superpowers. On Nerdette, she talked to Tricia Bobeda about what it’s like to write stories about outsiders, why we fear the future, and how to relate to millennials. Below is an edited excerpt of their conversation.
Tricia Bobeda: How does Ms. Marvel try to speak to this moment, and the feeling of what it’s like to be a teenager right now?
G. Willow Wilson: When I was sitting down and creating this character, and we knew that she’s going to be a teenager, it was really important to me to not just be a book about an American Muslim girl and the struggles specifically to being an American Muslim girl. Although those are important, (I also wanted) to connect those struggles to the struggles that this generation is facing right now.
I’m kind of in a shoulder generation. I’m 33. I am either an elder statesman of the millennials, or a younger sibling of Gen X, depending on where you put the line. So this is something really important to me: to represent a teenage character in a non-stereotypical, real, and identifiable way.
TB: And especially teenage girls, right? Pop culture just tells us that they have nothing of substance to offer as often as possible.
GWW: Right—or they are sorts of people who are done on to. Not people who do. Not that they are agents in their own lives or fates.
It is entirely possible to discuss the problems facing that generation and exclude that population from the conversation and I think that is something we have done with teenagers.
I wanted this to be a character that spoke to that age group, which is chronically underestimated, assumed to be plugged into their iPhones at all times. I think to some, that inspires a lot of fear. People don’t realize that there is a lot going on on the internet that they don’t see.
I think there is an assumption by older generations that since they don’t see what’s going on on the internet, on Snapchat, on Twitter, that there must be nothing going on on the internet, Snapchat or Twitter.
TB: My favorite example of that—I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s a picture of a group of teenagers at a museum of fine art of some kind. There is this gorgeous painting behind them and none of them are looking at the painting.
They are all huddled staring at their phones. And when it first went viral, everyone said ‘Look, this is what is wrong with kids today.’ And it turns out…
GWW: It turns out that they were doing the guided tour.
GWW: They paid attention to the painting for a long time, and then they were listening to the expert on the guided tour explain it to them.
TB: Exactly, it is the perfect example of what you are saying, right? It is about a platform, not a medium.
GWW: Exactly, exactly…I think there’s a lot of fear of the future that is endemic. I mean, lest we forget, there were certain segments who thought the printing press was the work of the devil, and was going to lead to the downfall of civilization.
TB: Telephones in the home!
GWW: Telephones in the home! I know. What next? We’re all doomed!…So I think you have to trust the generation that is to deal with the situations that are. They’re the best suited to tackle the problems that they’re facing.
That was kind of my attitude in Ms. Marvel as well. That they have the tools and knowledge. We just have to kind of step back and let them do their thing and figure it out.