Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, the Visual Construction of Identity, and "The Veil"

A post by Cristina Naccarato, a student in my Winter 2010 Graphic Novels class.

Persepolis by: Marjane Satrapi
Cristina Naccarato
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, as mentioned by J. Kyle Lebel in a previous post, is an autobiographical memoir about a young woman growing up during the Islamic Revolution, the capture of the American Embassy, and the Iran-Iraq War. Persepolis is an autographic (as Whitlock and Poletti describe in their essay, Self-Regarding Art, " Life narrative fabricated in and through drawing and design using various technologies, modes, and materials") exploring Satrapi’s own personal history, but also how her own history is intertwined with the history of her country, and in turn how her identity has been constructed through these relationships.

Satrapi’s recollection of her experience depicts how great of an impact the Islamic revolution has on her own life, as well as the lives of young Iranian women. One of the biggest impacts these women had to face was the forced wearing of “the veil.” This was a direct symbol of the force that Islamic fundamentalism had on the bodies of Muslim girls and women. Satrapi specifically, growing up in a radical family with two parents who were Marxist intellectuals, found this particularly restrictive, and threatening, and in turn, experienced a loss of self in this process.
Satrapi’s use of a black and white panel, emphasizes this lack of individuality, yet, she very consciously individualizes each character through herdrawings. Her female figures are human, have their own character, and individuality traits even with the veil on. By visually showing their restrictive appearance, but then adding specific character differentiations, Satrapi multi-modally constructs the identity of her characters, emphasizing that each woman is unique.
For example, in this frame, each girl has been drawn, seemingly exactly the same, but on closer inspection, Satrapi has given each female a different hairstyle, different eyes and different nose, which emphasizes her notion that these girls are all unique.

By consciously constructing individuality, Satrapi’s intend to honor the resistence of Iranian women is successful. Veiled women are often dehumanized and classified as indistinguishable, but Satrapi breaks these barriers and subverts the view of Iranian women, presenting them as individual as Western women.

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