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Scarlet Scarab’s Secret Origin: Moon Knight 

Mohamed Diab, the director, tells how Moon Knight transformed Layla El-Faouly into the Scarlet Scarab. 

One of the finest moments in Marvel’s just concluded Moon Knight series is when Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy) accepts to serve as the Egyptian goddess Taweret’s temporary human avatar. This occurs at a pivotal point in the season finale, when Marc Spector/Steven Grant/Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac) and the deity Khonshu want all the assistance they can get to battle the goddess Ammit, who has been freed by Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) to kill most of mankind. 

Layla appears in an incredible suit with terrifying abilities, and has subsequently been called the Scarlet Scarab by Marvel. While Harrow and Ammit are eventually vanquished (due in part to the efforts of Jake Lockley, the third personality in Spector’s body), Layla’s future as Taweret’s avatar and as a superhero remains unknown. 

Layla, Marc Spector’s wife and fellow adventurer, is a Disney+ series original, however she was at least partly inspired by Marlene Alraune, his girlfriend and ultimate wife in the comics. In the comics, the Scarlet Scarab moniker has nothing to do with Moon Knight, with the original male form of the character appearing in Thor and The Invaders novels. 

According to series director and executive producer Mohamed Diab, the character of Layla in Moon Knight was not originally intended to be Egyptian. “First and foremost, I have to give it to the authors,” Diab says. “They had the bright notion of creating Layla Egyptian… When Sarah [Goher, Diab’s wife and artistic partner] and I arrived, we certainly added some Egyptian flavor. When May arrived, she quickly became the character’s best lawyer, and she had a lot of influence on her.” 

Diab isn’t sure whether “Marvel or the authors” came up with the concept of giving Layla her heroic moment, but placing the world’s first Egyptian superhero onscreen was an immediate home hit for him. “This was the finest idea in the world,” he boasts. “Today, Egyptians are coping with the show and Layla as feeling represented and seen — it seems like this is our Black Panther.” In Egypt right now, everyone in the program is a hero.” 

“And it’s not only Egypt,” the filmmaker adds. People in the Middle East and South Asia…everything seems similar, so people feel represented. My five-year-old daughter wanted to straighten her wavy hair since she had never seen someone on television who looked like her. But now, I believe this will effect a large number of girls and even guys all across the globe.” 

When a little girl sees Layla in action on the street and asks her directly whether she is an Egyptian superhero, the impact of that image strikes home. “I am,” Layla says before propelling herself and her gleaming golden wings back into the fight against Ammit. It’s a brief but powerful moment, the conclusion of Moon Knight’s meticulously researched and thorough investigation of Egyptian culture and society free of the clichés that plague Hollywood representations of the Middle East. 

“I hope we could play this on a wide screen one day,” Diab adds. “This is really a momentous occasion. There are often stereotypes about Arab women being subservient. But Layla embodies the truth, which is that Arab women – and indeed women in Third World nations who live under tough situations – are stronger as a result. That was a very crucial aspect to represent. Even if she didn’t become a superhero, she would have been a formidable figure.” As previously said, Layla’s future is uncertain for the time being, not only since her association with Taweret was only brief, but also because we don’t know whether Moon Knight will return for a second season. We do know this: if there is a Season 2, we want to see the Scarlet Scarab return to the Marvel superhero pantheon.

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