Persepolis: A Concoction of Iranian and Western Cultures

In Persepolis, a story of a childhood in Iran, there is a prevalence of Western ideology and culture in a country where it is prohibited. Throughout the graphic novel, the author incorporates many examples of Western culture and ideology which represents particular ideas, themes and attitudes that are resented by the Islamic regime. Satrapi integrates most of the Western references through the protagonist, Marji, who overlooks the standards set by the Islamic regime on the West. In the graphic novel, Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi includes many references to Western culture and the westernized attitudes of Marji’s parents in order to highlight the consequences they cause for her. Satrapi focuses on the consequences of Western culture through her approach of incorporating them through Marji. The protagonist has an admiration for Western culture and enjoys wearing pop culture clothing. However, her preference for pop culture leads to consequences that conflicts her. When Marji’s parents return from their trip to Turkey, they bring her clothes and posters from the West. After she puts up her new posters, Marji decides to go out to buy some music tapes wearing her new Nike shoes and denim jacket with a Michael Jackson button. On her trip, she gets confronted by Guardians of the Revolution who question her about what she is wearing. After Marji’s excuses fail to fool the Guardians, they decide to “take her down to the committee' which was “the HQ of the Guardians of the Revolution”. In this panel, the Western clothing that Marji is wearing leads to a consequence for her. In Iran, the Islamic regime restricts people from wearing clothes of Western culture. To the eyes of the Islamic regime, they are seen as a symbol of decadence and immortality.

The influence of Western culture on Marji results to her adoration for pop culture clothing which almost leads to her being detained by the Guardians of Revolution. Another incidence where Satrapi highlights the consequences of Western influence on Marji was at her school. She declared that “after the death of Neda Baba-Levy, her life took a new turn” and that “she was a rebel, nothing scared her anymore”. Marji asserts this by wearing things from Western culture to school such as jeans, her Nike shoes and jewelry. Eventually, this leads to a conflict between Marji and her principal one day since her principal had “told her a hundred times that it is strictly forbidden to wear jewelry and jeans” at school. During the day after the panel takes place, Marji gets into another argument with her principal over the jewelry she wore to school. The argument escalates to the point where Marji ends up hitting the principal, which ends up getting her expelled from the school. Here, Satrapi yet again concentrates on how Western culture causes consequences for Marji. The Western clothing she wears causes her to be rebellious against her principal which ultimately leads to her consequence of being expelled.

In Persepolis, Marji’s parents’ westernized attitude serves to be very influential towards the protagonist which Satrapi uses to highlight the consequences they cause for Marji. After the Islamic Revolution took place in Iran in 1979, the Islamic regime made it obligatory for females to wear the veil. Before the revolution took place, Marji had been attending a French non-religious school, as a result of Marji’s parents’ westernized attitude which they want to influence her with. Marji claims that “she really did not know what to think about the veil” and that “deep down she was very religious” but “as a family they were very modern and avant-garde'. In the panel, Satrapi uses two different designs of drawings in order to highlight the consequence that her parents’ westernized attitude causes her. One side of the panel can be seen with a design based on education and the other side can be seen with a religious design.

The author incorporates them to highlight the division of self-identity that her parents’ have created for Marji. They proudly express their political attitude by attending demonstrations and also by influencing Marji to be open minded about her beliefs, even if they go against the society’s norms. One day, in school, Marji exclaimed that she will be a prophet when she grows up which lead to her teacher calling her parents. Her teacher claimed that “their child is disturbed” because “she wants to become a prophet”. In this panel, Satrapi highlights the consequence of the influence of Marji’s parents’ westernized attitudes on Marji. Her open mindedness leads to criticism from her teacher and classmates, who thinks that she is crazy. Eventually, with the influence from the westernized attitudes of her parents, they realize that they have raised Marji to be too out thinking and open-minded. They felt that “it’s better for her to be far away and happy” than be “close by and miserable, judging by the situation there, she would be better off somewhere else”. Through this panel, the author highlights the ultimate consequence that her parents’ attitudes on her has led to. Throughout her childhood, they have educated and raised her to be too well for her to stay in Iran. Ultimately, they decide to send her off to Austria, so she does not have to deal with anymore repercussions as a result of her high and westernized education.

In conclusion, Marjane Satrapi highlights the consequences through the inclusion of Western culture and the westernized attitudes of Marji’s parents in her graphic novel, Persepolis. One of the ways Satrapi focuses on highlights consequences of Western culture is through the character of Marji. In addition, the author also utilizes the westernized attitudes of the protagonist’s parents in order to focus on the consequence the West causes for Marji. Although the West is seen as a place of opportunity, freedom and prosperity for many, the Islamic regime of Iran continues to view it as a symbol of decadence, which, in relation to Persepolis, has not changed since Satrapi’s childhood.

10 October 2020
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