In their early formations, the Tintin comics were made out to be the truth. Tintin was always being chased because the threat he posed was the exposure of the truth. But what truth? Or more precisely, whose truth was being portrayed? Le Petit Vingtième, in which the earlier albums were serialized, had clear political ties with the right through its religious leanings. As Tom McCarthy points out in Tintin and the Secret of Literature, to be Catholic at the time also meant being antisemitic, a white supremacist, and a fascist. Yes! Yes! Yes! Tintin ticks all the boxes. At least for a while, until he meets Chang in The Blue Lotus, often referred to as the most touching book of the series, one Hergé called “an homage to friendship”. For this reason, all the snippets in this Top Ten list come from the early albums when political correctness was a non-issue. This is hot off the press after a recent attempt (another one) at correcting the problem of the influence of the books.

Featured image credit: en.tintin.com
10
The adventures of Tintin - Racist Scene
photo: TinTin

The representation of the Jewish community is very much like anything else you might find throughout the media at the time: large noses, thick lips, physically unfit (glasses, overweight), scheming, moneylending, etc. Needless to say, when they appear, they’re the baddies like this financier here. Given Belgium’s ambiguous position in the war, things could be worse. The stereotype remains just that, and the group is racially defined by the physical characteristics, discussed above. While bad, the worst is yet to come.

9
Tintin racist moment - Comrades
photo: TinTin

This is just one instance where the strip clearly expresses the mission statement of Tintin’s first adventure: Soviets bad. Here, soviets bad = no freedom of choice, no freedom of speech, and oppression to the extreme. And there, in the left-hand corner, Tintin looks over them, puzzled. He comes from the better world, don’t you know? Where else would he look from but from above? And the communist citizens, poor things, bear the weight of their oppression, are constantly look down, and are hunched over and depressed. Of course! This is some wonderful reporting (incidentally, the only album where Tintin actually does write an article!).

8
Tintin - Look Snowy... A real Red Indian
Look Snowy… A real Red Indian

Objectification. Simple as that! The image shows Tintin, well dressed in the vest and cap of someone on an excursion, leans over the figure of a much older man in amazement, preparing to take a photograph. The man is clearly uncomfortable with being objectified by not only the foreigner but also his dog! Not only that, but he is made to resemble the homeless of Europe, wrapped up in a sheet on the ground, leaning against a building. Tintin takes great delight in the authenticity of the “Red Indian,” largely exciting because it took “two whole days on the train” to get to “Redskin City” as the young reporter points out in the preceding frame. Segregation much?

7
Tintin Travels to the Congo
Tintin Travels to the Congo

When Tintin travels to the Congo, it is not as a reporter. He goes there to hunt the wildlife, humiliate the people, and be praised as a deity. He goes as a colonialist, more often referred to as a missionary. “Marvelous,” he says of the buildings and intrusion of Belgian culture and lifestyle on Congolese land. Even Snowy agrees, but he’s full of such sentiment. At the heart of it all, in the middle, what should one find but a chapel! Typical, given that Le Petit Vingtième was a Catholic publication. In the final panel, the black man requests education from the white man, as if inviting him to intrude.

6
Tintin: My dear friends, today I'm going to talk to you about your country: Belgium
My dear friends, today I’m going to talk to you about your country: Belgium

Once the invitation is there, what sort of geography is taught? Belgian geography, of course, which Tintin insists is their country. This is the second appropriation of land. The first is very obvious and requires no explanation. The second instance is on a symbolic plane, denying the people their right of identifying their land as independent in any way. He is contributing to the normalizing of colonization and racism at large. Snide little Snowy has his jab at the students, beginning with the very sophisticated prefix, “I say…” Do you, Snowy? Really? And what about the oppressed? Will they get a voice?

60 COMMENTS

  1. Well, and one of his best friends is Chinese, he risks his life to fight slavery, helps Peruvian children, defends gypsies against discriminatory behavior etc. Tintin obviously is representing Herge’s humanistic world views.

  2. All these racist claims are ridiculous. Herge had no evil intentions when writing these stories whatsoever. He was simply representing the general views of the time, and, therefore, we should nowadays actually try to perceive Tintin as a valuable historical source.

    These people who try to see racism in everything and everywhere are actually just making the problem worse. They believe they are doing the right thing but they are in reality just hyping up the problem so it becomes even more hurtful.

    Tintin racist? Give me a break!

      • Oh get over your professional victim hood and weak sensibilities. People are far too easily offended today. Political correctness needs to be stopped.

        • should I point out youre taking offense at offense?

          here is an idea: just think about what you say a little harder. get some humility and accept that what once was appropriate, isnt any longer. and vice versa.

          Things change, so what? Get over it and just live to be a good human. its not hard.

        • Oh really? “Professional victim”, eh? Who’s the snowflake here? Why are you so offended when someone points out stereotypical depictions of non-european people? Why is it important for you that Tintin stands in front of a class of black kids who are depicted as almost identical, without individual features?

          Besides, have you read what Belgium did to Congo? It was no less the personal property of Belgian king Leopold II, and there Tintin stands and teaches kids about “their home”, Belgium.

          I’m not saying that these old versions should be hidden or destroyed. No, they should be shown so people can understand how people saw things in yesteryears. But if someone wants to reprint these and sell as contemporary entertainment, what is the point of holding on to incorrect descriptions of the world? What is the point of not updating to the way the world is seen today?

      • Come on… It is people like you that will ruin the world we were raised in. It’s because of people like you that I don’t want to bring children into this world that your words created. Stop being so sensitive and stop saying things you are manipulated to think!

    • Of course he had. He was working for catholic, extreme-right, fascist even publication. You don’t just rock up to such a place unless you share the same beliefs as Leon Degrelle who was there with him. He was a colonialist racist full stop.

    • Well, that doesn’t change that it is racist, although Hergé just depicted views of his time. We should keep it as historical documents though, but children should not read early issues of Tintin.

  3. I feel that racism can’t be excused but Herge’s views were forward considering the era in human history he was in and if you observe his later writing his mind and ideals changed as the eras changed he was progressive adopting positive moral changes occurring in society and even pushing for them. If you notice the 9 out of the ten graphics occur in his first 3 work as a young and naive writer. The remaining graphic occurs in his 5th book so still pretty early on. It’s hard for people to change the racial prejudice they are brought up around yet Herge managed to change his views drastically in a time where this change in attitude would have been perceived as wrong and immoral. I can understand why people of dark skin like myself and people who had a history of being under colonial rule like myself could see this as abhorrent but so are many things in the world but observing the change is a better way to go about it. The atrocities the colonials have committed were vast but reminded by history at all times we have to move on preventing anything like that from ever happening again.

  4. Actually, in the original black and white version of “Tintin in America”, Tintin remarks on the poverty of the Native Americans, and feels sorry for them. Not sure why Hergé changed it. Maybe he felt it was outdated.

  5. It’s all as you think. Herge didn’t mention that the fellow was a jew and there is no humiliating scene as such. Tintin scolds people (ranked-1) because of their lazy attitude, not because of their color.

    • Yeah. I was thrown for a loop when the financier was described as jewish. There is no mention of that anywhere, and the book talks about Sao Rico (likely a tropic) so not sure where that came from.

  6. Heck! Never in my life have I seen so many generally undesirable illegal aliens in just a few comic panels.
    I don’t read foreigner comics so I wouldn’t know what happens in those stories, but I hope that TinTin guy kills all the illegal aliens in the end.

  7. Talking about racism in Tintin is such sad way of looking at such great work that has inspired young children all over the world. I believe that if we want to look at the negative in anything we will always only see it.

  8. Herge was a genius, with unparalleled stories. With all due respect, his stories are what interest me, not a few possible racist connotations. Racism, like all else, is relative over time. It would be nice to see the united states adopt Tintin, as the rest of the world has. God, I pray the politics of a failing country, does not kill creativity.

  9. I always see people saying how Tintin is racist. People need to keep in mind that at the time was normal to be racist. I mean, many Europeans had never even seen a non-European so all they knew was what other people told him.
    50, 60, 70 years ago, it was normal to be racist.

  10. By the way, about the first one… You gotta understand, this strip was written in the 1940’s. While Belgium was under German occupation. If Herge published anything that seemed to even in the slightest way resist Nazi ideology, he would have risked being labeled a “political dissident” which would obviously not be good.

  11. Tintin wasn’t ever meant to be racist, you have to understand at the time these were written everyone went along with the same mindset of stereotypes of blacks.

  12. Hello all,

    I want to buy Tintin in the Congo but I can’t find it.
    I begun the collection few day ago, but I ‘ve had to stop after reading Tintin in the land of the soviet because of the second one is unfoundable…. I look for a new one or a second hand.

    Thanks

  13. You missed his most racist image–a scene with conniving Jewish businessmen in robes and hats / skullcaps celebrating the news from some crazy person about the end of the world because it will allow them to skip out on onerous business debts and be an all-around great business opportunity. This appeared in the magazine version of one of his stories. You can find it if you search Bing images for Tintin +caricature +”anti-semitic.” This should probably be the number one racist moment. The characters look like the villain from “Jew Suss” or somesuch.

  14. I think if something was “shockingly racist” it wouldn’t require so much explanation; it would be self-evident. You’re stretching.

    • Russia has the highest number of female CEOs thanks to their Soviet past. Black people who moved to the Soviet Union from the USA during the 40s and 50s were treated as equal. Just watch old Soviet films and see that black babies were seen as beautiful. The USA had to include black people in the army during WWII because they were humiliated knowing that the Soviet Union allowed everyone to serve equally, which included black people.

      • “Soviet Union allowed everyone to serve equally”
        LOL! I guess one mans forced conscription is another mans equal service.

        “Black babies were seen as beautiful”
        So all Kim Jong Un need do is kiss a black baby.

      • Yes indeed. If you search and look around on the web, you will find a lot of real Soviet anti-fascist propaganda (an example: a black male ripping apart a Nazi-flag, or a Soviet citizen shaking hands with a black male). USSR actually had a united people.

      • Racism is endemic in every former Soviet country. This was and is still the case. Women, blacks, and every class of people were not treated equally in any constituent Soviet republic. This doesn’t even border on being intellectually dishonest, or to quote someone else here “it’s not even wrong”. All the classes of society you mention were treated unequally, literally according to how forcefully they questioned the government.

        Women, blacks, and all other classes of society were denied rights, access to jobs, healthcare, life; if you questioned why the inequality existed in the first place.

  15. I am so shocked. Are you a Muslim?
    Using free speech on the internet to deride these ancient comics.
    That’s what’s actually shocking.
    I’m glad you don’t rule the country!

  16. How can number 9 even remotely be called racist? Which race / ethnicity / religion is it supposed to be degrading? The Soviet Union was a country and a political construct, and criticizing the blatant lack of freedom of speech/assembly/religion/thought in that system is more than legitimate. It aptly described the USSR of the day, and can describe the North Korea of today (or any other dictatorship for that matter). If not, all the works and struggles of people who fought for freedom in those countries was also “racist” (racist against who – themselves?). What a bunch of rubbish.

  17. Most of this stuff are actually true.

    It’s obviously true that the USSR was a totalitarian regime which drastically limited its people freedom, especially compared to westerners.
    And it’s likewise true that westerners were culturally superior to Africans, which is the reason why the former colonized the latter and not the opposite. And it makes perfect sense for the inferior to admire and emulate the superior so that he may improve and reach his level.

    • Well yes, but do not forget that this comic (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets) was made during the first decade of the USSR under Stalin. Stalin was a terrible dictator and later leaders of the USSR did not like his actions, but he was still seen as a kind of national hero because he made the USSR a superpower. Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is actually just Western propaganda, which finds the worst in Stalin’s Russia (pretty much everything): famines, very rigged elections, etc. The situation got a lot better after Stalin, believe me, I do a lot of research. After Stalin, there were no famines, just sometimes a deficit of something. But the Soviet people definitely had enough to eat after Stalin. The portrayal of the USSR in the comic is kind of the vision of the USSR by a common Westerner.

  18. He did not have the recourses to get to those places. In the 30s and 40s people were taught that way. It is more of a lack of knowledge than anything else. Even though most panels are racist. I am Jewish so 10 is racist for me.

  19. I actually loved Mr. Bohlwinke, the Sao Rico financier in the Shooting Star. He is the spitting image of my late grandfather. We are GREEK, not Jewish. If I can look at that cartoon and see my much loved Greek grandfather why does Mr Tom McCarthy, the author of this rubbish, see a Jewish man? Not sure who is the racist here.

    • Because the character was Jewish. The name and origin were changed in later issues due to lawsuits against the discrimination after holocaust.

  20. Tintin is awesome creation. He inspired a generation of kids. Showed them there was a big world outside. This is pre-Internet when the world was too big.

    I come from India and when under British rule, India had to recite poems about mother country aka England. So do I hate England? It is over and done. History should remain history.

    Herge changed politically, moved towards having better relation and better life. You are doing exactly what he opposed in his later works. You are spreading hate without understanding why he inspires so many of us.

    My advice to you is read the books. Tintin is one of the gentlest creation with curious mind. He is never arrogant or condesceing. His best friend is Tibetan. The list goes on.

  21. Why do you make a site like this to provoke? Is it a genuine interest or do you just need the traffic from Tintin researchers?
    You can not look at history backwards! Why didn’t Jesus fight for equality between men and women? Why didn’t Buddha address the global warming issue and Mohammed? Why didn’t he…
    As stated, the red Indian is clearly uncomfortable (nice work Hergé) and Tintin in America probably contains the most outspoken political statement Hergé ever does and it’s in favor of the natives! (Where the Chief I offered 25 dollars and half and hour to get out)

  22. Yes, Herge was racist like any white man of his day. I am African and I read Tintin as a child. I only got to read Tintin in the Congo as an adult. Of course, I was shocked but not surprised at the depiction of black people in the comic. The experience of black people under colonialism was a mixed bag I must say. For example, the British in Uganda only committed a genocide against the Banyoro tribe who resisted their rule, while the rest of Uganda was not as devasted as Bunyoro was. The Africans in Kenya and South Africa were treated worse than animals because the white man also wanted their land to settle their poor landless migrants. The USA never participated in colonialism in Africa yet any African in my father’s generation who traveled to the US talked about how badly black people were treated there.

    Anyway, back to Herge, I was intrigued by the ‘witchdoctor’ in ” Tintin in the Congo” named Muganga. That name in Luganda and other Bantu languages in Uganda means healer, herbalist or doctor. Interesting, since the Congo is extremely vast. Of course, to the white man, he would be a ‘witchdoctor’ practising ‘black magic.’ This anecdotal evidence shows that Herge must have done some pretty good research. Lastly, Kabirigi is a name given to very strong headed and anti-social children in Rwanda and western Uganda. The Belgians were ‘Ababirigi’ to distinguish them from ‘Abangereza’ or the English or Anglaise.

    The Belgians earned the uncanny reputation of being blood thirsty white men who would eat our children and rape our women.

  23. racism is a form of favoritism. if someone likes a person better or favors them, who are we to force him to think otherwise. you can’t eliminate favoritism. as anything in life, there are better or worse aspects when it comes to different races. now to generalize and punish people for other’s faults, that is wrong on any level. but to say white people are more attractive, there is a lot of truth to that, and it is not mere opinion. I think the problem is culturism. in the past the culture of certain ethic groups were of low standard compared to others. so in those days to favor a group over others made sense and wasn’t that wrong. today, people around the world have similar upbringing, so it is not right to dismiss a group for such prejudices. still, if I go to the ghetto I will look down on those people especially if they are aggressive. that is not a racism, that is culturism. they are of low value culturally.

    • So if I say to you that you are culturally of low value as you do not know how to use capital letters, does that make it fact or opinion? I don’t know how you came to the conclusion that any culture is superior to another and could be deemed as low value or more attractive. Opinions such as yours are of no value.

  24. JOO, about your question that the writer is a Muslim, or not: what do you mean by that, huh? That ONLY Muslims do these sort of things? You guys are really against Muslims for no reason at all, okay? Muslims are not people you need to be afraid of, they are not terrorists. They are good and kind people, and the world thinks bad of them for NO reason that makes sense. Do you understand?
    And anyways, I agree with you all that making Tintin a racist, that is like THE most stupidest idea I have ever heard. Nowadays people see racism everywhere, even in Tintin comics, might I also add. You have got the wrong idea, Mr. Writer, and I hope you realize that. I mean, Tintin a racist? Sheesh!

  25. It’s so funny to see that drawing a busssines man with big nose classified as racist while drawing a man with turban holding bombs is freedom of speech. Double Standart.

  26. Written three quarters of a century ago we should not be shocked to find material that by today’s standards are considered racist, but to call much of what is in those panels above NOT racist is dishonest. Especially given that this material was written in Belgium where even today state officials march the blackfaced Noirauds down the streets of Brussels. Next door, in France, citizens enjoy the Tete de Negre every Christmas. The name was changed a few years ago to Tete de Chocolat, officially, but most French people refer to it by its original name. European norms are shocking to Americans. Here in America we are only too willing to tag our speech, flags, sports uniforms, etc. racist. The French person thinks doing away with the Tete de Negre was much ado about nothing. Oh really? Would the black people in France agree? Not in a million years would it occur to the French to even ask them.

  27. Your grand parents and great grand parents were racist too. It’s history. What’s important is that we are not, and our kids are not.

  28. Sure these pages are very racist. But I believe that’s because of the influence that Hergé had at the time.

    He later changed a lot of the black characters in “The crab with the golden claws” into white characters because he saw that is was wrong.
    Later he gained a great friendship with a Chinese person who he based his character “Tchang” on, and he would teach Hergé about the Chinese culture so when he wrote “the blue lotus”.

    In “The shooting star” he had named an American “Blumenstein” but later changed it to “Bohlwinkel” which Hergé later regretted when he found out that that too was a Jewish name.

    Sure his old work has it’s racism but I believe that it’s pure naivety influenced by the times.

    Hergé changed his point of view so I don’t think it’s right to call him a racist.

  29. I don’t know. I mean, the panels regarding Congolese people leave me troubled, but I feel they show Tintin and his dog in a bad light more than anything else. If you want to spread racist worldview in a comic, there are better ways to do that than have your leading, white characters make snide comments that are obviously unfounded – like “They don’t look very bright” about a group of men doing physical labor, with nothing to indicate whether they are “bright” or not. Tintin is clearly shown as racist and an oppressor, but I’m not sure if it’s really intended as “proper behavior”. To me, at times at least, it seems like the messge is more “we are the opressors in Congo” than “Congolese people are inferior to us”.

    Other than that, I’m not very shocked. The man in the first panel is never mentioned to be Jewish, and “Sao Rico” sounds like a Latin America place. The Soviet panel is a ridiculous simplification of Soviet reality, but conveys a message that is sort-of true. The Indian doesn’t make me think of the homeless, it is drawn quite accurately to the stereotypical “Indian” image. And while Tintin talking about him like he’s a tourist attraction is inappropriate, it’s not particularly racist. The Indian being obviously unimpressed adds a significant layer to the situation, too. As for two days on the train to get to Indians – that’s pretty much how it is in USA to this day. The Pygmy panel is not racist either, just stereotypical and somewhat silly. And Pygmy people do, or traditionally did, dress this way and use similar tools.

    Just because it looks inferior to you doesn’t mean it is. These people have no reason to follow our aesthetic, they have their own, and in their environment and lifestyle, the Pygmy dress code works better than the European.

  30. I am a person from a former communist country. The one about the USSR is actually true, not just in the Stalin period (it wasn’t anywhere near close to “humane” just because Stalin died). And I assure that you – a bunch of westerners who had the privilege of living in rich democratic countries – thinking the USSR was just “that weird controversial uncle” is what we used to call “useful idiots”; college hippies in the West supporting our oppressive tyrants because it pisses off their rich daddies and mommies.

    And no, Ryan, you know nothing about what it was like. And every time you make excuses for ANY communist regime in the Eastern bloc, you spit on the mass graves of my people, my family, my ethnicity. Our workers were betrayed by every single instance of communist rule that claimed to represent them. Workers were being shot with live ammunition in my city for demanding human rights and bread to feed their starving children, and that was decades after Stalin.

    Tintin may have been racist and probably was, but claiming that depiction of the Soviet Union was wrong is either being naive, brainwashed or a communist. In which case, you have the blood of millions of my people on your hands. Find some other way to protest your dumb imperialist problems.

    Signed, an actual Slav, from an actual communist country, still in actual poverty and corruption thanks to it all.

  31. I mean, mostly this is pulling stuff out of the heels. Tintin represents views of benevolent people of that time. Teaching blacks in Con go about their country – BVelgium? It WAS Belgium at that time. The benevolent western people’s attitude towards the africans (colonies) then was that they should be treated respectfully and to civilise them. Today with sensibilities as they are it is not possible to express such a view, but these comics have to be read in historic perspective.

    The one about the Soviets is really stupid: no sane person can see anything wrong with that. The depiction in the comics is correct. And yes – the west was free, the east was not. West was in a better place, east was in a sh*thole. Period.

  32. I know much has been said already, but as an avid ‘Brown’ reader of Tintin, I feel in the initial writings, Herge was trying to be sarcastic, with an expectation that the readers of that time will acknowledge the wrong-doings of the dominant European colonists. When he realized that his sarcasm was being taken as validation of the dominant stereotypes, he became conscious and gave a straight humanist face to Tintin.

    Those of you think East was in a sh*thole and West was a better place, give me a break. I definitely admire ‘West’ for what they have genuinely done, but the so-called East has continuously been betrayed and tremendously exploited by Western arrogance. If you did not know already, skin color does not define greatness, your behaviors do, and ‘West’ needs to go a long way to learn humility. It’s East’s generosity, both social, cultural, economic and human, that West is what it is today. PERIOD!

  33. It’s pretty clear that Tintin in the Congo — from which most of these examples come — was a racist and colonialist book. It was his second book (the equally awful Tintin and the Soviets was the first, the transitional Tintin in America came next.) These books, especially Soviets Congo, reflected the agenda and the prejudices of a naïve catholic conservative in his early 20’s working under editorial direction from reactionary Catholic mentors. But to treat them as representative of Herge’s work as a whole is pretty absurd. It was his clueless and immature starting point — he got over it, quite dramatically. It is just sort of sad to think that anyone would believe this stuff is what Tintin is about, and it just seems reductive and ignorant to try to introduce the books this way.

  34. At the time Herge wrote the book “Tintin in the Congo”, it was normal to be racist. So no, I don’t think Tintin is racist.

  35. Try a Google News search for “Democratic Republic of the Congo” to see how things are going there now. Of course if Tintin and the Belgians hadn’t ruined things by colonizing there, Congolese probably would have colonized the moon and cured cancer by now.

  36. I think Herge was unbiased on “In America” as he lived about 7,000 miles from where the story takes place, and I don’t see how the Soviet one is racist. What happens in those panels probably could’ve happened in Russia

  37. Who really cares if it is. In 100 years something we do to-day will be looked down upon as absurd.
    The comics are just fun to read so get over it and move on as the rest of the world has since 1920.

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