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Persepolis Reading Response

Updated on April 17, 2012

In the film “Persepolis”, there is much humor to be found. The humor found in the movie is dark, a gallows humor, probably developed as a coping mechanism in order to be able to retain some semblance of sanity when faced with reconciling the events through which Marji lived.

For the average person, being surrounded by such traumatic events, especially at such a young age, people find it necessary to mentally detach in some way, shape or form, in order to shore up their mental defenses. Sometimes the defenses consist of acute amnesia, hyper-alertness, PTSD, or humor. Come into contact with law enforcement or military personnel for a long enough duration, who have been in combat, firefights, homicide crime scenes, life or death situations, or high stress events, and you can observe not only a cynical nature, but a sense of humor that to the unaware, is disturbing, disgusting, and possibly suicidal.

Those who are faced with event after event, of one misfortune or another, experience a fracture of the psyche caused by each event. The darkly depraved jokes that might get attached to the incident upon a verbal revisit are a way to distance the survivor from the event, but still retain the experience along with any possible lesson or moral conclusion from it. There are a fair few comedians whose routines are based off of the trials and tribulations of their tragic childhoods, and abusive relatives.

Marji’s reactions to her situation, whether it’s her defiance of the ever-contracting grip of control of the state, or her own epiphanies of self-realization, are humorous to the audience. In her, we see ourselves, and compare how similarly we would have behaved in her situations in her struggle to grow up. Whether it is her childlike innocent riotous protest chanting, especially after she is told to go to bed, to her immersion in western musical culture and her attachment to Iron Maiden, she becomes us, and we become her. There is no need for suspension of disbelief when it comes to the story, as it is based on true events. Despite the animation of the film, the characters are very much human, and three dimensional.

Long has there been the prescription of “laughter is the best medicine”. It is lens in which to look at the world with a new perspective, but dampening the possible pain from the experience. Through laughter, the wounds caused by traumatic cataclysm, do not carry the same weight, and therefore do not have the ability to reopen the healing scars that we have walked away with. And with shared amusement being used as a psychic shield, the jagged pain that lances through us due to memory is deflected away from us.

However the humor maybe expressed, through jokes or satire, dark or decadent, it accompanies a story, a story that is more than likely, bloody and violent, if not heart-breaking and emotionally eviscerating, gutting us to the very heart of us, and if we let it, leaving behind nothing more than a haunted shell.

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