Persepolis

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Persepolis

Imagine living in a country where it is illegal to watch movies, listen to music, or even play cards. To this day, there are still billions of people who live in these types of totalitarian countries. This movie focuses on one of these countries in particular, Iran, an Islamic-fascist state home to 75 million people, and the plight of a young woman named Marjane Satrapi who tries to escape this political oppression. In this movie, Marjane tries to reconcile her national identity with her desire to live in a free society, and this causes conflict within her family and her newly found European friends. The movie Persepolis brilliantly illustrates the cultural and personal struggles that millions of immigrants go through when they flee a religious theocracy in search for freedom.

In a totalitarian state, all forms of free expression are suppressed. In Iran’s case, the acculturating free culture from the westernized, secular world poses a threat to the religious laws that are used by Iran’s government to control the people. For example, any sense of fashion is considered sinful and is therefore illegal. “They're selling tapes on Gandhi Avenue.” Popular mainstream music like Michael Jackson and the Bee Gees must be sold on the black market in the streets. This is a personal struggle for any unfortunate member of such a society because they risk their freedom every time they dare to rock out to Iron Maiden.

In a fundamental-religious theocracy such as Iran, women are not exactly treated with respect. This society uses religious propaganda such as “the veil stands for freedom” to brainwash women into subservience. And if a woman dares to show a single strand of hair in public, a man will “screw women like you and dump them in the trash.” This degree of religious fundamentalism treats women like trophies; that pious men will be rewarded in heaven with “food, women, gold houses and diamonds!” This level of misogyny is disgusting because it is taken to the point where a woman must be married and raped before she is executed because “it's illegal to kill a virgin” according to Islamic law. This magnifies Marjane’s struggle because she is unfortunate enough to be a woman living in such a misogynistic society.

History repeats itself over and over, and Iran is just another example of what happens when overthrowing a dictator goes wrong. “It's normal, every revolution has a period of transition.” When a relatively benevolent dictator such as the Shah, who wanted to modernize and secularize Iran, is overthrown by an uneducated populace where “half the country is illiterate” and where “only nationalism and religion can unite people”, you cannot expect a better result to come out of that. When illiterate religious fanatics who are upset at the moral “decay” caused by westernization are allowed to vote, who do you think they will elect? Probably religious nutcases (Ayatollah Khomeini and President Ahmadinejad) who represent their views. Iran is also a developing nation where the majority of the people are under 30 years old, so young, fickle teenagers who probably don’t work or study are easily swayed into becoming soldiers who enforce the fascist laws of the state. “I could be your mother. How old are you? Fifteen?” This relates to Marjane’s battle to break away from this aspect of her cultural heritage.

In order for a democracy to work, the electorate must be educated enough to not elect a fascist idiot. In the movie, the so-called “winners” of the post-dictatorship election claimed that “99.99% of the people have voted democratically for the Islamic Republic.” They also went on to later claim that “under our new government, we no longer have political prisoners”, when in fact, the number of prisoners increased 100 fold from 3,000 under the Shah to 300,000 under the new Islamic regime. Marjane was later chastised by her school’s authorities for correcting these phony statistics that her teacher...
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