Tags: Art Spiegelman, Bert Stabler, Frederic Wertham, Marjane Satrapi, Osama Tezuka, Scott McCloud
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In case you actually scroll this far, the reason I drew this was for an education class on children and popular culture– we read some Wertham and Michael Bitz, who does literacy with comic books. And we were assigned to draw a comic strip; it was not my cute way of kissing butt. And I did it in about an hour, so I know it’s not stellar.
There’s a lot to comment on in these five panels, but I think I’ll start with the assertion that Tezuka was “Disney-trained”.
I think it’s one of those poignant ambiguities.
Indeed. I wonder if Ms Satrapi is aware of her iconic status in anti-Muslim circles?
And where’s the panel with Hergé explaining his status as a chronicler of international boyish adventure, alcoholism and Belgian imperialism?
Aw man. Yes, I should have done Herge. I asked Noah for other ideas, so blame him too.
I thought of mentioning Herge, then didn’t for some reason. Sorry about that!
I blame comics for not being interesting enough to merit inspired satire.
Oh, fer cryin’ out loud. Marjane relates her world the way she lived it, and for that’s she’s labeled an anti-Muslim icon? Shit, Bert… do you even know what post-revolution Iran was like? It was a madhouse, by contemporary Western standards. I’ll never forget how my Iranian in-laws were pretty happy when the Shah was deposed, but their elation quickly dissipated when they started getting word from in country how the new boss was much worse than the old boss (to paraphrase the venerable Who song).
I took Bert’s reference to “poignant ambiguity” to mean that Satrapi didn’t write an islamophobic book, but that it’s been received that way…
Sort of the “Reading Lolita in Teheran” effect. Still, though, she was my weak link– really shoulda used Herge.
I don’t think it’s possible to over-criticize Iran’s revolutionary government — especially if one happens to be female.
Bert — By the way — overall, despite my criticism, I liked your piece.
Interestingly when I read Persepolis I found her depiction of her experience in Austria to be much bleaker than the admittedly much longer time within Iran.
I found the nuanced ambiguities in her depiction of Iran, and it’s place internationally to be fascinating and immensely valuable. Particularly since it seemed to steer clear of the one sided black hat depiction of the country which makes up the bulk of the coverage the country gets.
In regards to Wertham, I find it depressing that his larger, and progressive, career is habitually disregarded in the interest of demonizing the man over an essentially niche issue.
Iran’s revolutionary government is horrible. It gets over-criticized though in a couple of ways. First, people argue that it’s insane and irrational, especially in terms of its hatred of the US. This ignores the extent to which the US intervention in Iran has been really evil and horrible, and has given Iran lots of rational reasons to hate us a lot.
People also argue that Iran is completely oppressive. It’s a very oppressive and evil state, but it is not a completely psychopathic murderous dictatorship on the scale of Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot. It’s a really bad authoritarian state, but it’s not completely psychotic, as some authoritarian states have been; pretending it is doesn’t help Iranians any.
Finally, people over-criticize by generalizing to say that Iran shows that Islam is innately evil, and that all Muslims are crazed authoritarians. Which is not true and, again, does not help Iranians, either in Iran or outside it.
Right. I did say “anti-Muslim,” not “anti-Iran” in the comic. And there’s room for infinite female Muslim narratives, but I found Satrapi to be somewhat overwhelmed by the historical stuff she was in the middle of– her coming-of-age was not as interesting (to me) as the breakdown of Middle Eastern colonialism generally. Whereas Shirin Neshat (another privileged Muslim woman in the West) does a religious sublime thing that I find more compelling.
And ultimately, Satrapi is as idealized as any comics artist in education/library circles, so I’m fairly okay with using her, if only to be somewhat more inclusive in my sneer.
But would you argue that the Iranian theocracy is actually sane and rational overall? If I were a woman, I’d probably rather take my chances under Stalin than the Ayatollah. I’m not sure about who had the largest percentage of evil beans overall, though. I guess Stalin has him beat in the numbers game, but that’s not really an argument for Khomeini being any more moral. Once you murder a few thousands, the difference in the level of evil starts becoming real hard to detect, kind of like spending money on high end audio equipement to detect a bit more from your vinyl. If you’re going to call Stalin or any of them other fuckers psychopathic, then it’s fair to use the term for Khomeini, too.
Well, Iran does have a complicated story, and I don’t like to substitute pathology for culpability, BUT I agree, if the Hague is right about 20,000 political murders under Khomeni, that’s no small bloodletting. At that point you are entering at least Idi Amin territory, I would think.
I’d make a distinction between Iran under Khomeini and Iran now, I think. Iran immediately post-revolution was an extremely scary place. Khomeini’s dead though, and while the people in charge are horrible, repressive thugs, I don’t think they’re worse horrible, repressive thugs than many horrible, repressive thugs who we never talk about.
Iran is currently aiding Assad, which is reprehensible. It’s not irrational though; he’s been an ally for a long time.
And Israel has not, to my knowledge, indulged in wholesale slaughter of non-combatants. But they’re horrifically colonial and take whatever they want and help a great deal in sustaining the nonstop state of war in the Middle East. It’s hard not to give them credit, and us for our unwavering special relationship.
As an actual woman I’d take Stalin too.
Although I’m Russian, we have muscle memory of the guy, my grandparents lived through those times, and it might just be a case of “better the devil you know’ and “the scary Other’. Besides there is a wonderful issue of Stalin not being nearly as reviled here as in other parts of the world (I remember being innitially shocked by seein him and Hitler listed as ‘kinda the same’). Seriously, the guy is a controversial figure here.
“Seriously, the guy is a controversial figure here.”
Woodrow Wilson isn’t Stalin by a long shot; still, hardly anybody in the US even knows what a repressive, racist thug he was. National leaders have national power bases and local support. I’m sure lots of people in Iran still have fond memories of Khomeini.
“People also argue that Iran is completely oppressive. It’s a very oppressive and evil state, but it is not a completely psychopathic murderous dictatorship on the scale of Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot. ”
All atheist regimes? Is there a point here somewhere?
Nah, that wasn’t my point. The Nazis weren’t atheists exactly. Suharto’s anti-Communist purge was in the name of Islam in large part.
Yeah Bert, you really should have gone with Hergé. Or maybe Kirby.
Right. Herge sucks. So, if we’re beating that dead little cute white running-dog, I am comfortable with, as I said, having some diversity in my targets, especially since Satrapi has been so enthusiastically embraced by the industrial-tutelary complex. I am more interested in talking about cult status, depictions of depictions.
I like Kirby more than Herge, by a lot. More than Crumb or Eisner too. Eisner would have been a good target, but lacks an iconic image.
Huh; I never knew you were that much of a Herge skeptic, Bert. I think I’ve actually grown to like Herge more in recent years, though still not as good as Asterix.
Adam K, great on-the-nose use of “demonization” — as literal here as it was with Jason Blood or Johnny Blaze. We demonize Wertham unfairly because he demonized unfairly. It’s petty, vindictive, and spiteful, but at least it’s cathartic.
Choosing life as a woman under Stalin or under post-Khomeini Iran? That’s a tough one. I think Stalin was much more erratic about what behavior kept you the “safe” list, but I suspect modern Iran is even more accepting of casual abuse of women. Umm, I’ll just have a water, thanks.
Great comic strip, though, Bert.
Aw, thanks John!
This is an old post but I still am amazed how you think it was appropriate for you to blame muslim woman for other people’s anti-muslim sentiments. Incredible.
(As if said sentiments didn’t hurt her!)
The comic isn’t blaming Satrapi for anti-muslim sentiments. It says that she’s been used as an anti-muslim icon. That’s the fault of those doing the using, not of her.
Thanks Noah. I don’t think Satrapi is a genius, but as I have said above, I think, had I thought to include Herge in my little comic, I would have used him instead of Satrapi. It’s a weak link, I admit. I like Satrapi fine, and have used her work in my teaching. No offense intended.
By the way, I want to mention again that Maus is totally based on An American Tail. Why does nobody complain about that more?
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I was caught completely off guard in my comics course when I taught Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks and found myself attempting to discuss race with students completely unprepared to do so.
June 5, 2011 | 33 comments
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