How Ms. Marvel’s Zoe Zimmer went from bully to best friend through her queer self-discovery in comics
Following Zoe Zimmer's in-comics arc from bully to best friend
The mean girl trope has always been very sapphic. When you reminisce about Mean Girls' Regina George, it’s not her relationship with the hottest boy in school that stands out. It’s her love/hate dynamic with Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Heron that has imprinted onto fans' brains almost 20 years later.
Have you ever seen Jennifer’s Body? One of the most memorable scenes of the 2009 cult classic is Megan Fox’s steamy kiss with Amanda Seyfried. Don’t worry they’re just gal pals and their tension had no romantic undertones. But what if the stereotypical mean girl had an actual queer storyline? That’s where Ms. Marvel’s Zoe Zimmer enters the scene!
Who is Zoe Zimmer in Marvel Comics?
Zoe made her first comic book debut in G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel #1 (2014) as you guessed it - the mean girl. In the very first scene of Kamala’s origin story, Zoe’s “mean girl” comments aren’t presented in a stereotypical “I’m mean to be mean” type of way. She actually walks into the Circle Q with a bubbly smile - almost as if Kamala, Nakia, and Bruno are her friends. Zoe isn’t a bad person. She’s just EXTREMELY ignorant, that’s what makes her a mean girl – a complex one at that.
It’s evident that she hasn’t been educated about class, race, religion, or queerness, up to this point. She surrounds herself with people just like her: rich, popular, and white. She dates the star quarterback Josh as, for lack of a better term, a beard. Either way, she doesn’t want to admit she’s a lesbian or doesn’t even have the language to understand that she’s gay. She’s comfortable with her peers thinking she’s a nice-mean, popular ditz… until the world ends.
It took almost dying for Zoe to understand that she needed to make a change in her life, and that said change was symbolically represented through a rainbow dye job and new vegan diet (it doesn’t get gayer than that folks). She started creating friendships with people from different backgrounds. Including becoming BEST FRIENDS with the likes of Nakia and joining Kamala’s inner circle. She apologized for her nasty comments and full heartedly understood that she was being a bad person.
By better understanding the people around her, Zoe was able find her own identity outside her popularity and relationship with Josh. She eventually breaks up with her boyfriend (off panel), but Josh doesn’t take a liking to that and almost blows up their high school arguing that all he wanted was to understand why Zoe broke up with him. It’s right then and there that Zoe comes out to her ex! Everything clicks. She deconstructs her own mean girl trope: she wasn’t only ignorant towards others, but also herself. She was angry and didn’t even understand why she was angry until she realized that anger came from bottled up internalized homophobia.
G. Willow Wilson beautifully tackles very authentic challenges that young queer people have to face. Zoe quickly learns that coming out is a process, and sometimes that journey doesn’t happen as smoothly or comfortably as you’d like. And if there’s a thesis statement to this whole mean girl/Sapphic connection it’s in Ms. Marvel #16 (2016) when Kamala reveals that an internet troll wants to out Zoe to the whole school.
Zoe has the choice between the troll outing Ms. Marvel’s secret identity or outing herself. Without any hesitation, she decides to let the villain out her. She understands that the troll is just a “mean girl,” and mean girls won’t stop. If Ms. Marvel revealed her secret identity, it wouldn’t be the end of their tyranny, and the whole world would be at stake if she didn’t make this sacrifice.
So, she does one of the scariest things that almost all queer people have experienced: she tells her crush that she has feelings for her, even though she’s pretty sure she’s fallen in love with a straight girl. Zoe also embraces the school finding out about her love letters, which actually makes her friendship with Nakia even stronger! Zoe is proud to be her authentic self, surrounded by the people that love her. This allows her to be a hero in her own right, even fighting alongside Ms. Marvel on a handful of adventures.
Who will Zoe Zimmer be in Her MCU Debut?
The Ms. Marvel show is clearly taking plenty of inspiration from the first volume of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel run. The only major difference is the change to Ms. Marvel's power set, but the story beats seem rather similar to its source material.
Zoe, portrayed by Laurel Marsden, makes a quick appearance in the trailer, highlighting her mean girl status. She pronounces Kamala’s name wrong, while simultaneously making fun of her Avengers shirt. To really prove her “I’m a bully” motif, the trailer even draws in devil horns for her.
Marsden’s IMDB page states that her character will be making an appearance in all 6 episodes of season 1. The trailer does showcase that the program will focus on high school hijinks just as much as Ms. Marvel’s superhero origin story. Does this mean that the show will have enough time to explore Zoe’s queer narrative or will this be a season 2 storyline once the show finds its sea legs?
The only other Marvel show I can compare this to is Hulu’s Runaways, which had one of the only queer storylines in a MCU property. Karolina’s coming out was a major part of her storyline for the show’s first season, but it took until almost the end of the season to see her Sapphic storyline bloom. Granted, Karolina was more of a main character on Runaways than Zoe is on Ms. Marvel, but hopefully the Disney Plus show can take a similar approach for Zoe.
Ms. Marvel’s supporting cast is one of the franchise’s most important elements. So, I hope the show gives enough room for these characters to become fully fleshed out. Zoe is more than a mean girl stereotype, and she deserves a storyline that fully showcases that in the MCU just as much as fans of the MCU deserve more queer representation.
Check out Popverse's review of the first two episodes of Ms. Marvel. Disney+ Ms. Marvel episodes 1 and 2 review: A brighter, more hopeful hero for the MCU future