In Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis, we are told of a young girl’s coming of age in a tempestuous Iran. At first, I was put off by the graphic narrative, or “comic book”, style of presentation. I did not believe that I would construe any deeper meaning from what I believed to be a rudimentary form. Yet her work was filled with an abundance of themes, from love and youth, to family and tradition.
As ignorant as it may sound, I have to admit that I have never been extremely familiar with Iran. I hear the name on the news all the time, but I have never bothered to learn about the country. After reading The Complete Persepolis, I feel as though I have a better grasp not only on Iranian government and history, but also on the Iranian people. I have always had a very stereotyped vision of what an Iranian person would be: strict, extremely religious, anti-Western, and shrouded in a black veil. The Complete Persepolis shattered any misconceptions I had. Right off the bat, I identified with Satrapi. The way she thought was more similar to the way I did than I could have imagined from an Iranian girl. She worried about pleasing her parents, meeting cute boys, and making friends, the thoughts that occupy most young girls’ minds. Satrapi and her family were proof that not all Iranians are the extremists that you see on the news.
While the thought process and behind-closed-doors behavior of the characters was extremely relatable, the treatment of the people by the government outside of closed doors was something that shocked and appalled me. Women were treated particularly badly. I have a difficult time understanding the reasoning behind this; if men are so incapable of repressing their lusts and desires, why are women the ones being punished? Why not lock these uncontrollable men up rather than force women to rid themselves of their femininity and identity? Reading the graphic narrative, I felt a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. I understand that Iran is Satrapi’s home, but to me, it gave off the air of a prison.
Overall, I admire the way Satrapi maintained her sense of individuality in a country were you were forced to cover it with a veil.