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← Myths, misfits & masks | Sana Amanat | TEDxTeen

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Showing Revision 18 created 01/02/2019 by Peter van de Ven.

  1. Now, I am actually going to do something
    that you guys do every single day.
  2. I'm going to ask you guys
    to judge me right now.
  3. The Bumbys were just doing it;
    it's very appropriate.
  4. Take a good look,
    and describe me in your head.
  5. Now, based on those descriptions,
    how would you categorize me?
  6. By my height?
  7. By my skin color?
  8. By my hair?
  9. Now, would any of those descriptions
    scream comic-book editor?
  10. Maybe my t-shirt, actually;
    I think that might have given it away.
  11. But no, probably not.
  12. I'm actually one of the few South Asian,
    female comic-book editors out there.
  13. I think, actually,
    I might be the only one,
  14. so for any of you South Asian females
    interested, it's a good gig.
  15. I highly recommend it.
  16. Holler at my ladies? No?

  17. All right, that's cool.
  18. Now, what I do as a comic-book editor
    is I make things up.
  19. I work with creators
  20. to tell the most uncanny,
    amazing, sensational stories
  21. about seemingly ordinary individuals
  22. who come to possess
    extraordinary identities.
  23. We call them superheroes.
  24. Now, when I was first asked
    to speak at this event,
  25. it was actually after the announcement
    of a character I had co-created:
  26. Ms. Marvel, the all-new Ms. Marvel,
  27. was the first Muslim American superhero
    to have her own series.
  28. It really was the most obvious thing
    in the world in my mind.
  29. I had created a character
    that I could identify with.
  30. And yet it was quite possibly
  31. the biggest publicity that Marvel
    had seen in quite some time.
  32. Parents called us,
    thanking us for creating a book
  33. that they could finally share
    with their daughter.
  34. Fans called us thanking us
  35. for creating a character
    that they could finally relate to.
  36. We'd clearly tapped
    into something really powerful,
  37. something people had been craving
    for quite some time.
  38. And yet it was the simplest idea,
    just masked as the craziest.
  39. Now, to understand
    the origins of Ms. Marvel,
  40. we have to take a trip
  41. to a land far, far away,
  42. [It was New Jersey]
  43. (Laughter)
  44. a long, long time ago,
  45. where - come on -
  46. where a young girl with a cowlick
    and bad taste in clothes
  47. never felt like she could fit in.
  48. She didn't look like
    the other girls in her class,
  49. couldn't eat the delicious,
    delicious BLTs that they could eat.
  50. She began to become fascinated with bacon.
  51. What is that delicious meat?
  52. She had no idea.
  53. Her parents weren't on the PTA.
  54. She didn't get Christmas presents.
  55. And in fact, she had to wear a t-shirt
    over her bathing suit
  56. every single time she swam.
  57. So clearly this girl was different.
  58. But she did have an outlet,
  59. and it wasn't her parents, who she adored,
  60. who just didn't quite understand her yet,
  61. or her three older brothers,
  62. who were too busy
    with hair gel and light sabers
  63. to pay any attention to her.
  64. It was something else
    altogether different.
  65. It was the X-Men.
  66. Yes! Yes!
  67. (Applause)
  68. The X-Men were mutants,
  69. individuals with mutated and enhanced
    genes that triggered in adolescence,
  70. giving them superpowers.
  71. It was the coolest thing in the world.
  72. A woman with brown skin and white hair
    who can manipulate the weather,
  73. a gigantic beast of a man with blue fur,
  74. a shy girl with a Southern drawl
    who couldn't touch anyone.
  75. So these people were
    that little girl's safe place.
  76. These people she understood
    because they, too, were different.
  77. And it also helped that they
    also wore ridiculous-looking outfits.
  78. I don't know, Mom, I have no idea
    what you were doing in that picture.
  79. I apologize.
  80. So, the X-Men embraced who they are.
  81. Adamantium claws, weird
    weather-controlling habits, mutations.
  82. They owned it:
  83. they knew who they were,
    and they would defend it, no matter what.
  84. So every Saturday morning,
  85. when this little girl used to rush
    down the stairs to watch that show,
  86. she felt a little less alone
  87. because they had fulfilled a need
    to see herself in the world outside.
  88. So, let's talk about why that need
    existed in the first place.
  89. Now, remember when I was asking
    you guys earlier about categories?
  90. Why don't you guys think about
    the categories that you all belong to.
  91. I'm going to do that up here for myself.
  92. So, I am a Muslim, a woman,
    an American, a comic book editor,
  93. a short person, a lazy person, a nerd -
  94. you can ignore that, though.
  95. Now, the strange thing
    about defining yourself in this way
  96. is that it simplifies who you are.
  97. How can everything that I am
    be encompassed into a label?
  98. Now, some of these labels
    we choose for ourselves,
  99. others we're born into
    and others are assigned for us.
  100. But regardless, all of them
    come with preconceived notions -
  101. assumptions and expectations -
  102. of what they mean.
  103. So if I'm Muslim,
  104. people may expect that I cover my head,
  105. that I don't associate with men,
  106. that I don't drink alcohol.
  107. Others may assume that I'm a terrorist -
  108. I'm not -
  109. that I hate Americans.
  110. Well, I'm an American,
    so I certainly don't hate myself,
  111. sometimes.
  112. I'm an oppressed woman.
  113. I'm way too stubborn for that.
  114. You can ask my poor parents;
    they deal with it every day.
  115. Now, because we allow others
    to create these definitions for us,
  116. we inherently accept them to be true,
  117. whether it's a conscious decision or not.
  118. So at some point, the line between
    perspective and reality begins to blur.
  119. When we are told by others,
    constantly and incessantly, who we are,
  120. when we allow others to define ourselves -
  121. whether it's the media,
    our parents, our friends -
  122. we begin to accept a standard of self
    that is not of our own choosing.
  123. We become a splintered version
    of the person we are destined to be.
  124. I remember in junior high school -
  125. it was actually right after
    the first World Trade Center bombing,
  126. and it was a very confusing time for me
    for a bunch of reasons,
  127. but in particular
    because it was the first time
  128. my religion was made
    synonymous with violence
  129. in such a public way.
  130. I'd walked into school the next morning,
  131. and a classmate who I'd never
    actually talked to before
  132. tapped me on the shoulder,
  133. and he said, "Hey, tell your people
    to stop attacking us."
  134. I was confused, hurt, stunned.
  135. "Us?"
  136. I thought I was "us."
  137. I certainly wasn't "them," was I?
  138. That would be the first time
  139. that I saw the way the world viewed
    the category I belonged to.
  140. Names like Muhammed, Ahmed, Sharif,
  141. names I had grown up with all of my life
  142. were equated with terms
    like "terrorist," "hate monger," "enemy."
  143. I was angry at those men who had warped
    my faith into a vengeful weapon,
  144. and at the same time at the media
    for propagating those stereotypes.
  145. I swung from self-defense to self-doubt,
  146. pride to shame.
  147. Who was I? What side was I on?
    Where did I fit in?
  148. I had no idea.
  149. For years, I had
    constantly measured myself
  150. against images
    that looked nothing like me.
  151. I didn't see myself in the TV,
    in the classroom or in magazines.
  152. And suddenly, my face was everywhere
    with a big red X painted over it.
  153. Why did I feel so uncertain
    and insecure about my identity?
  154. I'm going to throw some
    social-psychological jargon out at you
  155. to make myself sound really smart.

  156. There's something
    called a "stereotype threat,"
  157. and what it says is that individuals
    of a particular group
  158. internalize and react to the negative
    stereotypes associated with that group.
  159. So because I'm so afraid
    of everybody thinking
  160. that all those bad things
    that people say about me are true,
  161. sometimes, I don't act
    to the best of my abilities.
  162. I underperform.
  163. Whether it's academically, socially -
  164. I was definitely
    an introvert for a reason.
  165. And basically what that means
    is that you act against your true nature
  166. because you're constantly trying
    to live up to other people's expectations
  167. or deny their assumptions.
  168. You mask who you truly are.
  169. So, how to we deflect these threats?
  170. Yes, you're right: with more jargon!
  171. There is something
    called a "mirror-neuron theory."
  172. What it means is that your brain neurons
    react in the same way,
  173. whether or not you
    are the one doing the action.
  174. So, if I'm watching you
    eat a really delicious cheeseburger,
  175. my brain is reacting in the same way
  176. as if I was eating that really delicious
    cheeseburger myself.
  177. Which is why the Food Network
  178. is quite possibly the greatest
    programming of all time.
  179. Only show I watch!
  180. Now, imagine if what we saw on the media
  181. reflected a positive portrayal
    of the group that we belonged to.
  182. How would our brains react?
  183. How would our perceptions change?
  184. That was the secret of the success
    of the show "The Cosby Show,"
  185. the groundbreaking and intelligent sitcom
  186. that truly helped to adjust
    perception of African Americans.

  187. It was the first of its kind.
  188. By focusing on the comedic
    trials and tribulations
  189. of a successful and lovable family
    that just happened to be African American,
  190. it took away those
    limiting qualifiers of race
  191. and helped to redefine what it meant
    to just be an American family,
  192. all through the power of story.
  193. Now while we look to the media to bring us
    the stark realities of humankind,
  194. we seek stories to find
    some emotional connectivity with it.
  195. Stories give us a glimpse into
    the inner workings of the human spirit,
  196. its pitfalls and its potentials.
  197. And they stir within us a desire
    to reach the excesses of our imagination.
  198. They challenge us and force us to look
    at one another for who we truly are
  199. in the hopes of possibly
    connecting our souls,
  200. and for that reason, they are sacred.
  201. And at the same time,
  202. they can be the shields
    against the threats to our soul,
  203. threats to our identity.
  204. So what the mirror-neuron theory is saying
  205. is that it's human nature
    to follow the actions of the masses.

  206. We repeat and/or believe
    what people tell us to believe -
  207. about others and about ourselves.
  208. So why not tell stories
    that are empowering and aspirational
  209. and challenge us to be better?
  210. (Applause)
  211. That is exactly what superhero stories do.
  212. The history of comics is about the misfit,
  213. the unlikely hero,
  214. the ability to create greatness
    where there was once doubt.
  215. The unassuming Peter Parker,
  216. the wallflower who's picked on
    and misunderstood,
  217. gets bitten by a radioactive spider
  218. that gives him extraordinary powers
    and extraordinary responsibilities.
  219. Yet his path is filled with villains
    who would doubt his determination,
  220. who would threaten those he loves,
  221. threaten his life choices.
  222. And yet Spider-Man, being the hero
    that he is, would always swing back,
  223. he'd always beat the bad guy
  224. and he'd always get the girl.
  225. Or girls, in Spider-Man's case.
  226. Lots of love drama there.
  227. For 75 years, Marvel has been telling
    the tale of the outcast behind the mask.
  228. It's through his flaws and desires that we
    connect with the heart of the character
  229. so that when he emerges as a hero,
    we have a real reason to champion him
  230. because we understand
    those struggles too, don't we?
  231. And we also want to move past them.
  232. Heroes make a choice to fight injustice,
    to protect the innocent,
  233. to put the balance back
    on the side of the good,
  234. no matter how much
    they sacrifice of themselves.
  235. They're willing to die for it
    because they've chosen who they are.
  236. And they will defend it no matter what.
  237. So when that little girl
    sat rapt to attention,
  238. all those years ago
    at her television screen,
  239. watching the X-Men,
  240. it wasn't just because they had taken her
    on an astonishing adventure.
  241. It's because they told her
    that it was okay to be different.
  242. In fact, you had to fight for it.
  243. Because we all
    want to be heroes, don't we?
  244. And wouldn't it be amazing
    if heroes looked just like us?
  245. So why does a character like Kamala Khan
    resonate with so many people?
  246. Like the first African-American
    and Latino Spider-Man, Miles Morales,
  247. Kamala Khan is so much larger
    than just a pop-culture icon.
  248. She came together
  249. in response to that global
    subconscious desire for representation
  250. for those Muslim American,
    bacon-sniffing, short, nerdy girls like me
  251. and for anyone else,
  252. regardless of their gender,
    sexuality, race, religion,
  253. who just feel like misfits themselves.
  254. In the actual Ms. Marvel series,
  255. Kamala Khan is just a girl
    trying to fit in.
  256. She's constantly negotiating,
    renegotiating who she is
  257. and all of the rules that come with it.
  258. Where does she belong?
  259. She has no idea.
  260. She's still figuring out
    that journey to her authentic self.
  261. But all she knows
  262. is that she does not want to be limited
    by the labels imposed upon her.
  263. So really, Kamala Khan's story
    is everyone's.
  264. It's about confronting the labels
    you've been assigned
  265. and sculpting them and redefining them
  266. until you figure out who you truly are
    and what you actually believe.
  267. One of my favorite mottos -
  268. actually I have it written
    on a post-it over my computer.
  269. I look at it every single day,
  270. and it was said by a poet named Rumi.
  271. And it goes,
  272. "Do not be satisfied with stories,
    that which has come before.
  273. Unfold your own myth."
  274. And that is our challenge.
  275. Every single one of us,
    no matter the categories we've inherited,
  276. we must unfold our own myth.
  277. And it won't be easy.
  278. We're constantly navigating,
    rearranging, reinventing
  279. others' expectations
    of ourselves every day.
  280. But every word we write
    in the narrative of our own lives,
  281. we come closer to uncovering
    what's beneath our own masks,
  282. maybe even embracing that true misfit,
    that true crazy one within.
  283. Oh, it'll be a fight, that's for sure.
  284. But that battle for your soul,
  285. for your authentic self,
  286. it's worth it, isn't it?
  287. It's bold; it's brave.
  288. In fact, I would say it's heroic.
  289. So now it's your turn.
  290. Tell me your story.
  291. Thank you.
  292. (Applause)