So what do you guys think: Does this NY Times piece do anything different than the ABC or CNN segments featured in Sweet Crude?
Persepolis is an interesting study on how a movie can be complementary to a work of literature. Because the film is animated the medium is very similar to that of the comic book so Satrapi can make a movie with a similar feeling to the original work. Animated films are the closest medium to comic books in that their production process is the same save for, in the case of movies, the process is extended to give viewer a seamless comic book experience. Another interesting comparison to the movie compared to the comic book is that the film seemed to be a more powerful of an agent of change for the country. Movies are a more commonly accepted form of media and require less effort on the part of the viewer to watch rather than read in the case of a comic book. Comic books, at least in Western societies, posess an unfavorable stigma. Further, media is heavily controlled in authoritarian state such as Iran so distribution of textual media is difficult as opposed to cinema which can be transmitted digitally and with less impediments.
Persepolis had won the Oscar for best-animated feature, which gave women in the region a lot of publicity and caused international recognition for certain issues associated with Iranian culture. The use of female protagonist is one of the primary plot elements that conflicts with Iranian culture. Essential to the Iranian culture is the Muslim religion which promotes a society that favors men as they have dominion over inferior beings such as women.
In case anyone is interested…this is an interview with Marjane Satrapi about Persepolis
The article that I chose to discussion in relation with Persepolis is, “Estranging the Familiar: “East” and “West” in Satrapi’s Persepolis”. As it may suggest this article discusses the many interactions between the western and eastern influences portrayed in the graphic novel. We a given more than one persepective on the influence of the east and west upon each other, firstly we see western influence on the east in Iran, then when Marjane leaves for Vienna we see the opposite and eastern influence on the west, and finally upon the return to Iran we see a whole new type of western influence on the east. While cultural influences often take center stage in the novel it is important to notice the other important influences that these two settings have upon each other. Political and economic influence is constantly in the background of the novel, dealing with multiple influences of Britain and the US on Iranian leadership. While these influences may not come to bear much in Marjane’s personal story they are essential to the understanding of the situation in Iran and how it is viewed around the world.
In Persepolis 1 we see the multiple influences of western culture on Iranian youth, this comes in the form of clothing, pins, posters, music and so on. In Persepolis 2 on the other hand we get a greater image of how the west in influenced by eastern culture and the ultimate result is somewhat unsettling. Marjane’s time in Vienna shows us how her eastern culture is largely looked down upon in the west. She is at times deals with difficulties due to the unfair stereotyping of Iranians, and at other times is accused of inventing her Iranian stories of hardship. What we see is in many circles there is unwillingness for western culture to accept eastern culture; Marjane is often tolerated but rarely accepted, whereas when Marjane left Iran western culture was appealing to many in the east.
Upon Marjane’s return to Iran we see that a good deal has changed in terms of western influences on the east. No longer can one get away with the more blatant forms of western cultural appreciation, instead people must keep all signs of the west in secret. Using western influences as a form of opposition against the regime has no longer become feasible and instead the regime must be fought with much more subtle methods such as revealing slightly too much hair, or by wearing makeup. Marjane’s sexual experiences in Europe at times cause her to be compared with a whore and we are able to recognize some of the more glaring cultural differences between the east and the west. The Iranian regimes constant repression has all but wiped out the cultural influences of the west and only from time to time do we see these influences sneak through in the form of parties or of satellite TV.
Marjane’s difficulties in moving between these two cultural locations reveals how the innate difficulty of being the “other”, in Vienna she is clearly Iranian and not one of them. And back in Iran she is viewed again as an outsider due to her time in Vienna. Being the “other” takes a significant toll on Marjane, and while we often see the mixture of cultures in he novel we are often given a sense that while they may mix aesthetically at times they do not mix on a deeper level. Marjane’s cultural fluctuations come to define her and make it difficult for her to find a place in either the west or the east. What we ultimately come to realize is that there is often a high level of miscommunication between these cultural groups and an unwillingness to bridge that gap through intelligent communication.
Although the film adaptation of Persepolis was very well done, I think there were some differences between the graphic novel and the film that are important to note. I would first like to start by pointing out the fact that film was in color in the beginning and the end whereas the entire graphic novel was in black and white. This was definitely an interesting choice on the side of the director but I actually enjoyed the use of color in the film. I believe this was a very subtle way for the director to show us what was in the present (color) and what was in the past (black and white). However there was a difference between the film and graphic novel that I did not find appealing. In the graphic novel, the character of Eve has a bigger role in Marjani’s life; the reader is able to see how Marjani is introduced to the “sexual revolution” through Eve. Eve was more than a promiscuous character, I think she represented an important time in history and it was unfortunate that her character wasn’t able to do that in the film. The film also did not depict Marjani’s punk phase and time with drugs to the extent that it was depicted in the novel. By showing Marjani’s excessive use of drugs, the graphic novel was not only showing us how much Marjani was being affected by her peers, but it was also foreshadowing her eventual depression because it seemed as if she used drugs not to just “have fun” but escape her life. In fact Marjani’s suicide attempt was barely shown in the film and if you had not read the novel, you would not have known she had tried to kill herself in the first place. What was most interesting about how Marjani’s suicide attempt was portrayed in the film was that God appeared to Marjani and told her “it was not her time”. This seems like a small detail but in the novel, Marjani does not talk or even see God after her suicide attempt and this was only appropriate since Marjani had ended her relationship with God a long time ago.
In Persepolis, Marji often feels as though she is a foreigner in her own native country and seeks respite from feeling forlorn and powerless. She turns to humor in an effort to combat these feelings of inadequacy, which leads to an eventual understanding of Iranian culture on the part of not only the main character, but also the reader, by proxy.
Persepolis is bursting with satirical moments that enhance Marji’s coming of age journey from childhood to womanhood. During Marji’s time in school, the satirical portions are aimed at the oppressive tactics employed by the religious regime. One of the more obvious examples in the novel appears in “The Water Cell,” where Satrapi uses irony to mock the absurdity of the revolutionary forces. In this chapter, Marji’s parents, after a day of supporting Marxist revolutionaries, return home to Marji and are met with her insistence that they join her in playing the board game, Monopoly. The irony exists in the game’s inherent teachings of capitalism, the polar opposite of any and all Marxist ideals. This event is a textual example of how Satrapi uses subtle ironic humor as a way to show a stage in the protagonist’s development – here, Marji’s understanding of her parent’s rejection of capitalistic principles.
A more obvious example of humor comes in the chapter where Marji and her fellow classmates choose toilet paper as decorations honoring the anniversary of the revolution. Marji opines – “Every situation offered an opportunity for laughs…when we had to decorate the classroom for the anniversary of the revolution.” (Satrapi, 92). Her teacher asks, “What are these garlands? Toilet paper?”(Satrapi, 92). Here, humor is used as way to signal to the reader that Marji has an understanding of the political changes in her country and her support for one side, using wit to express her beliefs. This is also evident in “The Socks,” when, during an art exercise, an anatomy professor announced that classical nude figures were to be replaced with covered women, leading Marji to conclude that because “not a single part of her body was visible, we nevertheless learned to draw drapes.” (Satrapi, 299)
Humor often serves as a cocoon, shielding one from the harsh realities of violence, death, torture, and other atrocities against which the individual is powerless. Humor is used to cope with wartime and the horrors taking place as a result of political turmoil. In one instance, the character Siamak details the torture of political prisoners, telling Marji that dissenters were burned with household items, such as irons. Marji responds, ““I never imagined that you could use that appliance for torture.” (Satrapi, 51). The author’s use of a dumbfounded response shows the reader that Marji’s innocence still acts to shield herself from the ugly realities of her world, showing not only an acceptance, but moreover, an operative response so as to maintain a sense of rationality.
In the chapter titled “Tyrol,” Marji finds herself in Vienna, where her wit has brought her popularity. She states, “…I began to draw caricatures of the teachers. I had gotten into this habit with my teachers in Iran. The difference being that they were all veiled, therefore much easier to draw. These portraits…brought me some goodwill.” (Satrapi, 165). Here, the humor is two-fold, first, in a broad, obvious way to display a commonality between Marji and any average, rambunctious schoolchild, undermining authority by insulting an instructor in an attempt to win approval of fellow classmates; and secondly, as a sarcastic comment on the differences between Iranian and Austrian teachers. Marji is self-aware, and seeks to diffuse any residual concerns of potential ostracization by fellow classmates based on her background, which of course sets her apart.
The reader is able to see that Marji has now gone beyond a budding understanding of self by using parody and wit to endure, a great feat which she develops into a third stage of renewed courage, optimism and drive, apparent when she returns to Iran after her time spent abroad in Vienna, where she comes to terms with the ways in which the political unrest has affected herself and her family.
Despite that the story evolves around wars, violence, being stuck between two worlds, and a set of tragedies, Marjane Satrapi manages to add a good sense of humor all throughout the book. It is definitely a brilliant way to make the novel easier to read especially when the audiences of the novel are readers from the west who the whole motive is to showcase the Iranian/Muslim culture to them. This novel is filled with ironic humor that plays well with the symbolism that Marjane tries to convey. For example, in the beginning chapter, after Marjane’s parents were out all day supporting the revolution, Marjane wants to play “Monopoly”, a western board game. It is truly a humorous scene in the novel; however, it symbolizes that in the Satrapi household they hold to western capitalist values that the whole country is against. Nevertheless, Satrapi does not only use plain humor in her book but she alternates between humor and seriousness in scenes that involve violence, torture, and persecution all in the eyes of a child. Consequently, the little child, Marjane loses her precious innocence with all she’s witnessed and experienced. What stroked me the most was her immediate yet strong relationship with her uncle Anoosh. Marjane loved the stories he told to her, and viewed him as a potential hero. After he was executed, Marjane was not only sad and hurt, she was angry with God, who she always spoke to before going to bed. And after she kicked God out of her room and out of her life – if I remember correctly – we don’t get to see her talking to God throughout the rest of the novel at all. This could symbolizes that she feels like she lost faith in God in-a-way after she felt like she has nothing to lose.
Perhaps the most powerful moment in Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel and memoir Persepolis comes in two juxtaposed panels on page 102. The first panel shows black silhouettes of young soldiers blown apart. They wear keys around their necks, keys that promised “paradise” in a war that brought only death and misery. Beneath this is a smaller panel that shows Marjane at her first party. The similarities and differences between these panels demonstrate important themes in the novel.
Like the soldiers, the bodies of Marjane and her friends are bent and jumping. That these body shapes are similar shows that both the soldiers and the adolescents are exploding. For the soldiers, this explosion is tragically literal. For Marjane, this is an internal explosion, the inner tumult that comes with growing up.
The soldiers are dark and without distinguishable characteristics, but Marjane and her fellow revelers wear joyful, distinct expressions. This difference marks the economic disparity between the two groups. The facelessness of the poor soldiers mirrors how the poor in Iran were deprived of their voices. Only the economically advantaged, like Marjane, could afford unique identities. Contrastingly, the poor meld into a hopeless collective, useful to the state only in their supreme sacrifice. The nature of the two scenes also highlights the economic differences between the rich and poor, albeit in a less subtle way. Whereas the middle and upper classes escape from the horrors of war with entertainment, the poor are thrust onto battlefields.
Marjane’s outfit provides another interesting element to this scene. She wears a necklace made of chains and a sweater she purposely punched holes into. The soldiers also wear necklaces, and their torsos are too filled with holes, in a morbid way. Marjane’s clothing indicates 1980s youth culture’s obsession with death. Ironically, she seeks to associate with darkness and death but does just the opposite. Her free choices in clothing and escapism show just how full of life she is. Meanwhile, the poor soldiers wear keys, normally positive symbols, that lead them to their graves.
Before reading Persepolis I had one perception of Iran. I thought of it as a fundamentalist country, and I thought that all of the women had to wear the veil. While I never thought that of all Iranians as terrorists (and actually was angered when people perceived the whole country as terrorists) I never really knew how to think of Iran. Essentially, I had a single story of Iran, and it was a negative one. However, after reading Persepolis I now have a second story that I can refer to. I still wouldn’t say I know a lot about Iran, but I certainly have a realistic story that is very different from my original one. Because Persepolis is told by a young girl who grows up as the story progresses this second story is a unique one. It comes from a citizen of an age and gender that most people don’t hear from. Such an age allows the reader to experience how an innocent young girl perceives all of the political happenings around her. Marjane goes into the bathtub to try and experience what her grandfather did in the water cell. We, as young adult readers, are unlikely to imagine such an innocent experience, which is why the perspective is so important in this novel. Furthermore, the graphics of the novel add another crucial element to understanding the story. If this novel were simply words, it would be hard to picture such a story that is foreign to us. There are so many concepts and a lot of history that we may be unfamiliar with, so visualizing the story can help us to remember the historical context, while engaging us in the story.