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It’s 1991, and Marji is now twenty-one. She and Reza have been together for two years, but since they are unmarried, the social rules of the regime still restrict what they are able to do together. Reza suggests marriage as a solution to circumventing these rules, but Marji is hesitant because the two disagree about so much. After talking to her father, Marji decides to accept Reza’s proposal. Her father harbors strong doubts about Marji and Reza’s compatibility, but he recognizes that marriage is the only way for a couple to truly get to know each other in Iran—plus, he’s too wise to try to impose his views on his daughter. Over a dinner with Marji’s father, the couple agree to his conditions for supporting their marriage: that Reza legally consent to give Marji the option for divorce, that the couple agree to eventually leave Iran, and that they only stay together as long as they are happy.
Marji’s mother is also unenthusiastic about the marriage, but she quickly focuses her energies on the wedding arrangements. Marji would prefer a small wedding, but her parents insist that is not an option for their only daughter. Over 400 guests are invited, and every aspect of a traditional Iranian wedding is observed during an all-day reception. However, the storybook aspect of Marji’s wedding is spoiled by the fact that she immediately regrets marrying Reza when they arrive at their new home. As their married life proceeds, they once again realize that they disagree about almost everything—including Marji’s desire to be social and active coming into conflict with Reza’s preference to stay home. Outwardly, they appear to be a model, happy couple, but at home they are very separate and unhappy. After a month, they are sleeping in separate bedrooms.
The same year as Marji’s wedding, Iran’s old enemy Iraq invades the oil-rich Kuwait. Iran stays neutral, having no love for either country—especially since Kuwait had supported Iraq in their war with Iran. But soon Kuwait is overwhelmed and wealthy Kuwaiti refugees flee to Iran’s capital—including one who assumes Marji is a prostitute because she is walking outside carrying a can of Coke. Concerned that a war between the two oil-producing giants will cause severe economic repercussions for them, European countries become rattled and resort to panic buying in supermarkets, much to the amusement of Marji and her father who are watching reports on TV. When Western nations (led by the U.S.) come to the aid or Kuwait, Marji and her parents marvel at the cynicism of Westerners calling themselves “liberators,” when in fact all they really care about is unfettered access to the region’s oil.
Marji reflects on how Iranians are so relieved to no longer be in the middle of a war that they turn a blind eye toward their government’s absolute subjugation of them, its citizens. Then, in 1992, technology awakens many Iranians from their inertia. Satellite antennae dishes with the ability to freely beam in news, information, and entertainment from the outside world start to pop up around Tehran. Although the government moves to ban the satellites, it’s too late since the people much prefer programming such as MTV and Eurosport to “images of bearded men.”
For Marji, however, the satellites reinforce intellectual stupor rather than shake it loose. When her father installs one, Marji spends entire days prone on her parents’ sofa watching TV. Her father confronts Marji with the fact that she’s ignoring her studies, and she declares that she is a married woman of twenty-two and that she can do as she pleases. When her father counters that neither being married or twenty-two requires any exceptional intellectual effort, Marji storms out. But after realizing her father was right, she returns and apologizes. Delighted, Marji’s father hands her a stack of books about political theory and history, which he believes can reignite her intellectual passion. This plan works as her father had hoped, and Marji vows to recommit to self-education.
Satrapi reexamines gender and oppression through her own marriage. Due to the regime’s strict rules for couples, Marji’s only option if she wants to live a freer life without scrutiny is marriage, but it is clear that Marji knows she is not ready for marriage. In fact, it only stifles her. One powerful panel depicts her behind bars as if her marriage is a jail sentence. Throughout the graphic memoir, Marji’s search for freedom and autonomy has proved a challenge, and it continues to be a challenge in her married life. The couple maintains a perfect image in public, but their marriage crumbles behind closed doors. Marji’s father, an ongoing source of emotional support, foreshadows the end of the relationship when stands up for his daughter and gets Reza to agree to a divorce if the couple is no longer happy. He knows that his daughter will find married life suffocating before she does. The marriage becomes oppressive due to the fact that Marji has no choice but to marry in order to escape state oppression.
In “The Satellite,” Satrapi employs the motif of contradictions to examine politics in the region. The newscasts showing Europeans panic-buying groceries because of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait baffles Marji and her father. It shows them that the West fully believes that all countries in the Middle East are populated with nothing but terrorists. Meanwhile, Marji and her father can’t help but point out the hypocrisy in the allies’ intervention in Kuwait. They intervene in the name of human rights, but really all they care about is their precious oil. Satrapi employs another contradiction in describing how Iranians’ attitudes toward the invasion recalls Marji’s thoughts and actions when she got the man arrested in “The Makeup.” The action was worth it if it meant she wouldn’t suffer, and now the Iranians can feel this way about other countries since they are no longer suffering. Satrapi employs these contradictions to show how common this way of thinking is, and she makes the case that this apathy in the face of oppression must be questioned.