Tintintastic

 tintin.jpgI always prick up my ears when Tintin is mentioned in the press. When I was a nipper, I was rather keen on him. Or rather, on the stories in which he featured. In fact, I seem to remember that Tintin books were much adored amongst my school chums. It was largely thanks to Tintin books that I barely read continuous prose until I was about 13.

Such was my love (i.e. enthusiasm) for Tintin, that I once went along to a school fancy dress party in the guise of my favourite Belgian boy reporter. Some feat, I hear you cry, since Tintin is actually rather normal in appearance. For a cartoon, anyway. His jaunty tuft of hair is the only thing that distinguishes him from just any Belgian boy reporter. That and the way he wears his trousers at half-mast with his socks pulled right up. Suffice to say, I attended the party looking just a leetle bit gay. If I might be allowed to use a stereotype.

You see, stereotypes are what seem to have landed Tintin in trouble recently. Apparently, the Commission for Racial Equality received a tip-off from a Borders Bookshop customer in London, who had been innocently leafing through a copy of Tintin in the Congo. Now, I’ve not read it (it was quite hard to get hold of when I was younger) but apparently it portrays the Congolese as ‘savage natives’ who ‘look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles’. According to the CRE, Borders could not justify the peddling of such racist material, which should be pulled from the shelves and made available to the public only ‘in a museum, with a big sign saying “old-fashioned, racist claptrap”’. I think they were quite upset about it.

I quite understand that material like this will (or, at least, should) leave a nasty taste in the mouth now, but isn’t it an accurate depiction of attitudes and prejudices at the time (1920) in which it was written? OK, it’s probably not a good idea not to give it to children, but surely adults could make up their own mind? A blanket ban on everything that might cause offence to someone doesn’t seem like the way to go. And isn’t it more valuable to expose children to this type of propoganda, and explain to them why these views aren’t acceptable now?

In the meantime, we probably shouldn’t tell the CRE about Tintin’s sidekick, Chang Chong-Chen…

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3 Comments on “Tintintastic”

  1. Ross Says:

    Can’t say I’ve personally ever been a fan of young blond Belgian boys in plus-fours. Now The Beano, there’s a publication of which we can be proud. And in keeping with your is-it-racist-or-just-out-dated? theme, check out war-time Beano favourite “Musso The Wop”.

  2. Doug Says:

    Musso The Wop? That’s a new one on me. Still, I was far too busy during the war to be reading comics.

    This line of enquiry got me thinking about the Golly Wogs that you could send away for if you ate enough marmalade. I see all that’s gone up in a puff of PC smoke. ‘But no one thought the Golly Wogs were an offensive stereotype’, said my Dad, in his self-appointed role as spokesperson for the Black community.

    I always thought that the Tintin books riffed on popular British stereotypes too, in the form of the Thompson Twins. The bowler hats, the walking canes, the constant pratfalls – yes, they may have originally been dubbed Dupont and Dupond, but they were archetypal Brits. And since we no longer think of the British in these terms, I want something done about it.

  3. Ross Says:

    I thought the Thompson Twins conformed to that classic British stereotype of slim gents in over-sized sweaters, sleeves rolled up, with asymetric moulet-style haircuts, a dash of lippy and eyeliner, playing synth based electro-pop.

    Is Little Plum racist?


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