Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Marjane Satrapi: From Persepolis to Portland

Marjane Satrapi came to talk to me (and a few thousand others, Portland Literary Arts) last night. What a monologue! For a visual artist, she can talk.
She has taken her comics (she thinks Graphic Novel sounds a bit too Lady Chatterley's Lover) Persepolis I and II and made a movie out of them, which I have yet to see. It showed in Lake Oswego for a week, and I couldn't get anyone to go with me. I hate seeing movies alone.

In any case, this solitary little woman was a first class speaker, careening from one topic to the next. Random highlights (paraphrased from memory):

  • On People: When I made my comics, I worked alone. I'm a solitary artist. When I made the movie, I had to deal with 100 people every day. For the first six months, I wanted them all to die.
  • On dictatorship: When I studied in Austria, everyone assumed I was a mullah, an extremist, and that I never bathed. When I studied in France years later, I thought they would be different, but no. I am a human, an individual. Why would you assume I represent my government? Do you represent George Bush? If everyone in Iran supported the government it would be the world's most perfect democracy. It is a dictatorship. They beat, kill, and imprison people who speak out. That's what a dictatorship is.
  • On extremism: What is the commonality between me and Iranian extremists? Nothing. What is the commonality between an American liberal and George Bush? Nothing. What is the commonality between an Iranian extremist and George Bush? Everything. They have the same language, "defeat the infidels" "defeat the axis of evil." When Iran is run by extremists it is a tragedy. When the greatest secular democracy in the world is run by an extremist, it is a danger to the entire world.
  • On not being allowed to smoke on stage: It is so stupid. The government is telling me what to do. As an adult I should be able to smoke, one, two, five cigarettes here. Joe Strummer of the Clash once said that no great work of art, no great book, no great piece of music, was ever created by a non-smoker.
  • On the French law that prohibits wearing the scarf in school: People assumed I would be jumping up and down supporting this law. I do not. I do not understand why anyone would cover themselves up that way. I hated being forced to wear those things in Iran. They say these girls are pressured to wear the scarf and that boys in their neighborhood call them whores when they do not. But guess what? Those parents will pressure those girls to stay home and marry at the age of 16. Education is what will set them free. Prohibit the scarf, and you take them out of school. Those boys calling them whores? They will still be in school. It is a stupid law.
  • When asked (Q&A from the audience) if her family still lived in Iraq: My family lives in Iran, dear. My parents are fine and they say hi to all of you.

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