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
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.
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!).
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?
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.
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?