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Comic Book / Persepolis

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"One can forgive, but one should never forget."

Persepolis is an autobiographical comic by Iranian-French author Marjane Satrapi, originally published in multiple volumes from 2000–2004, and adapted into an animated film (directed by Satrapi as well) in 2007. It begins with her childhood in Tehran during The '70s to The '90s, as her middle-class family works to bring down the Shah. Soon, the fundamentalists are swept into power, and a new wave of repression begins. Marjane rebels in small ways, such as by buying smuggled rock tapes and denim jackets, drawing the attention of her school and compelling her parents to send her to Europe. She kicks around Vienna for a few years, alienated by the people there, before returning to a Tehran changed by years of fundamentalist rule.

Both the graphic novel and the film were well received by critics upon their release. The film was nominated for the Best Animated Picture Oscar but lost to Ratatouille. The Iranian government issued protests against it being shown at various film festivals worldwide, but it allowed a limited screening in Tehran. The film was banned for a short period of time in Lebanon, as well.

These works contain examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Quite a few chapters from the graphic novel are cut from the film version. They intended to add a couple but cut them out. Some scenes, such as Marjane's various jumping-around from home-to-home were also mentioned but minimalized in the film version. The film also meddles with chronology of some events, most likely in order to streamline storytelling. Additionally, Marjanne's relationship with her grandmother is played up a little more in the movie than in the comic. The movie is thus often considered a supplement to the novel.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Markus, to a limited extent. In the graphic novel, Satrapi acknowledges in hindsight that she expected way too much of him, using him as a replacement for several key figures in her life back in Iran, and doesn’t hold him cheating on her against him; the film does not mention this realization, and thus makes him look like a plain jerkass.
  • Adopt-a-Servant: Mehri, the Satrapis maid. It's not said whether Marjane's parents formally adopted her, but the effect is the same. They took her in from a rural impoverished village and she's been their servant ever since. She pretends she's their daughter while a neighbor boy courts her, but Marjane's father prevents it going further then by revealing her status. We don't find out what happens to Mehri after.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Used verbatim in the first book by Marjane's mother, after several fundamentalist men make sexist comments toward her. The fundamentalist Islamist government tended to believe it, using it to justify making women wear the veil to "protect" them. There is quite some hypocrisy in this thought, though, as pointed out in Male Gaze below.
  • Anger Born of Worry: When Marjane and Mehri, the Satrapis' housekeeper, return from an anti-Shah protest, Marjane's mother slaps them both, while berating them for going to a protest that ended with hundreds of arrests and dozens of dead after security forces opened fire.
  • And Then What?: Grandma asks a young Marjane how she plans to get rid of suffering for old people as a prophet. Marjane announces confidently that it won't be allowed.
  • Anticlimax: At one point, a Revolutionary Guard patrol stops the Satrapis on their way home from a clandestine party. Suspecting them of stockpiling alcohol, the patrol follows them home in apparent preparation to search the house. Whilst Marjane's dad stalls, Marjane and her grandma go inside and dispose of all the alcohol in the house (of which there was a lot). The door opens and... it's Marjane's disgusted father, who simply paid off the Guards. He wants a drink, but the alcohol is gone.
  • Arc Symbol: Jasmine flowers.
  • Art Evolution: Satrapi's art in the first few pages is strikingly different from the rest of the book. Compare this with this. The shading grew cleaner, the lines thicker, and the anatomy much, much better.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The simple black-and-white art very contrasts the dark subject matter.
  • Ascended Extra: Marjane's grandmother didn't have a small role in the graphic novel, but she gained a much more significant presence in the movie.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The good characters are drawn rather ordinarily while the "bad" characters tend to have their flaws exaggerated and unpleasant expressions. However, this isn't always true, as the waitress who gets revenge on a customer for Marjane looks ugly but is good. And, well, it's a rather simplistic cartoony style, so what passes for "exaggerated physical flaws" ends up as "average". There is also some indication that Marjane is a bit of Unreliable Narrator and her opinions of people color her perceptions of them.
  • Beard of Evil: Thick beards become a symbol of allegiance to the Islamic government; they're so common among members of the Revolutionary Guards that Marjane and her friends simply call them "the bearded men".
  • Big Bad: The Islamic fundamentalist government.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Inverted. Marjane is younger than Mehridia, their family maid who is the closest thing to a sister to her, and she looks out for her. She writes love letters for Mehridia to a boy she likes, because she cannot read or write. And when her father finds out about it and explains the situation to the boy himself, this convinces him to break up immediately with Mehridia. When Marjane finds out about her father’s role in this, she chews him out for it, and she then comforts her heartbroken maid.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Marjane finds out Markus is cheating on her, she's falsely accused of stealing her landlady's brooch, and runs away from her apartment, effectively rendering herself homeless, on her eighteenth birthday.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Marjane can never return to Iran again due to fear of retribution and leaves several loved ones, she finally finds freedom after being sent to France.
  • Black Market: Where people can buy stuff like "Jichael Mackson" tapes.
  • Blood from the Mouth: In a nonfatal form of this, Marjane coughs up blood from severe bronchitis. Fortunately, she survives and wakes up in the hospital.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: The police suspect that Marjane's family has been to a party and are following them home to check for stashed wine. When they arrive, Marjane's grandma asks to enter the house first, claiming she has diabetes and needs to get her medicine urgently. Once inside she and Marjane flush all the wine down the toilet, but later find they needn't have bothered: Marjane's father merely bribed the police officer to get him to leave. And the stress of dealing with the cop makes her father say I Need a Freaking Drink.
  • Blunt "Yes":
    Supervisor: Why are you looking at this man?
    Marjane: Well, because I'm drawing him.
    Supervisor: Yes, but you're not allowed to look at him. It's against the moral code.
    Marjane: What would you have me do? Should I draw this man while looking at the door?!
    Supervisor: Yes.
  • Body Horror: Marjane's description of puberty and the associated images has shades of this. Needless to say, it's Played for Laughs.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Marjane's parents. They staunchly oppose the Shah and later the Islamic fundamentalists due to their violations of human rights. At the same time, they're prosperous and keep a girl (then woman) whom they basically adopted during her childhood as their live-in servant, thinking nothing of it.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: The film has enough Mood Whiplash to break one's neck, jumping from light-hearted and funny to deathly serious to mundane and back. Justified, in that a real person's life tends to play out this way.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: When Marjane assumes that the Baba Levy’s are safe because they are in a hotel when a missile hits their house, her mother reminds her that today is the Sabbath, when Jewish families are supposed to stay home. Then she quickly tells her about the boarded up windows in their house not being impacted by the bomb. Marjane notes that she knew her mother was using this trope, and it doesn’t work. Especially when she notices the remains of the family’s daughter...
  • Child Soldiers: Boys are drafted into the army when they turn thirteen.
  • Chummy Commies: Marjane's Uncle Anoosh is a kind, friendly communist whom she adores. A number of other communists appear too, some noble, others hypocrites, but portrayed positively overall while friendly with Marjane. Because of her uncle, Marjane grows up with picturing God as Karl Marx, having a kind of Islamic/Marxist hybrid philosophy. After losing faith in God, she still has a radical leftist point of view and hangs around with communists or anarchists.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Carried out by the Shah, then the revolutionary government.
  • Coming of Age Story: Naturally, as it depicts Marjane's life from tweens to mid-twenties.
  • Cool Uncle: Marji really liked her kindly Uncle Anoosh, who told her stories of participating in a rebellion against the Shah and his stay in the USSR. She was quite brokenhearted when the authorities executed him on suspicion of being a Soviet spy.
  • Cool Old Lady: Marjane's grandmother is always ready to comfort her. This makes it stand out much more when she gets angry with her granddaughter for the first time after Marjane laughs off getting someone else in serious trouble.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: It's easy to overlook, but when Marjane in heartbreak mode ends up roaming the streets for weeks, she thinks that she can't go back to Sherine's apartment because Sherine won't have room for her. When she drums up the courage to go after her hospital stay and ask Sherine to repay one of her mother's loans, Sherine asks her where she was because her uncle was searching for her during the time that she went missing. It's obvious that while Sherine wasn't a good host, she would have kept Marjane safe and found other lodgings for her. Marjane herself is embarrassed about this and buys cigarettes with some of the money so she won't have to think about it.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: When they watch Godzilla in cinema, her grandmother covers Marjane's eyes during the scene where Godzilla eats a human.
  • Crapsack World: Fundamentalist Iran, just like in real life.
  • Cultural Translation: While watching a Jidaigeki show on TV, Marjane notes that the main character is depicted as a hairdresser. In her narration, she says that a voice actress friend of hers told her that the main character was actually a geisha, and the broadcasting company decided to change her occupation to please the Islamic government.
  • Culture Police: The Revolutionary Guards who try to take Marjane away for wearing punk clothing. Additionally, alcohol is banned along with many other things by the regime.
  • Darker and Edgier: While the book is by no means light fare, the movie makes good use of the benefit of timing and sound to present its story less matter-of-factly. Most noteworthy, the movie changes Adult!Marjane's reason for leaving the country for good from her disgust at the fundamentalist propaganda rubbing off on her friends to fleeing for her life when the police chase one of her friends off a building and leave him for dead (which did happen in the book, but was not a decisive factor).
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • In the graphic novel, Marjane points out the hypocrisy of her parents, who wax poetic about human rights while keeping an underage maid, Mehridia. Mehridia was born to a poor family in a destitute village, and the Satrapis took her in when she was a small child. While the Satrapis did feed and clothe Mehridia and try to teach her to read, they still kept her out of school and used her as a source of child labor. None of the characters (except the author) bat an eyelash at the situation, which was apparently common in Iran at the time.
    • Marjane mentions that she found a huge Culture Clash while in Vienna. She wasn't used to Julie being casual about sex or talking about the pill, or about the numerous vacations. Even at parties, everyone would lie around and smoke while in Iran people would dance. More seriously, she knows that in Iran you always have family to care for you in times of need; in Austria, she had no one; her mother's friend Sherine had her moved to a religious boarding house and any friends who took her in often had temporary spaces. When Marjane was briefly homeless, she noted how alone she was and no one cared for her.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film, which mirrors the art style of the comic, save the Framing Device (present day French airport.)
  • Demoted to Extra: Plenty, such as Lucia, who appeared long enough in the comic version to show her developing friendship with Marji. In the movie version however she only appeared in one scene.
  • Deranged Animation: Marjane's wolfman-like transformation as she describes her puberty. Tex Avery would be proud.
  • Dirty Communists: A favorite boogeyman of the Shah's government, and then the Islamic republic. The communists Marjane actually meets range from noble idealists to narcissistic poseurs.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Marjane gains a rather prominent beauty mark shortly after going through puberty. While she spends most of her adolescence disgusted by it, she eventually embraces it as her most iconic feature.
  • Driven to Suicide: Marjane. However, it is happily failed.
  • During the War: The Iran–Iraq War, to be specific.
  • Dye or Die: Marjane's mother had to dye her hair blonde and wear large sunglasses for a while after being threatened for opposing the Shah's government.
  • Dystopia: Iranian society after the Islamic Revolution.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After having to go through the misery of war, the deaths of Anoosh and some of her neighbors, numerous heartbreaks (including a divorce) and a near-identity crisis, Marjane finally leaves for France at the end and becomes a free woman.
  • Egocentrically Religious: As a kid, Marjane even thought she'd become the last prophet of Islam. She lost her faith after the death of her uncle however.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When the Satrapis are being questioned by the morality police, Marjane's grandmother tries to sneak away to run upstairs (So they could dispose of the alcohol in their house). When she is caught, she lies that she has diabetes and needs to drink some syrup. She's let go and one member even says his mother's diabetic so he knows why that's important.
  • Evil Stole My Faith:
    • After her beloved Uncle Anoosh is executed by the fundamentalist regime as a communist dissident, Marjane tells God that she hates him and doesn't want to see him anymore.
    • Mrs. Nasrine, the cleaning lady, loses her faith in Islam when the government tries to convince her son to become a martyr, giving him a plastic key painted gold and telling him that it will open the door to Paradise if he's lucky enough to die on the battlefield.
      All my life, I've been faithful to this religion. If it's come to this...well, I can't believe in anything anymore...
  • Fag Hag: For a while, Marjane lives together with eight gay guys in a commune apartment. While their screentime is brief, they're portrayed as being all-around Nice Guys and some of the most tolerant and open-minded people that she meets in Vienna.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: The film shows Marjane and Markus pelting one another with snowballs, running through the park, smoking hash with content expressions and showing a gleeful, happy romance... before he cheats on her. Turned on its head soon after when she re-envisions the entire thing but with Markus as a slimy, creepy douchebag. In his defense, she does mention in the comic that she was a huge emotional load on him, as she pretty much expected him to be an ersatz for every man in her life.
  • First World Problems: After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Marjane and her father watch an Iranian propaganda television broadcast featuring Westerners being worried that they might be invaded next. They both burst out laughing, noting that those people probably have so few actual problems that they're scared of wars happening thousands of miles away (whereas Iran was actually invaded by Iraq several years earlier). However, Marjane's mother points out that the film was meant to show Westerners in a bad light.
  • Flower Motifs: Red tulips are said to grow from the blood of martyrs. Marjane adds them to her painting of a woman cradling a dying soldier to please the faculty at the art college.
  • From Bad to Worse: The older Marjane gets, the deeper the Iranian revolution sinks its teeth into the country. For her uncle, he thought oppression would be eradicated when the Shah was removed. Unfortunately, fundamentalist governments are much ''less' tolerant.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: When the Shah is deposed in 1979, Marjane's parents and much of the population expect the new regime to be an improvement. But it soon proves every bit as dictatorial and repressive as the old one. And then even more than the old one. The comic mentions it: while the Shah had 3,000 political prisoners, the Islamic theocracy had 300,000.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Iranian government is taken over by these.
  • Get Out!: After Uncle Anoosh is executed, Marjane tells God to leave her and go away. Years pass before he appears in the book again, to give her advice on exams.
  • Girls with Moustaches:
    • A teacher tells her female students to wear head scarves because a glimpse of any part of a woman's hair is a temptation to men. Marjane's father comments that the teacher's mustache is hardly seductive.
    • Also, Marjane notes this on Lucia's Italian Tyrolean mother.
  • Good Parents: Marjane's parents want what's best for her, and are generally willing to educate her on any topics she has questions about.
  • Go to Your Room!: When Marjane’s friend mentions to her that her father is out on a trip, Marianne replies that this means that her father is actually dead, or so it was with her uncle. This causes her friend to run home in tears and tell her mother, who assured her that he isn’t really dead. When Marjane’s mother finds out about this, she furiously tells her daughter to go to her room and stay there. Marjane is half right. This father really WAS not on a trip, but was in prison.
  • Grandpa God: Specifically, the young Marjane pictures him as looking like Karl Marx.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Especially if you're away from your parents. The montage of her going through puberty makes it look like Body Horror.
  • Hairy Girl:
    • Marjane's roommate, Lucia, has hairy armpits. They aren't very noticeable in the comic, but in the animated film they comically blow in the wind from her hairdryer.
    • Marjane herself is fairly hairy, but it's treated a sign of her lack of self-esteem. After she becomes determined to take charge of her life following her failed suicide attempt, a montage ensues of Marjane working to make herself look nice again, including plucking out all her body hair in a comically painful manner.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Marjane attempts to slit her wrists, but has no blade sharper than a fruit knife and can't do much damage. Failing that, she swallows an entire package of antidepressants - and wakes up three days later, experiences a few hours of hallucinations, but is otherwise no worse for wear. Even her psychiatrist is amazed she survived the overdose, as it ought to have been enough to kill an elephant. Marjane interprets this as a sign that she needs to get her life together.
  • Harmful to Minors: As a teenager and above the age of consent in Iran — nine years old according to sharia laws — Marjane could potentially get arrested, forcibly married to a prison guard, raped, and then executed, as it is against sharia law to kill a virgin. Such a fate happened to Niloufar, the communist girl hiding at the passport maker's apartment, and a pittance of a dowry (500 tumans, equivalent to $5) was paid to her parents to make sure they got the message.
  • Holier Than Thou: The fundamentalists embody this toward less rigid Muslims in Iran.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Marjane becomes an atheist when her beloved uncle Anoosh is shot by the Iranian regime.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf:
    • The Eye of the Tiger scene in the movie. Justified, however, in that Marjane is singing in English, which is not her native language. (It's less clear in the English dub of the film, however.)
    • Averted with the soundtrack version, though.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: The government baits teenage boys into the Basij by convincing them Paradise will be filled with gold, diamonds... and women.
    Mrs. Nasrine: They told him that in Paradise, there will be plenty of food, women and houses made of gold and diamonds.
    Taji: Women?
    Mrs. Nasrine: Yeah. Well, he's fourteen years old. That's exciting.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Marjane at Paris Airport. The next 90 minutes tell the story of how she got there.
  • Hug and Comment: Marjane hugs her grandmother before falling asleep next to her, then asks the older woman how she kept her breasts so firm over the years.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Marjane's family is somewhat westernized and thus doesn't like the Islamists who claim that anything coming from the west is horrible and decadent. When she goes to Austria after some years under the Ayatollah, she is shocked when another girl openly talks about her pussy, and tells her she had sex with 18 boys (without being married, of course). Downplayed in that Marjane doesn't believe in controlling other people about their sexual preferences, the way the Islamists do, and listens out of politeness.
    • When Marjane returns to Iran her female friends are eager to hear about her sexual experiences, but when they find out that she slept with several guys they call her a whore.
  • I Can Explain: Markus tries this on Marjane when being caught with another girl in bed.
  • I Got Bigger: After spending the entirety of her childhood and early adolescence as a fairly small girl, Marjane grows an entire seven inches upon reaching puberty while living in Vienna. By the time she reunites with her mother, to whom she previously came up only to the chest, Marjane towers over her.
  • Imaginary Friend: As a kid, Marjane has God as one. She tells him to go away after one of her loved ones is killed, but he still appears now and then.
  • Inherently Funny Words: When the teacher is yelling at the girls for decorating the classroom with toilet paper, somebody whispers "poopoo".
  • Innocent Awkward Question: Marjane recalls when she was a little girl she received The Talk by her father when she asked him what "balls" are. Her further questions as to their structure made her father more nervous, him awkwardly comparing them to ping-pong balls.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Marjane is shown to have been this in her youth. Such as casually telling a boy that his father is cruel to his face while apologizing to him, and telling a girl that her father might actually be dead.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Some of the more liberal Iranians view a few fundamentalist positions as this (the comic book, for example, includes a line where they say women's hair emits rays which arouse men).
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: "Punk is not ded" and to a lesser extent "Jichael Mackson".
  • Kids Are Cruel: Marjane and her friends attach nails to their fists and chase another kid so they can beat him... because his father works for the government. It takes her mother to talk some sense into her does she realize how awful her behavior is.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Marjane's parents make her leave Iran out of fear of being targeted as a dissident.
  • Language Barrier: When Marjane arrives to Austria, she doesn't speak German and her roommate Lucia doesn't speak either Persian or French (Marji's second language). They learn to cope and get along amicably anyway.
  • Last Het Romance: With Enrique. Marjane wanted him to take her virginity and was afraid that he considered her ugly when nothing happened, so she found his realization that he was gay strangely comforting.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band:
    • Played for Drama when the music changes from light and cheerful to slow and somber after Marjane's antidepressants end up making her feel even worse.
    • Played for Laughs, however, when young Marjane is bullshitting her way out of getting beaten by two older women who notice her "Punk Is Not Ded" jacket. Her Crocodile Tears become so obnoxious that they simply leave.
  • Lighter and Softer: Marjane's suicide attempt. In the book, she describes sleeping off her antidepressants for a few days, waking up and hallucinating for hours, and going to her therapist for advice. It's mildly Played for Laughs because she attempted to get drunk and cut her wrist with a pear knife before, but still sobering in how it took a Happily Failed Suicide for her to recover from depression. In the film, she sees God and Karl Marx, and God tells her she has so much more to live for, sending her back to the real world. Cue Marjane waking up with a fierce Death Glare and taking life by the throat while singing "Eye of the Tiger".
  • Lies to Children: One of Marjane's friends was told her pilot father was on a trip, and Marjane tactlessly tells her friend that her father's probably in prison. Later on, Marjane is told the same thing about her uncle and gets an Oh, Crap! expression when she realizes what it means.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: During Marjane's last visit to Uncle Anoosh a few days before his execution, he says that he would like to have had a daughter like her.
  • Loophole Abuse: Horrifying variation, which we'll let Marjane's mother explain:
    Taji: You know what they do to the young girls they arrest?...You know that it's against the law to kill a virgin. So a Guardian of the Revolution marries her...and takes her virginity before executing her. Do you understand what that means?!
  • Love Hurts: Marjane doesn't have good luck with men. In the film, her interactions are reduced to three relationships.
    • Her first serious boyfriend, Enrique, turns out to be gay, and she was his Last Het Romance. In the comic, he's gentle about it, and assures her that she's pretty.
    • Markus, her second boyfriend, cheats on her and in the comic they were starting to break up when she was using too many drugs and she was worried about a new political leader coming to power.
    • Reza, her third boyfriend and future husband, was her complete polar opposite. Although this led them to become attracted to each other, they never lived together until they married after two years, due to the moral restrictions on unmarried couples. This led to them realizing that Marjane's spirited nature and Reza's introversion were incompatible.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Invoked by the Iranian fundamentalists, who believe that the only way to keep women pure is by covering their hair. Its logical extreme is shown in the book when Marjane tries to visit the mayor's deputy on three separate occasions, but can't get past the door until her head is all but completely covered and she's wearing no makeup.
  • Male Gaze:
    Revolutionary Guard: Madam, why were you running?
    Marjane: I'm very late! I was running to catch my bus.
    Revolutionary Guard: Yes... but... When you run, your behind makes movements that are... how do you say... obscene!
  • Manipulative Bastard: The British are portrayed this way in regards to Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, the father and predecessor of the Shah described in the comic.
  • Manly Facial Hair: In contrast to the full beards worn by the Islamic fundamentalists, many of the more radical Iranian men, most notably Marjane's father and her uncle Anoosh, wear neat, dignified mustaches something that she points out when describing the differences in fashion between the two.
  • Marital Rape License: Since it is illegal to kill a virgin under sharia law, Niloufar is punished by the government by being married to a prison guard, raped and then executed.
  • Martyrdom Culture: The fundamentalist government enforces this, much to the horror of potential martyrs' parents.
  • Meet the New Boss: The Shah, who is seen as a tool of Western oppression, is overthrown in favor of the Islamic Fundamentalists, a tool of national oppression.
  • Missed the Bus: Marjane oversleeps in the morning and misses the train out of Vienna by a few seconds. This causes her to catch her boyfriend cheating when she goes back home.
  • Missing Child: Because of Marjane becoming outspoken, her parents send her to Austria at the tender age of fourteen. She then goes missing for months after her eighteenth birthday, asks to return to Iran, and attempts suicide when they go on vacation to the Caspian Sea.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The infamous "Eye of the Tiger" scene comes as a result of Marjane's suicide attempt.
    • A passage with Marjane and her classmates making fun of the school's strict rules is almost immediately followed by Mrs. Nasrine finding out that her teenage son is being recruited to become a martyr for the war, with promises of gold and beautiful women in heaven if he's lucky enough to die.
  • Moral Guardians: The Iranian Islamic Revolution is this trope, banning all manner of Western media as being decadent and immoral. In Real Life, the Iranian government, angered by the movie's portrayal of them as reactionary, humorless, suppressive, and sexist, reacted by humorlessly suppressing the movie and calling Marjane Satrapi a whore.
  • Nay-Theist: When her uncle is executed, Marjane becomes one, telling God to go away for not saving him.
  • No One Should Survive That!: Marjane attempts to commit suicide by downing all her anti-depressants, yet still survives. Lampshaded when her therapist comments that he can't find any explanation for her survival other than divine intervention ("That dose should have been enough to finish off an elephant!"). However, most anti-depressants are impossible (or at the very least extremely difficult) to overdose on, for obvious reasons.
  • Oh, and X Dies: Marjane finishes the story with that her grandmother died in 1996.
  • "Oh, Crap!" Smile: Marjane has this reaction when her friend blabs to her mother about something awful she told her, with Marjane’s mother within earshot.
  • Opposites Attract: Subverted. When Marjane returns to Iran in her late teens, she starts a relationship with Reza, who's her polar opposite in terms of personality, Marjane being outspoken and extroverted and Reza collected and introverted. Marjane initially thinks that this is why they complement each other so well, but after they get married their personalities increasingly clash until they decide to avoid each other.
  • Parental Abandonment: During a party to celebrate the birth of Marjane's cousin, there's a blackout and the sirens begin to go off. Marjane's aunt shoves the baby into her arms and runs away.
    Marjane: Since that day, I've had doubts about the so-called "maternal instinct."
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Marjane almost entirely copies the statue for her art university entrance exam but puts a soldier's uniform on Jesus and dresses Mary in a full chador to appeal to the faculty.
  • Precision F-Strike: Marjane snapping at Frau Dr. Schloss in The Movie was this, only somehow still mixed with Dull Surprise.
    Marjane: GO FUCK YOURSELF...!!!
  • Prison Rape/Marital Rape License: Discussed. When a virgin is arrested, a member of the Secret Police marries and deflowers her before she's executed. Because executing virgins is illegal and virgins can't go to hell. So that's one way around that issue. Then, to hammer it in, a pittance of a dowry is sent to the woman's family so they know exactly what happened. Understandably, Marjane's parents freak out over it.
  • Propaganda Machine: The government tries to convince teenage boys to become martyrs by giving them plastic keys painted gold and saying that they'll enjoy paradise for eternity in heaven if they're lucky enough to die on the battlefield. Such a promise is made to Mrs. Nasrine's son, and she's clearly devastated by it.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Viewers may have been surprised to find that yes, Marjane actually does go skiing in Iran - Iran actually has quite a bit of ski resorts and snow-covered mountains.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Mullah from Marjane's university. He was her proctor for the religious examination and listened to her being completely honest: that she thinks that if God wanted women to wear the veil, they would have been bald and that she doesn't pray in Arabic because Persian is her native language and the best way for her to communicate to God. She passes, and the Mullah says later that Marjane was the only person honest enough about her religious beliefs. Later, when she challenges a religious committee about the Double Standard towards male and female students, he invites her to a meeting, laughs and reassures her that she's not in trouble. Instead, he gives her a challenge: draw a women's uniform that pleases the conservative and the students.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After her neighbor dies in a bombing, Marjane becomes rebellious and reckless. She gives this speech for her teacher saying Blatant Lies about there being no more political prisoners, citing how her uncle was executed by the regime. While this earns her a round of applause, her parents worry that the regime will use this as an excuse to arrest, rape, and execute their daughter, so they decide to send her to Vienna.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Marjane's father tells the headmistress, "If hair is as arousing as you think, then you should shave your mustache". It was followed by a disclaimer of "Yes, he really did say that".
    • This is why Marjane's examiner passed her on the religion test, allowing her to get into university: he appreciated that she was completely honest about her prayer and beliefs in God. Every other student felt they had to lie.
    • The aforementioned "WELL THEN, DON'T LOOK AT MY ASS!" scene. It shocked the police so much they let her go.
    • When two Fundamentalists see Marjane wearing Western clothing, she spins the story of a Wicked Stepmother who physically abuses her and would lock her up. Add in some fake tears, and they let her go as she was drawing in attention.
  • Revenge Is a Dish Best Served: For a while, Marjane has to wait tables in Austria. When one of the guests sexually harasses her, the cook sneakily avenges her by spitting on his schnitzel.
  • Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything: The anarchists certainly don't say or do much radical as a result of their views (often Truth in Television). This becomes a minor plot point when Enrique invites Marjane to an anarchist party. She expects it to be a gleeful revel in leftist thought and anti-elitism, and is majorly disappointed when it turns out to be just a bunch of people playing games (though she quickly recovers).
  • Roof Hopping: After their nightclub was crashed by police, the young Iranian men flee across the rooftops of the city. For one of them it doesn't end well.
  • Royal Blood: Marjane is a descendant of the Qajar dynasty.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Marjane and her mother (who descend from the Qajar dynasty, though neither makes any sort of fuss about it) are very politically and socially active during the revolutionary times.
  • The Scapegoat: It's implied to be the reason why the Iranian fundamentalists go after the revolutionaries that installed them. With the shah gone, it was time to establish their power and stamp out anyone who was different. Azar Nafisi's memoirs confirm this is what happened, with the fundamentalists going after left and right-wing opponents, making them confess to treason before executing them.
  • Sexless Marriage: The marriage between Marjane and Reza soon becomes this; they start Sleeping Single a month after their wedding.
  • She's Back: "Eye of the Tiger" denotes when Marjane stops taking medication and becomes her former fiesty self again.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Across the book we see Marjane grow from a cute kid, to an awkward teen, to a beautiful adult.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Uncle Anoosh's life in a nutshell. He's targeted by the Shah's regime for wanting to introduce communism, flees to Russia only to miss his home, and returns, ending up in jail. The shah being deposed meant that he could return to his family and bond with Marjane. He was then arrested again on trumped-up charges of being a spy, and sentenced to death.
  • Shown Their Work: About that period of Iranian history.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Invoked-one of Marjane's relatives bribes the guard to get into her husband's cell so they could have one last night together, her intention being to get pregnant and have his baby to remember him by. He's not happy about it, and even warns her how terrible life is for a single mother.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: There is a minor subplot in the first half of the story that revolves around Mehri, the housekeeper in Marjane's home, and the son of a neighbor. After the neighbor discovers his son is secretly courting Mehri, he demands that Marjane's father do something about it. Marjane's father then has a chat with the boy, telling him to forget about Mehri, since he's a middle class young man who could get into a good school, make something of himself, and marry into a good family, while she's a peasant brought from the countryside to clean and cook, and will likely spend the rest of her life as a maid. After the discussion, Marjane is seen trying to console the heartbroken Mehri.
  • Starter Villain: The Shah, quickly replaced by the Iranian Islamic government, which is even worse.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Marjane's uncle, who reacts to all the terrible things happening in the country (and even his own arrest) with an understanding smile and a calm, pragmatic explanation.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: A major theme of the book is that after having spent her teenage years in Vienna, she now feels like an outsider in Iran, as the culture of Iran has changed due to the Islamic Revolution and war, and she herself has changed as a result of her experiences in the west.
  • Straw Nihilist: One of the members of Marjane's circle of friends during her teenage years in Vienna was Momo, a punk boy who constantly exhorted philosophical gibberish about how life was meaningless and death the answer. Marjane frequently called him out on how stupid this attitude was, having experienced actual suffering up close.
  • Stylistic Suck: The infamous "Eye Of The Tiger Scene."
  • Suicide by Pills: In the animated adaptation, Marjane tries to overdose on pills. She finds herself in a nebulous space with God and Karl Marx. God tells her that it's not time for her to die, and Marx agrees. They send Marjane back to her body, with Marx urging her as she goes...
    Marx: The struggle goes on! Right?
    God: sigh Yeah, yeah. The struggle goes on.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Marjane has been an outspoken and radical young woman since early childhood and has a long-running affinity towards the punk subculture, but consistently shows other, more "traditionally" feminine interests across her life, such as daydreaming about getting swept off her feet by a Princely Young Man. Fittingly, she is almost always shown to have a relatively equal number of close male and female friends across all stages of her life.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Marjane finds out that Neda Baba-Levy is dead by seeing her severed hand that contains a turquoise bracelet that she got as a gift. The next chapter shows Marjane fighting with a teacher over wearing a bracelet to school, implying that she took it for herself as a reminder of what happened to Neda.
  • Training Montage: Marjane coming out of her depression, with Eye Of The Tiger playing. The film took a... unique interpretation of this.
  • The Unsmile: Marjane gets two: once when a boy she likes thanks her for helping him come to terms with his homosexuality and again when she's forced to talk to friend and family about her experiences in Europe after coming home.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The Movie contains a metaphorical example; Marjane (after finding out Markus cheated on her) imagines throwing up when reading Markus's script.
  • Wham Line:
    • We know things will get worse when Marjane finds out that Uncle Anoosh went away "on a trip." She goes Oh, Crap!, knowing it's a Deadly Euphemism for getting arrested.
    • Several years later, her mother Taji tells Marjane that she can't keep speaking out at school, or she might end up like Niloufar who was arrested for the crime of being Communist. Niloufar like many virgins was married off to a prison guard, raped, and shot because it's against the law to kill virgins. Marjane is shocked but suggests that maybe the regime made it up to scare people and they just executed Niloufar. Her father shuts her down with five words: "No, your mother is right." He knows because Niloufar's family reported they received a pittance of a dowry from her "husband".
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Marjane's mother delivers one to her, after cutting in on the moment listed under Kids Are Cruel. She asks Marjane "How would you like it if I nailed your ears to the wall?" before telling her that it isn't fair to hurt someone for what their parents do.
    • When guards come in a raid, Marjane accuses a man who was eyeing her earlier of saying something indecent to her in order to save herself from being confronted over wearing lipstick. He's never seen again. Later on, she tells her grandmother about the incident-and also laughs about it. Grandma is far, far from amused and heavily admonishes her for it. Since the movie takes place in post-revolution Iran, the man could've been tortured or even executed. The scene shows how a police state could turn anyone into a monster.
  • Wicked Stepmother: When Marjane is about to be taken to the authorities by angry fundamentalist women for wearing Western-style clothing, she cries buckets of tears and wails about how her "evil stepmother" will burn her with an iron and send her to an orphanage. The women get so uncomfortable that they just leave her alone.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Many people Marjane meets have hopes that the world will suddenly turn splendidly better, and get hit with an awful, often fatal, punch from reality.
    • Her Uncle Anoosh keeps assuring his family that "everything will be alright" and the Iranian people will turn to communism, even as the religious fanatics take over and he gets arrested and sentenced to death.
    • Neda Baba-Levy is a young girl who dreams of a fairytale prince coming to take her away. She and her family are killed by an Iraqi missile.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: See What the Hell, Hero? above.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Lucia and her Tyrolean family treat Marjane very nicely... and later, a character implies they were just as unabashedly racist as all the other Tyroleans, and wouldn't have been so nice if Marji was, say, a darker-skinned, frizzy-haired boy. Marji Lampshades the hypocrisy of a Neo-Nazi skinhead telling her this, and that he probably would be just as racist in that situation.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In the film, God asks Marjane why she tried to kill herself. She tries to explain how she's accomplished nothing, but he says she has so much more to live for and sends her back.