Ways in which fictionalized or real American pop culture is used in Watchmen and Persepolis.
Compare the ways in which fictionalized or real American pop culture is used in Watchmen and Persepolis. How do musical acts, books, films, brands, and/or other aspects of pop culture help to support or critique a theme in these texts?
American Pop Culture in Watchmen and Persepolis
Throughout history, books have impacted American popular culture and have been swayed by it too. This paper explores American popular culture in two popular works from the 20th century, namely, Watchmen, and Persepolis. Specifically, this analysis is achieved through survey of works by two authors on the texts under review, namely, Dad-Mohammad’s Reading more than Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Prince Michael’s Alan Moore’s America”. Analysis literature confirms the use of American popular culture in the development of themes of religion, repression, and modernity in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and patriotism and human liberty in Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ Watchman. Similarly, other works of popular culture that validate this position are considered.
In Persepolis, the author, Marjane Satrapi, progressively develops themes of religion, repression, and modernity to explore the connection between religion and modernism on one hand, and the influence of political repression on the other. A cursory review by Dad-Mohammad affirms the novel’s primacy insofar as perpetuation of pop culture among affluent, highly-educated and “bourgeoisie” is concerned (5). It can also be inferred that with a growing number of Iranian consumers of popular culture, Persepolis builds around aforementioned themes to present pop culture as panacea to repression by the Iranian State. Incidentally, Satrapi’s socioeconomic background as a descendant of a secular family seems to validate this assessment. Thus, their view on social and religious issues embodies strong resistance to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s doctrines. Gradually, Iranian perspectives on Satrapi’s novel have had an eerie similarity to views espoused by folks in secular Europe and the United States. As a result, their perspectives on the Shi’a Islamic Republic have shifted over time under the mediation of pro-western media. These perspectives are mainly founded on accusations of corruption, dictatorship, and repression against the Khamenei leadership. Another way in which American pop culture is used in Persepolis is through the renunciation of despotic tendencies in Iran. Further analysis by Dad-Mohammad provides proof of the impacts of popular culture through a rapidly westernizing media and the internet (6). Pop culture has pervaded Iranian society as evidenced by a growing horde of Iranian dissenters, artists and academics mostly domiciled in Western countries who sustain global condemnation of Iranian government. These groups have sustained a steady assault on the government over the State repression in Iran” (Dad-Mohammad 6). Similarly, the American pop culture finds expression in Persepolis through its deployment of casual tone similar to other works of popular culture. This has been achieved through the assimilation of “personal experiences” with “social commentary” as the preferred strategy by means of which the author rejects and demonizes the excesses of Iranian government. The ruthless efficiency of Satrapi’s work, aided largely by an avalanche of advertising, is another symbol of popular culture in Persepolis. As a result, the escalation of popular culture in Persepolis cements its place in global readership as a popular work of art from Iran. Additionally, domino effects from greater commercial success, award-winning acclaim, and global proliferation has further entrenched Satrapi’s work in the Iranian collective conscience. Consequently, as one of “best-selling memoirs” Satrapi’s Persepolis’ rapid and lasting success and popularity from global recognition has effectively entrenched surging reputation the author. Proof that this was the case was confirmed by resolution by the Khamenei leadership to outlaw the book, following the success of its movie version (Dad-Mohammad 6). The timing of this policy was particularly suspect as its execution seems to have been triggered by the “success of the movie” rather than the vivid novel. In any case, the actions of the Iranian government could have inadvertently popularized the book further by propping up demand for it around the world. Correspondingly, footprints of American pop culture in Persepolis have been delineated through Satrapi’s depictions of native Iran as an antithesis of a free, fair, and democratic society. Overally, calls for freedom, greater human rights, democracy, the “commercial and economic interests behind the success of the book”, all point to greater way in which pop culture is used in Persepolis.
Similarly, Watchmen, an illustrated series by Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, American pop culture has featured prominently. Principally, pop culture finds expression through the authors’ attempt to develop a different historical narrative of the United States through prominent themes such as patriotism and personal liberty (Prince 815). Specifically, in developing the theme of patriotism, the authors have gone to great lengths to expose America’s governance structure and political composition through heroes and superheroes. As a fictional piece of work, the novel primarily employs elements of American pop culture to rewrite America’s history on matters such as Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. For instance, on the Vietnam issue Prince captures an alternative outcome by citing the fourth page of the first publication which declares, “Vietnam 51st State— Official!” (Prince 815). Secondly, Watchmen seem to have built on an ongoing discourse on the issue of individual freedom in relation to governmental control. For instance, Prince characterizes the discordance in “postwar” America by examining relationships between governmental departments as an aggregation of institutions, and the independent individual (817). Indeed, several studies from antique periods have alluded to the growth of “conspiracy and paranoia” confirming reverberations of the same in America as late as the second half of the twentieth century. For instance, some have alluded to societal changes in conformity with demands of pop culture. In this regard, pop-mediated changes on the American cultural system have been the norm. These changes have been largely attributed to technological advancements and new notions of individual freedom. Similar to other commentators on the dynamics of American life, Watchmen has had to contend with reservations emanating from its perceivably low-rate depiction of societal control while maintaining a strong justification of individual sovereignty. Incidentally, works on pop-culture have been unduly focused on individual autonomy as well. However, in Watchmen, the idea of American domestic identity is covertly encased in the idea of the open-minded individual (Prince 817). Consequently, American pride as the most progressive society on the globe has been aptly cemented through celebrations of individual freedoms in the prevailing political system which advances the principle of one man one vote. In this way, Watchmen presents America as a melting pot of philosophical and social diversity characterized by unique policy pronouncements. These policies, articulated as foreign and domestic policies reflect this reality. However, as depicted in the novel, highly individualized American distinctiveness is fodder for other problems. For instance, in executing their roles as crime busters, the hyper-individuals in Watchmen are seen to be working for the common good. Yet, in line of duty, they may trample on some rights. However, on the whole, the intrigues of popular culture are seen through a constantly changing populace. Notwithstanding the effects of technological sophistication and ever-present political meddling, national agencies are still perceived as compromised by individual actions. Evidently, the Watchmen are adopted as reflections of modern American culture. Further, every one of the supermen seem to embody modern social issues and problems.
Works by a number of authors have contributed to the endorsement of themes developed in both Watchman and Persepolis. For instance, an unbiased analysis of Persepolis and other autobiographical writings shows that nonconformist authors and individuals in academia have helped to support the themes developed in Satrapi’s Persepolis. For example, Dad-Mohammadi avers that, in support of the themes of modernity, religion, and religious oppression, these groups have castigated the Iranian authorities for their poor human rights record and their suppression of individual liberties (8). This is chiefly evident in their advocacy for individual freedom through incessant calls for institution of democratic tenets in Iran (Dad-Mohammadi 8). Specifically Hans Kelsen, a jurist and author of “the pure theory of Law” posits that personal liberties as truly exercised in contexts that promote the right of choice should be safeguarded by the law (dad-Mohammadi 8). Kelsen’s book as do several other works of popular culture, continue to rout for escalation of the right of choice to sentimental issues such as “religion and politics”: a position that is more pronounced through criticisms of the Islamic Republic for having “marked an attempt to create a new order based on a new vision of political spirituality” to safeguard the new sociopolitical dispensation following the revolution (Dad-Mohammadi 9). In Iran, the clamour by the elite, mostly residing outside the country, precludes possible compromise between personal liberty and exercise of power by the State. From the outset, Satrapi comes across as a champion of human liberty “who challenges the rules and regulations implemented on the community of believers” (Dad-Mohammadi 9). Similarly, Claude Lefort, in his book on democracy and political theory, argues that promotion of rights and freedoms agrees with Satrapi’s apprehensions of a political culture which maintains peace by upending human rights (Dad-Mohammadi 9).
By the same token, in supporting themes of human liberty and patriotism, author Jamie Hughes, in his book, Who Watches the Watchmen expresses concerns with increased involvement of superheroes in ‘real world’ situations that bear an uncanny similarity to contemporary sociopolitical issues (Prince 818). For instance, questions abound on the potential dangers of overbearing governments on personal liberties and freedoms. Additionally, in idealizing the intellectual, ordinary relatability of the “Minutemen” the author demonstrates that the super humans of Watchmen are now embedded into society (Prince 818). This in itself is a call for vigilance from common folk to forestall possible erosion of human rights. Thus, Hughes provides a “highly symbolic facet” of American body politic, yet effective in outlining the contemporary dynamics of American life punctuated with strong emphasis on individual freedoms. In contrast, some authors have taken positions that seem to ignore potential dangers associated with modern superheroes in the modern world. For instance, a tabloid by the ultraconservative New Frontiersman media organization argues in favor of modern uniformed crime busters by comparing them to Revolutionary War heroes. Nevertheless, both views appear to have succeeded in sustaining patriotism and human liberty as enduring cryptograms of American culture.
Conclusively, American popular culture has featured prominently in the advancement of themes of religion, repression, and modernity in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and patriotism and human liberty in Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ Watchman. As discussed, characteristic pop culture tendencies such as escalated media attention, global acclamation and awards to the authors in both works have been observed.
Dad-Mohammadi, Mersedeh. “Reading more than Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.” (2016).
Prince, Michael. “Alan Moore’s America: The Liberal Individual and American Identities in Watchmen.” Journal of Popular Culture. 44.4 (2011): 815-830. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 January 2016.