Week 7

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

The issue what Herge’s album raise is racism. In Tintin in Congo this album, Herge appeared to be racially biased and stereotyped in the creation. At that time, his creation caused great controversy. Tintin’s attitude to the Congolese nation in Congo has been hugely controversial. As a result, Belgium, the United Nations and the United States had restricted the sale of such depictions to children. Because the content is negative (Tintin in the Congo, 2019). Between 1890 and 1920, Congo was occupied by Belgium, and men, women and children were murdered. In the comics, Herge described such racist discrimination, Belgian colonialism and the “white burden” theme. For example, in the comics, when Africans were arguing, Tintin broke the argument and divided the hats equally, to which Africans replied, “the white people master is very fair.” In the imperialist scene, Tintin introduced Belgium to African students and said it was their country (Mountfort, 2011). When Tintin became a hero, a local woman bowed and told him that the white man was amazing and in good spirits (Herge, 2005).

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, some activists and writers thought Tintin in Congo was racist because it portrayed the Congolese people as stupid. The government of the democratic republic of Congo criticized the book. In 2004, Congo’s information minister accused Herge of “racism and nostalgia for colonialism” (Cendrowicz, 2010). In 2007, British human rights lawyers complained to the British commission for racial equality (CRE) that they had seen the book in the children’s section of the bookstore. The CRE called on bookstores to remove the comic, saying it contained racial bias. The Congolese, for example, are described as looking like monkeys and fools. In response to the store’s dedication to customer demand, the book was moved to a reserved area for adult graphic novels. Another British retailer, WHSmith, was recommended for readers aged 16 and over. The publisher had also responded to the issue of racism by placing a protective band around the book, warning of its content and an introduction to writing a historical background (Bunyan, 2011).

Tintin in Congo had also been criticised by America; In October 2007, in response to customer complaints, the Brooklyn public library placed graphic novels in a locked back room in New York, allowing access only by appointment. In August 2007, Congolese student Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo filed a complaint in Brussels, claimed that the book was an insult to the Congolese people and demanded that it be banned. Prosecutors investigated and initiated criminal cases. The matter eventually moved to civil court in April 2010.Mondondo’s lawyers argued that Tintin in Congo was “a justification for colonization and white supremacy”, which Mondondo called “racism and xenophobia”. As for Herge, at the time of creation, Herge’s environment was full of conservative ideas around “patriotism, Catholicism, strict morality, discipline and innocence”. Herge provided information about the Soviet union almost entirely from a single source. In Tintin in Congo, he used limited resources to understand the country and its people (Tintin in the Congo, 2019).

References

Bunyan, N. (2011). “Tintin banned from children’s shelves over ‘racism’ fears”. The Telegraph. London. Retrieved from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/8866991/Tintin-banned-from-childrens-shelves-over-racism-fears.html

Cendrowicz, L. (2010). “Tintin: Heroic Boy Reporter or Sinister Racist?”. Time. New York City. Retrieved from: http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1986416,00.html

Hergé. (2005). Tintin in the Congo. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner (translators). London: Egmont. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.nz/books/about/Tintin_in_the_Congo.html?id=7DsvAAAACAAJ&redir_esc=y

Mountfort, P. (2011). ‘Yellow skin, black hair… Careful, Tintin’: Hergé and Orientalism. Australasian journal of popular culture1(1), 33-49.

Tintin in Congo. (2019). Retrieved Sept 15, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintin_in_the_Congo#CITEREFBunyan2011

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