Sunday, October 16, 2011

Color in Persepolis

Persepolis can be applied in many ways to McCloud's ideas about the "self-identification" of comics. Satrapi drawing style in Persepolis is extremely simple, and after reading McCloud's essay I can really grasp the effectiveness of this style. Persepolis is set in later-twentieth century Iran, a place that most readers would have difficulty placing themselves in. But because Satrapi is so simplistic in the way she draws, her Iran involves mostly plain characters and plain settings we can relate to. Her characters have no race or denomination. Her settings have no specific location. We can fill theses simplicities in with our own conceptions; in other words, there is room for us as readers to fill ourselves and our own experiences into Persepolis. Satrapi's simplicity in this case is, as McCloud puts it, "to assist in reader self-identification" (44).

But, while reading Persepolis, I noticed another "self-identifiable" stylistic feature that is relatable in McCloud but never specifically discussed, Satrapi's exclusive use of black and white. Unlike a lot of color comics, Persepolis is drawn in completely black and white. Marjane's world is depicted always in these two contrasting tones. And in the same way that a simplistic drawing style opens up room for reader assertion, I believe the simple use of color allows for an easier found relatability.

Because Satrapi never determines color, she leaves more choices open to the reader, who is then able to insert his own ideas into the settings and the characters of the story. Because of a lack of color, the black and white Marjane is not an Iranian girl, but just a girl, like any girl in the world; she is outside the racial descriptors color would provide. In fact, every character in Persepolis could be characterized as a number of races (except for a few of the evil Iranian regimists with excessive beards, but this goes along with McCloud's concept of "objectifying" characters to emphasize their otherness" as well (44)). In this way, the story is not necessarily read as a story about Iranian war troubles, but can cross country issues and be pertinent in all countries, to all types of readers.

If Satrapi had chosen to include color she would have only worked to distance her readers from Marjane and her troubles. The lack of color is important to Persepolis, because it creates a world free from racial significations, a world in which the reader can place themselves and really understand Marjane. The lack of color acts as a means to blur the reader's "world of concepts" with their "realm of senses". When you simplify what is seen in comic discourse, the text becomes more subjective and therefore more relatable.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really interested by your view of how the black-and-white is interpretable by the reader. I touched on the same point in my SCD but to me, the black and white drew attention more to the words than to the characters. I find myself going with your idea more.

    Assuming that the decision to keep "Persepolis" black and white was an artistic choice rather than a financial one (it's more expensive to produce a fully colored comic), it's very smart. The content of the memoir is easily removable from many people's experience - we just don't have any point of reference for these events - but by essentially drawing the characters in little detail, we can insert ourselves as McCloud might suggest.


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