Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Satellite | Summary

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Summary

Iraq invades Kuwait in 1991. Most people in Iran don't care much—they are no longer the targets of Saddam Hussein's bombs and there's food in the grocery stores, so they convince themselves they're happy. The Islamic Republic has complete control of the country. Many protesters who haven't fled have been killed, and most Iranians try to convince themselves everything is fine. Things start to change when satellite TV enters the country. Now people can watch programming from all over the world, and the guardians of the Revolution can't do very much to control it.

Prior to the arrival of the satellite dish, Marjane and her parents discussed current events. Now Marjane spends 12 hours a day on their couch watching whatever is on TV. Her father confronts her about it, asking if she's depressed about her marriage. She is, but she doesn't want to admit it. Everyone she knows is getting married, and she dislikes her own marriage so much she can't figure out why anyone else would want to put themselves through it. She apologizes to her father the next day. He gives her three books about world affairs. That opens a new sphere of interest, which comes along with new contacts. Marjane begins attending monthly meetings of local intellectuals hosted by Dr. M. As she participates in these stimulating activities, she starts seeing a change in herself. "Once again, I arrive at my usual conclusion: one must educate oneself," she says.

Analysis

The introduction of satellite television changes the way middle- and upper-class Iranians receive information and think about their government. Up to this point the government has been able to shape the information received by its citizens—only a few sources, such as the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) where Ebi gets his news—provide unbiased news coverage. The advent of satellite technology allows news and entertainment to flow from every corner of the world, and receiving nations can't do anything to change the content. For example, it's much harder to lie about winning a war when international news outlets air coverage of battles won and lost. Satellite television also brings in scores of shows that violate Islamic media standards. In "Skiing," Marjane watches a Japanese soap opera about a prostitute. Prostitution "[doesn't] suit Islamic morals," so the TV station that airs the show has the voice-over artists change the script to make the prostitutes hairdressers. The Islamic Republic doesn't have that kind of control over satellite channels. Messages and lifestyles that conflict with Islamic code are out there for everyone to see. Satellites bring the world into Iran whether the government likes it or not.

As Iranian citizens become more connected to the world, Marjane becomes more connected to Iran. The new stack of books her father gives her pulls her out of her torpor and away from the television—and gives her something besides her failing marriage to think about. Intellectual stimulation has a good effect on Marjane—it gets her engaged in her surroundings, helps her make new friends, and makes her seem more like a mature adult and less like a student. The self-portrait at the end of the chapter captures this perfectly. Readers now see a new Marjane—a woman who is solemn, poised, and confident.

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