Week Seven: Tintin

What issues do his albums raise in terms of representation of ‘race’, and particularly ethnic and cultural stereotyping?

The Tintin comics, written and drawn by Herge, are an iconic and historical work of fiction – through which – allows us to view many racial stereotypes that we may discuss today. The comics Tintin in the Congo and The Blue Lotus specifically, as their depiction of non-western characters can be viewed as colonial or racist.

The first Tintin comic was that titled; Tintin in the Land of the Soviets which both introduced Tintin as a character, a comic and a concept – but it introduced Herge’s art-style, including his racist stereotypes. The first ‘racist’ stereotype presented in this comic is that of a couple Chinese characters, dubbed the ‘Chinese Torturers’. These characters are malicious in every way, shown as wearing robes and pony tails. This style was likely chosen to play off of the fears westerners had about the east. In Tintin in the Congo Herge depicts two natives as entirely black shapes, who can’t properly speak. He does this in-relation to the Belgian colony in place at the time; “Hergé unthinkingly reproduces the dehumanizing racist stereotypes used to justify Belgian colonialism” (Mountfort, 2012).

The Blue Lotus shows Herge’s ‘progressiveness’ in terms of racial stereotypes in a perhaps subtle way when seen in the eyes of those adhering to today’s standards. However, comparing the stereotypes here to his older work, we can see that he includes many nods and statements of stereotypes referenced in his depictions of other cultures, yet manages to set focus away from the negative – potentially driven by Herge’s freshly found friendship with a young Chinese artist. On the other hand, Herge’s drawings in the story still include negative portrayals during some scenes, particularly when talking about the villainous Japanese character.

References:

Mountfort, P. (2012). Herge and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 

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