Monday, February 9, 2009

“Politics and sentiment don’t mix.”

Perhaps in Marjane Satrapi’s comic-strip memoir, Persepolis, her father felt that the quote above was rather sound. Having lived in Iran through the fall of the Shah and the Iranian Revolution, the new government that was installed was founded on strict religious beliefs, thus the women were forced to wear veils in public and anything secular was prohibited. And though Iranian politics and sentiment do not mix, sentiment was the only thing that allowed Marjane and her family to live within the confines of the Iranian government.

Some families in Iran, like the Satrapis, threw parties despite the dangers of being caught by the Iranian government. Marjane explains some of the Iranian’s views: “Without them it wouldn’t be psychologically bearable,” or “Without parties, we might as well just bury ourselves now”. On the way home from one particular party, the Satrapis get stopped by a law enforcement officer and he follows them home. Marjane and her grandmother pour out all of the alcohol in the house, for it is forbidden, but then her father pays off the officer and is disappointed that all the alcohol is gone, saying, “My G-d!..I need a pick-me-up…”

Marjane has a certain way of putting a dark-comedic spin on such horrifying events, and this dark humor is patch worked throughout the entire memoir, giving it a certain life force – unearthing the horrifying nature of the fighting and repression in Iran, yet allowing the reader to actually continue reading without feeling the need to down a whole bottle of anti-depressants, as Marjane does in the film. Instead, she uses her own humor as a medicine for the reader, which is exactly how the Iranians themselves got through these difficult times. For instance, Marjane’s childhood friend, who lost his arm and leg in the war, made jokes as a way to cope as did many of the soldiers.

At the end of the first part of Persepolis, Marjane’s family sends her to Vienna to further her French education and to allow her free spirit a bit more freedom from the repressive Iranian government. Thus politics and sentiment can mix, if one finds the right concoction. Marjane herself said that she would move away from France today if public smoking was illegalized, finding the correct mixture of politics and sentiments for herself yet again.


  1. Jacob,

    This is a terrific post. You are onto something when you say state that Marjane and her family have to have sentiment in order to live within the confines of the Iranian Revolution. To lose your sentiment in such a life altering experience could be compared to losing a larger part of the self. Perhaps losing sentiment could be compared to losing a voice in politics or feeling as though you have become a second class citizen. In Marjane's novel, rights are being negated and free will is no longer commonplace, so Marjane and her family have to improvise to get something out of life. I felt that Marjane would have died a young death if she had been shut off in the Iranian country forever.

    Another thing you touched on was the way comedy is used in the novel to cover up pain and suffering. You are right, people use comedy to deflect the truth about many things in life. Sometimes things get so bad, all a person had left is humor. I've heard many people say, "At this point, all I can do is laugh about it." When I was reading the novel, I thought that Marjane implemented humorous texts out of the sheer loss of freedom.

  2. I like the point you are trying to get at: that being in touch with our emotions is sometimes the only way we can stay sane in a troubling situation. The humor Marjane uses as well as the things her family did to rebel were how they dealt with the war and the loss of freedom they were experiencing. Basically, you are saying that politics and sentiment do mix because sentimentality will always be a reaction to politics, right? Politics have such a huge impact on our lives that we can't help but have some kind of emotional reaction. However, remember also that politics and sentiments can not directly mix, for this would lead to bad leadership. And definitely, some citizens get out of hand with their emotions causing riots or revolutions, which lead to violence. Really, in any situation, we should be careful with how we handle our emotions. I think Marjane's family handled it fairly well...

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts and I also enjoy your writing style quite a bit. =]

  3. While I observed most of the graphic novel similarly, I noticed that while sentiment seems to play a large role in Satrapi's life, as does politics, they are not always intertwined. The sentiments she feels for her family are not always political. Her grandmother, for example, does not have much of a political role, but occupies the largest sentimental attention of the movie, and a large portion of the purely emotional moments of the book.
    I agree that the humorous scenes were important, and even could postulate that without the humorous aspects of the graphic novel, and supposedly the lives of the characters, the novel could not progress.