A Few Thoughts on Persepolis

Generally speaking, political films are not my thing, I certainly care about politics but by watching and reading the news and when it comes history, a political history that is, I would much instead read a non-fiction book or watch a documentary about it rather than a fictitious creative take on that as I can’t shake the feeling, even if I agree with the film’s intention, that it is propaganda. So why is Persepolis one of my favourite e films?

Politics and government are part of everyone’s macro world, even though a lot of the time it seems indirect, but it certainly does have an impact on your micro world. Persepolis is about a real person, the director of the film, recounting her life in Iran and how the politics of that country affected her as an individual. So because of this individualistic aspect, I am automatically curious about this person’s political reflections, especially since she is a woman in a country that does not precisely treat them as equal to men.

I identify with Marjane even though I can’t find her relatable, simply because I have had a different political experience for which I consider myself lucky. But for example, she and I have a somewhat similar taste in music from when we were teens, which is incredible from a nostalgic point. I honestly can not fathom living in a world where my favourite music is just illegal to the end of having to bargain with a shady dealer, Marjane, on the other hand, has lived this reality. In that scene, she gets policed for her self expression; I, on the other hand, would have only gotten detention if I was at school. I also have to appreciate the animation on the female Guardians of the Revolution who loom in like pillars of shadows as they attempt to take her into custody.

Later in the movie, when she moves to Austria for her safety, she ironically fits in politically as she can now be more self-expressive and freely buy whatever unique product she wants, but not culturally. The nuns she initially lives with are horrible to her, and I got the impression that this might have been because of her assumed Muslim background other than the stated rhetoric by the nuns that Iranians are uneducated. I would also say, that they probably look down on her for being young too.

There’s also the matter of Marjane’s peers who are ideology-posers, using a political stance for fashionability rather than having a set of values. Whereas because Marjane has experiences that have actually shaped her ideology and political views she is more authentic, and ironically these peers don’t ‘get her’.

I admire Marjane’s parents, who are being rebels as they make their own alcohol, which is illegal. As a hobby, my dad makes his beer, and when I told him about this scene, as I suspected, he resonated with this part of the film. He then pointed out that wine being illegal in Iran is tragic since his favorite wine is Shiraz, named after a city in Iran.

Later in the movie, when she is attending university, there is a meeting about public morality that is sexist toward women, and Marjane puts her foot down. It’s also noteworthy that before this scene, Marjane falsely accused a man over something petty resulting in his arrest just to save her skin, which to me, shows that in a world where women are oppressed, men also have limited freedom.

Another scene that lends itself well to the animation is whenever Marjane has conversations with God, the best one being when Karl Marx joins in. Marjane and her family are loosely Muslims and wish for a communist government. I would not say that I am for communism, although depending on the country and the culture it could work out, but I’m no expert. Still, I agree that an autocracy under the Shah was not the right way to go about for Iran, and I am sympathetic to the lack of democracy there.

The final heart breaker in the movie is the fact that Marjane is too “radical” for her own country even though culturally, from my perspective, she is as healthy as me, which results in her having to leave Iran for her safety permanently. This, unfortunately, means she misses out on the last bit of time she could have spent with her grandmother.



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Pop-culturalist historian. You can also find me on YouTube as jasonnebulaar where I’ll be uploading hopefully regularly.