If after seeing Persepolis viewers stop reducing Iran to bearded fanatics, if they see the inhabitants of this country as human beings exactly like them and not as abstract ideas (Islamists, terrorists...) then yes, I'll feel I've succeeded.
When I first saw the trailer for this film -- with the Muslim girls in a car daring each other to take off their veils and the like -- I knew I wanted to see it, and the above quote (by the writer Marjane Satrapi? It was unattributed in the ad I read, translation mine) clinched the deal: I had to go off my cinema-fast and take the time to go out and see a grown-up movie.
Satrapi's goal was the first thing that came to mind when I read Johnny's "What's your issue?" meme (seen also in Vernal) asking what issue you're most passionate about. My primary issue is to try to convince people to make the effort to see other human groups (foreign nations, ethnicities, etc.) as ordinary people, more like "us" than different. I don't think I've done a terribly good job on this (I have a list of planned posts that are eternally coming up but never ready to post...), but as a first step I'd like to recommend this excellent film. And when I talk about recognizing the humanity of ordinary people in Iran, this is not to be mistaken for "taking their side against our people" in the case of armed conflict. What I'm talking about is trying to see more than just the guys with the guns (on both sides), and how seeing a bigger picture affects the types of conflict resolution strategies that are possible.
Persepolis is a story of revolution, political upheaval, and religious oppression, yet all of that is the background for the human story that takes center stage. Marjane is a lively, bright kid (later teen and adult) growing up the best she can under rather extreme circumstances. It shows what it's like to be an ordinary person forced to wear a veil and what it's like to go about your daily business in danger if you speak out (and even if you don't). In a realistic way it shows her conflicted feelings about her identity as an Iranian woman.
All of that description probably makes the film sound like a typical foreign "watch it because it's good for you, not because you want to" art film, and I'm sorry to make it sound that way because it's fascinating and it's funny in places in addition to being exciting and dramatic. Part of me wants to call it entertaining, but I'm dancing around that word because of the horror and violence of the film. It is quite the opposite of the typical "entertaining" movie violence we see these days (visually graphic, emotionally distant) because even though the visuals are simplistic cartoons, you know that the violence being portrayed is very real.
Still, Marjane's courage -- and that of her mother, grandmother, and others in the story -- makes this a story of hope for humanity pushing up through the cracks of terrible circumstances.