I noted that now would be an excellent time to re-read Persepolis, with the crisis in Iran, and today artist-writer-filmmaker Marjane Satrapi is in the news:
Two Iranian filmmakers on Tuesday presented a document to Green Party MPs in the European parliament claiming to show that defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi had received over 19 million votes in the weekend election.
Marjane Satrapi, Iranian author and director and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian filmmaker and Mousavi spokesman, presented a document that they claimed had come from the Iranian electoral commission.
The document said liberal cleric and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi came second in the election with a total of 13.3 million votes, while president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came third with only 5.49 million votes.
Whether or not the document Satrapi presented was legitimate, this speaks to her commitment to her country and her willingness to speak out on her beliefs–characteristics that Persepolis readers will immediately recognize from the not-always-flattering self-portrait she drew in that book.
There’s something less self-indulgent about autobiography in comics–it’s often done in a defiantly unglamorous style, the writer-artist refusing to make her or himself prettier than they are, instead exaggerating their flaws, physical and emotional, with a cartoonist’s unflinching eye. Satrapi is willing to turn an equally unflinching eye on the countries she calls home, scrutinizing their flaws but retaining the love and loyalty.
People often complain about artists and other creative types getting too political, but it’s nearly impossible to be an artist and not deal in some way with the issues of the world, which often require a political stand. I don’t think it necessarily takes away from the work to know that the artist has views quite different from your own–I enjoy comics by several creators whom I know support ideals rather odious to me. More importantly, I think that the point of art is to comment on society, and if that means that artists occasionally feel compelled to speak out publicly about politics, that is not only their right, but perhaps even their responsibility.