Comics to Read – Persepolis

Cover of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Cover of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. She grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. When things seemed to get to rough she got sent away to Europe, but eventually came back home. It was also one of the top challenged books in America in 2014.

Using a graphic novel to tell the story made it something that could cross boundaries in many ways. It is difficult to talk about a situation from another culture if you have not grown up in that situation. Visuals help to translate those cultural differences into something that can be interpreted by others. The story itself is so incredible and to see those items visually it really brings power to the story being told.

A graphic novel granted Marjane Satrapi the ability to put a face on the situation in Iran, where otherwise it could just be seen as something that is happening far away that doesn’t matter.

An Autobiography

The important thing to remember when reading Persepolis is that it is an autobiography. Someone could try and separate the story being told with the reality of the situation – but this was the real situation. One of the things that we often forget about the facts of history is that they are experienced by real people. Those people experience and view those events through the lens of their personal experience.

In Persepolis Satrapi really shows you her experience and her view on her life. She takes you from living in Iran and dealing with her world being turned upside down. Then to being the fish out of water trying to live in Europe where suddenly the culture and customs are completely different. Finally she ends up back in Iran because she wants to go – only to discover that home is a little harder to find then she thought. It gives you a unique look into a story that most people have no connection to.

Visual Storytelling

Opening panel from PersepolisThe graphic novel does a great job of giving visuals to circumstances that other cultures could not relate to. A great example of this is the very beginning of Part 1 where Satrapi is explaining about the veil. I think that other cultures have a view of what the veil is and what it means, but it is great to hear from someone who grew up in that culture. The other piece is that there is no one type of veil – there are multiple. Part of what the different types of veils tell you is about the person’s own beliefs.

It is amazing how much can be brought out of what seems like a simple piece of fabric, but there is so much more to it than you might expect. At the same time to be able visually see how the veil is represented in Iranian culture really helps to understand everyday life for Satrapi.

Heartwrenching

Marjane Satrapi’s story is not easy to hear. Persepolis gives you a look into a harrowing series of events. Panel of PersepolisShe does not shy away from talking about difficult and personal experiences in a very open and honest way. It is not about the clinical numbers that we might hear about in a history book. It is about the real people in her life who she knows and cares about.

Sometimes history can seem like just a series of numbers and the situations can be tragic, but we often distance ourselves from the real tragedy. Persepolis brings the lives of those who lived through this particular situation into focus. It is obviously only one story, but it gives a glimpse into a different life and a different world. It puts a face on the history of a nation that many of us would not know otherwise.

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From the Instigator-in-Chief: I am not Myself These Days

I’m shaking things up a bit. For the next little while, I’ll be posting some personal-ish stuff when we don’t have anything else going. I figure doing that gets us more than we get from me posting a status update on Facebook, and we’ve got the space. I haven’t known whether I’ve been coming or going for the last ten or so days.

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I won’t run down the laundry list of problems I’ve dealt with in the last little while. I’m not convinced anyone wants to read that stuff on a blog — that seems to be what Facebook is for — and everybody’s got problems. Tl;dr version: the activity level here has suffered from my lack of attention, and I’m doing my best to ramp it back up, starting today.

What that means is I’m redirecting most of my Facebook time to the blog. My jaunt into Facebook over the last 10 months was about giving that network an honest chance and exploring its potential for growth. I won’t say it has NO potential, but I will say that I’ve failed to make it work, and failed at the expense of the blogging. So done with it for now.

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I’ll still check in on FB and keep up with my Facebook friends. Post a few status updates a week and share a link or three now and then. But as far as blogging on Facebook goes, I’m done. If you want to keep up with Gene’O though this last quarter of the year, best be reading this blog.

And it’s almost planning time. World Domination season is upon us once more. Time to start talking about what we’re doing in 2016 on the blog, and about how to make more lovely friends 🙂

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We’ll see how it goes. Might not work at all. But since the Facebook thing is no longer working, and this blog needs WAY more content than I’m able to wrangle out of other people just now, well. I’ll just have to produce it myself.

This is a really great thing about Facebook and Twitter: If I spend the next twelve months doing nothing but pay attention to blogs, FB and Twitter will be right where I left them when I decide to go back. The blog works differently. It will run down if I don’t keep it up.

I’m not letting this blog run down. I’ve invested too much into it, and really. Without the blog, there’s no point to the rest.

Brace yourself! Gene’O is coming.

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War!

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No comics today 😦

I figure that having comics every Wednesday for almost two years gets us a little leeway. I’m about to mouth off here, people. You can endure a monologue from me, or you can find yourself another blog to read. This is where we are.

So, first. We’ve not been posting as often as we would like to post lately.

Second, I haven’t been around to answer comments.

Third, this blog is absolutely not going away.

A year ago, more or less, I made this blog a political no-go zone. I am considering lifting that restriction and allowing contributors to speak their political minds on this blog.

Just so you know, this here pop culture blog is supported by a huge gaggle of feminists and other left-leaning people.

What if we decide to bring the politics back onto this blog? Slowly, carefully, and liberally? What about that?

Leave us a comment, if you have an opinion.

And have a video!

 

The Truman Journey

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Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is the star of the Truman Show. When Truman is a baby, Christof (Ed Harris) somehow buys him. He is placed in a fictional town, Seahaven, and surrounded with actors. Christof broadcasts every minute of Truman’s life. And Truman has no idea his friends and family are paid actors. So that’s terrifying.

Truman only begins to discover the truth when a lamp, labeled with the name of a star, falls from the artificial sky one day. After that he notices things, like everyone knows his name, he has never left Seahaven, and his wife will act like she’s in an infomercial and try to shill products. When the entire town turns against him, refusing to let him leave, Truman escapes the only way he can: by sailing across Seahaven’s body of water to the edge of the world. There he bumps into the horizon, finds an EXIT door, and escapes into the real world. It’s like Under the Dome, if Stephen King wasn’t a horror writer.

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Life celebrated a baby sold by its parent to television executives.

A couple things about this movie jump out at me.The audience has to be most of the planet, because the show’s overhead must be huge; Christof enclosed the entire town in an arcology dome, and has a weather control device (something most supervillains have to put on lay-a-way). The governments of the world must not exist, or are so corrupt that “money over everything” is official policy. And the cast, crew, and audience must absolutely believe that Truman has a good life, because it only takes one defector to ruin the show.

At the end of the movie, Christof tries to drown Truman, preferring a magnificent death to Truman’s escape. When Truman survives, Christof claims Truman brings people hope and inspiration. He even asks Truman to stay. Something Truman does provides the world with enough satisfaction to justify all this.

My first thought was nuclear apocalypse, because the world must be some twisted ruin for people to think Truman’s life is acceptable. It would also explain the dome; perhaps Christof has fenced off a healthy area of the planet and is selling dreams of what life used to be to a devastated population.

The audience doesn’t really fit the Mad Max marauder type, though. There are old people, fat security guards, and a nice bar. The world looks okay. But these people still watch Truman, each day, as he toils through life, despite the fact that they apparently have normal lives themselves. Reality television is a form of escapism too; most rely on a gimmick (The Biggest Loser) or the antics of people filmed in just the right way to make them seem terrible (literally any contest-style reality show). All Truman does is live a normal life.

Philip K. Dick wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became Blade Runner, which became the reason Ridley Scott still has a career. In the story, humans live on a ruined earth. Most of the animals are dead, so people try to raise personal livestock, or if they can’t afford it, “electric” simulacra. The protagonist, Deckard, has an electric sheep, and fears people will find out (it’s a social no-no). He takes a job to hunt down androids capable of nearly perfectly simulating human beings. They lack empathy, however, and a complicated test can reveal them.

It’s left out of the movie, but the book also shows that people are capable of “dialing” their emotions. Deckard avoids a fight with his wife by choosing a more pleasant mood. He also regularly logs into a simulation of a tormented figure rolling a stone eternally up a hill. Living with near-human androids has degraded human perception of reality, so they have to engage in something “real” to maintain their empathy and humanity. But, they are still living a lie, in denial of what humanity actually means.

The Truman Show serves the same purpose. Truman is the suffering saint; his lack of reality, and the life he suffers, makes the pale lives of the audience seem bright and real in comparison. No matter what their day was like, the audience can dial into Truman and adjust their emotions according to his life.

Truman’s world might be very close to ours, but it’s suffered something that makes engaging in life through Truman more acceptable than really living – he’s both sheep and shepherd, cared for by the audience and leading them through what life ought to be. And at the same time, he’s contemptible, because they can watch him poop and he doesn’t know.

I see two arguments about what happens after the ending. Truman abandons Seahaven, sails to freedom after nearly drowning in Christof’s artificial storm, and finds his world is truly false when he bumps into the “sky.” He leaves with his usual greeting: “In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.”

Truman doesn’t curse or even seem to hate Christof. And the audience loves it. The ending is a montage of cheers and people flipping out. He’s provided their comfort for thirty years, and now Truman’s victory is the audience’s victory. As the chosen one, he led them through the hero’s journey to a heroic “ending.”

Truman is an artificially selected chosen one, however, not picked by fate. Christof had to know Truman would grow into a perfectly average (Jim Carrey-ish) adult, with no mental or physical problems, because anything else would have ruined his show. Truman’s revelations about his life, and by extension the audience’s lives, don’t have the same impact as a “real” chosen one. The audience watches him discover them, and they cheer like they’re watching football game.

The chosen one is an excuse for why “ONE MAN” can make a difference. Truman might not even be able to integrate into society, since he’s never actually lived in it, just in the television version. His life has as much to do with reality as Leave it to Beaver has to do with the actual 1950s.

We all wish (as the audience that watches Truman does) that we could be that one special person, chosen by destiny (or Ed Harris — close enough) to… do something. Other than be born, live as our birth and means dictate, then die. We need the chosen one myth, it keeps us from losing our minds in the vast, uncaring cosmos.

Truman shows that a chosen one is the avatar for the pointlessness of the audience’s lives, not a bringer of light and reason. Once he is gone, taking the inspiration and hope the audience relies on, we really only have two options: abandon the myth and try to find or make meaning in life, or, as the security guards say, “See what else is on.”