Persepolis was a very insightful movie about the lives of Iranian people at a very important time in the country’s history. Two topics that stuck out to me the most were the effects of the war on the everyday lives of the citizens of Iran and secondly the not-so-patriarchal lifestyle of people at the household level. Once the revolution to bring down the Shah began, which was followed by the Iran-Iraq war, the lives of Iranians were never the same again.
Before these events, Iran appeared to be what we can easily call ‘a modern society’. Women were treated equally, men and women openly socialized together without any restrictions and westernization was apparent with the dressing styles of women, parties and the children indulging in pop culture. All of this drastically changed after the elections and once the war began. Under the new repressive government, religious extremists in power imposed several laws that undermined the freedom of all citizens of Iran.
Everybody was told how to dress whereby women were required to veil in public, parties and consumption of alcohol became illegal, children were taught in school that the new government was very good, young boys were influenced into joining the army and fighting in the war. In addition to all these social impacts there were economic downturns as well. The stores are shown to have empty shelves, the country’s infrastructure destroyed, healthcare deteriorated, the excessive restrictions on almost everything pushed for the need for black-markets and illegal operations.
Even with all the restrictions from the people in power and the policing of everybody, there were still a large number of people who were very modern, even men. One example would be Marjane’s father telling her and Reza to be more careful about meeting in public. Another example would be when Marjane’s uncle Anoush is released from prison and visits them, everybody ate dinner at the same table, both men and women. One of the topics that relate to our class readings is war and bereavement. The war that lasted so long did not occur without expensing lives of millions of innocent people.
During the war period, countless lives were lost and most of these were men. Men fought in wars and died and the women were left to deal with the loss. When a missile lands in Marjane’s neighborhood, the fear of losing her family takes over her and she is still a little girl at the time. The same incident cost the lives of her friends in the neighborhood. Of all the characters in the movie, to me, Marjane’s grandmother was the most compelling character. She was a wise old woman who was inspirational, understanding and very realistic.
She was a symbol of independence and a great role model for Marjane. Most importantly, she practiced what she preached. She placed a great emphasis on protecting the innocent as this was an issue close to her since her husband and family members had been victims. When Marjane tells her that in order to save herself from the police, she lied and got an innocent man in trouble, Grandmother reacts in a way that I didn’t expect. She believed in being true to your own self and certainly did not tolerate any unfaithfulness, even from her beloved Marjane.
The character that had the most impact on Marjane would have to be her uncle Anoush. He came into Marjane’s life when she was still very young and definitely made an enormous impression on her. As if his life story wasn’t enough, uncle Anoush’s death left an even bigger impact on Marjane’s life. She wouldn’t tolerate people talking about war and death lightly after his death. Several times in her life when she was feeling confused, the words of her uncle Anoush helped her get through.