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Persepolis is a film based on the true story of a Muslim girl called Marjane Satrapi who lived in the pre- and post-revolutionary period of Iran. She was an outspoken and a confident girl who liked western culture opposed by the Iranian government. She thought it to be unjust for the political system to impose their regulations on people against their will. Being a rebellious girl she protested against Islamic patriarchal double standards in a number of ways and thinks of the norms set for Iranian men and women as wrong. Her decisions in life reflect non-conformity and resistance to accept what is ordered and thought that it was farcical to burden women with sexual guilt. Marjane finds all the ways to get on with life of how she likes it, even when their governments work hard to prevent them from doing so. Marjane betrays the culture and heritage of Iran even while living in Iran and when she goes to Europe she does the same. My essay will develop more on how she how she leads her life according to her wishes and deviates from the culture of the nation she was born in.
Satrapi can connect her personal life with the story of the nation as Iran unlike western countries, has never been a country open to conflict with the people in power and supporting women liberalization but she from a very young age was not ready to accept orders and adopted defensive strategies. She did not like being dictated as we see in one of the scenes of the movie where she is roaming in the room around the sofas saying "down with shah". Her mother scolds her and tells her to go to bed but still she keeps on repeating the same sentence with the low voice. In the ruling period of Shah when she was young she listened to punk rock and purchased Iron Maiden. When she grew older she was reluctant to adopt the changes made by the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. As before the country was ruled by Shah, who was a dictator but the extreme Islamic revolutionary period which was dominated by Khomeine was unacceptable to Marjane. In school Marjane was obliged to wear a 'hijab' which she did not liked but did not wore it at home. She thought it was not a proper representation of her freedom and her right to live. Then in school she had a clash with her teacher when the teacher was lying about the political prisoners and Marjane stands up and tells the class that her Uncle Anoosh was arrested and executed in the ruling period of Khomeini. She also expressed that Khomeini's rule is no better. In another scene we see her running and the morality police stops her and asks her the reason, she tells them she is getting late. One police man told her that it does not look nice when women run and their hips bounce. Marjane shouts at him and tells him to keep his eyes shut. When Marjane grew older she did indulge in small rebellions through wearing lipstick and showing a few strands of hair. Also on one occasion she is wearing makeup and a police man sees her but to divert his attention she tells him that a man was looking at her with disgrace upon which the police man arrests that man. On hearing that her grandma gets upset that she has used her 'perceived gender' as a defensive measure to protect herself.
Her personal life circumstances contradict the social and cultural changes occurring in Iran. Under the rule of Khomeine, Islam was practised and no indecent act was carried out in public. Marjane and her family were involved in cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking but it was only carried out at home and in parties. Once Marjane and her family were stopped while driving and were asked to have their home checked for any prohibited items in their home. Marjane's grandma goes in the house to empty the bottles of wine before the morality police finds them. She was also sent by her parents to Europe because of her courage of speaking in public so that no one harms her and she is able to express her opinions in Europe however she likes. When she had to move to Europe but Europe's culture was a lot more different to what she had experienced in Iran to a lesser extent. She found out that she was not able to adjust at first but then she tried to adopt the customs of the friends she made at school. In Europe she could smoke and drink alcohol in public, she slept with two of her boyfriends, did not wore 'hijab', went to parties with her friends and listened to music in public. Also when she feels a gravitational pull to her homeland and is on the Tehran airport she is asked by a man to fix her head scarf. And when she comes back she finds herself attracted to another boy called Reza. Reza and Marjane are sitting in the car and morality police sees them holding hands and her father had to pay the fine. Contradictory to how she kissed her boyfriend sitting in the car when she was in Europe. She marries Reza so that people do not get the license of talking wrong about her.
Gender is a social construction and women was always dominated by their husbands and one of the scenes in which we see Marjane expressing her views in her school of how men are allowed to do whatever they wished and women enforced to wear the 'hijab'. 'Hijab' was tolerated by women because it was made mandatory and women who covered their heads and bodies were looked upon respectfully. 'Hijab' was thought of as a saviour for women from being perceived as sex objects. I would like to mention another scene of the film in which Marjane is with her mother and coming out of the shopping centre and a guy tells her mother to fix her scarf but her mother does not thinks it to be important and the man shouts "I fuck whores like you and throw them in the trash".
The alienation that she experiences in Europe is similar to the alienation she had experienced in Iran where she had to do everything she liked in private. She lives with the nuns and is constantly criticized by the nuns which represent the interference of the mullahs in Iran. No one knows about the life she's escaped or understands that not every Iranian is a terrorist, and she goes so far as to hide her nationality altogether. She was not brought up with the same cultural and social values as her European friends she found herself a misfit. For a while she loses herself in punk rock and other alternative pleasures to be accepted widely. She also told people that she was born in France. But she felt homesick and decided to leave for Iran. Either she could be more or less free and give up her home, or she could return home at the cost of her freedom and individuality and the religious fundamentalism and extremism she fled her country to escape. Though it meant putting on the veil and living in a tyrannical society, Marjane decides to return to Iran to be close to her family, continuing to speak out against the hypocrisy she witnesses. She then makes the heartbreaking decision to leave her homeland once more for France, optimistic about her future, shaped indelibly by her past.
Marji's readjustment to life in Tehran is only made harder by the destruction around her caused by the country's war with Iraq, which represents the depression she had faced because her two boyfriends left her and once again finding no one who understands what she's been through. Feeling boxed in by her limited opportunities and the weight of the restrictive fundamentalist government around her neck. She then makes the heartbreaking decision to leave her homeland once more for France, optimistic about her future, shaped indelibly by her past. when she and her sweetheart could walk down the street hand in hand. Now women are vilified and oppressed, while men can do more or less as they please.