week 7

How would you characterize Hergé’s politics, and how did they apparently change over time?

In my opinion Hergé’s politics has two stage, one is the original stereotype of himself, the other is he has been attacked by Chinese culture.

First step:

Tintin on Soviet Land, the first book of Tintin, was elaborately compiled according to the orders of Hergay’s superiors and was a limited perspective of anti-Soviet propaganda.

Still, Hutch worked willingly: “I’m sure I’m on the right track,” he said later. His only source was Moscou Sans voiles, written by Joseph douillet, a former Belgian consul in the Soviet Union in 1928. In this book, Dudley, less than a decade after the October Revolution, condemns the Communist system for causing poverty, famine and terror. The secret police maintain order and spread deception to foreigners. However, the anti-totalitarian theme of the first book will run through the series. Here the author is also a cartoonist who obeys the orders of his superiors to publish (“Herge: the man who created Tintin”, 2010) . [I think Tintin here is also wonderful, but he has no soul of his own, nor reflects the real human design. In my opinion, Tintin is a heroic person.]

Tintin’s presence in Congo reflected the dominant colonial ideology at that time. As Herg said in subsequent interviews, “It was 1930. My understanding of Congo was what people thought of it at that time: “Black people are big children, and we are lucky to be there to support them, and so on.”

Belgium’s paternalistic description of Congolese indigenous peoples is more childish than racism. In this book, Herg develops an important theme of Tintin: international trafficking. Later stories were also influenced by the threat of World War II, followed by the war itself and the Nazi occupation of Belgium.

The Blue Lotus in the later works is a work which is different from others and has the author’s own ideas in my opinion. From a Chinese perspective, looking at that period of history, I am also curious why the author described China so much [Tintin’s description of China is particularly mild compared to other works of the same period]

Second step:

In Blue Lotus, Hergre euphemistically expresses the feeling of re-understanding China: Detective Thomson Brothers came to China in the 1930s with their Ling Ting and long gowns and jackets and thought that they had to dress up like Chinese people. As a result, they were surrounded and ridiculed by people and made a fool of themselves. Of course, what’s more important is that Blue Lotus takes Zhang Chongren as its prototype and portrays a Chinese child named Zhang Zhongren. He is modest and brave, risking his life to fight with the Japanese army, helping Tintin defeat the drug traffickers and embodying the dignity and courage of the Chinese people in the face of the national crisis. In this work, there are also a lot of Chinese elements that make Chinese readers feel more cordial, such as restaurants and restaurants with Chinese plaques, rickshaw drivers, blue and white porcelain, cheongsam and so on. They are authentic Chinese goods. The Chinese characters with elegant wording or characteristics of the times, such as “lucky celebration”, “casual drinks”, “abolition of unequal treaties”, “the world is for the public” and “overthrowing Japanese imperialism”, all came from Zhang Chongren’s hands. In particular, on a notice of the Japanese army’s wanted Tintin, the Chinese character “offering a reward for the arrest of the murderer Tin” was clearly written, and “TinTin” was thus given the official Chinese translation. By actively assisting Herge, Zhang became the most famous Chinese in French-speaking countries. The name of Zhang Zhongren is known to as many as 1 billion people in Western countries (“Herge: the man who created Tintin”, 2010) .

From this process we can see a qualitative change in Tintin’s author’s thinking. One has changed from a purely racist mind to a pluralistic and inclusive one. A writer sees more of the world and has a wider horizon, which affects his thinking of painting.

Reference list:

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

Mountfort, P. (2016). Tintinas spectacle: The backstory of a popular franchise and late capital. Journal of Asia-Pacific Pop Culture, 1(1), 37-56.

Herge: the man who created Tintin. (2010). Choice Reviews Online47(10), 47-5459-47-5459. doi: 10.5860/choice.47-5459

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

Tintin

Prior to the Blue Lotus Tintin’s adventures were more straightforwardly propagandistic in nature as Hergé’s only exposure to the countries Tintin visited were all second-hand and influenced by the decidedly xenophobic culture surrounding him. The Land of the Soviets portrays an anti-Communist fever dream and includes a brief appearance of Chinese torturers dressed in archaic clothing with long pigtails. Even more egregiously Tintin In The Congo is an entire adventure dedicated to portraying the Belgian colonisation of the country as a positive, protective force rather than cruel exploitation of the indigenous population. Africans are drawn with stereotypical “Ju-ju lips” and they are shown to be stupid and completely dependent on their white masters (Mountford, 2014).

 

The Blue Lotus marks a turning point in Hergé’s career. Abbot Leon Gosset – a Roman Catholic chaplain who was concerned with how Hergé’s comics affected his Chinese students – introduced Hergé to Tchang Chongren (his name has been Romanized in several different ways, I have chosen to use the one in McCarthy’s The Secret of Literature because I believe it is the easiest to distinguish from the character of Chang), a Chinese art student who introduced Hergé to Chinese culture, art and most importantly their political situation (Farr, as cited by Mountfort, 2014). The two became good friends and this personal lens was instrumental in the his work moving forward. “He broke apart Hergé’s European absolutism, opening it up into a more global, relative vision… as Tintin says in The Blue Lotus… ‘different people don’t know enough about each other.’” (McCarthy, 2016) The character of Chang is an obvious stand-in for Hergé’s good friend, and in their first meeting the Tintin and Chang exchange and laugh at the stereotypes of their respective cultures. The bumbling comic relief characters Thompson and Thomson make a fool of themselves by attempting to disguise themselves in the same clothes and pigtails donned by the Chinese torturers in The Land of the Soviets, drawing the attention of a whole crowd of actual Chinese people, and European businessmen looking civilize China are portrayed as blustering bullies (Mountfort, 2014). Overall this a much more sympathetic take on Chinese culture which criticisms Western colonialism, and the extensive detail Tchang contributed to the art and setting of The Blue Lotus would drive Hergé to continue his extensive research into Tintin’s future adventures (the greatest result of this is arguably his Destination Moon/Explorers On The Moon double album adventure, which was highly prescient and surprisingly accurate in its depiction of space travel).

 

However, despite finding understand through his friend Hergé does not extend this recognition of the other to the Japanese, who are one note villains with no redeeming qualities. This in itself is nothing new – Tintin’s characters and particularly his villains are generally not complicated people, particularly at this early point in his career – the Japanese are also drawn as racist stereotypes, with the main antagonist Mitsuhirato sporting buck teeth, glasses and a snout nose which would later find itself used in anti-Japanese World War II posters. While The Blue Lotus addresses a singular mistake in Hergé’s past it also reflects a more fundamental problem with his portrayals of race that would largely remained unresolved. As a caricaturist he was prone to using exaggerated features and stereotypes as a visual shorthand, and while it may not have been conscious the Asian features of the Japanese find themselves exaggerated while the Chinese’s are downplayed and their features are Westernized, (Mountfort, 2014) resulting in Hergé simply perpetuating the same kind of stereotyping he was trying to destroy.

 

Hergé would later go onto display regret for his work on Tintin In The Congo, but would not go to the same lengths that he did for Chang and China. “The fact is that I was fed on the prejudices of the bourgeois society in which I moved […] It was 1930 […] I portrayed these Africans according to such criteria, in the purely paternalistic spirit which then existed in Belgium.” (Hergé as cited by Mountfort, 2014) Despite this the ju-ju lipped design remained present in future works (Mountfort, 2014). This ‘paternalistic spirit’ could also be seen in Hergé’s portrayal of Native Americans – as Red Indians and noble savages, but also as the victims of American colonisation who have had their land stolen from them. How he could be so critical of America and ignorant of the effect his own country had on the Congo is difficult to parse, but a key part of this contradiction may stem from his childhood experiences as a scout. “For his entire life… he was to remain fascinated by a mythical world of warpaint and feathers… For an entire generation of Belgian ex-scouts, the Red Indian World represented the only escape from the pressures and frustrations of everyday life” (Thompson, 2011,  p. 54) and goes on to describe a bizarre episode in which a Post-WWII Hergé retreated to a monastery in order to set up a Red Indian tent and live there smoking a peace pipe with friendly monks. He was sympathetic to the Native Americans, but he did not understand them as flesh and blood human beings. They were a romantic ideal, and this event illustrates just how susceptible Hergé was to his environment and circumstances. His political alignment was also known to oscillate between both sides of the political spectrum (McCarthy 2006, p. 38) but it easier to see this as him being incredibly impressionable rather than him holding any deep rooted political principles. The crucial difference between Tintin In America and The Blue Lotus is that Hergé had a Chinese friend who he considered his equal, giving him a guiding force towards a more nuanced take on race relations. Tchang contributed so much and Hergé felt strongly enough that even expressed a desire to credit his friend as co-author (Assouline, 2009). This could perhaps explain why he never went to the same lengths to make the same conciliatory moves towards African or any of the other races he had portrayed stereotypically in the past, while the Chinese who only saw one cameo appearance in The Land of The Soviets beforehand and received an entire album dedicated to them.

 

 

 

 

Why should we care today?

 

With plans to make two more films the issue of Tintin’s place in the cultural landscape has emerged once again (Mountfort, 2014) as representation in media has become an important issue. In an incredibly media saturated landscape those who are reflected in that media find a greater advantage. However, it would also be worth addressing even if these films were not to come out, particularly as the historical portrayal of Hergé has been at times grossly inaccurate or mischaracterized. One example of this is the biography Hergé & His Creation which simply deflects from any uncomfortable questions concerning race.

 

When discussing Tintin In The Congo Thompson claims that “Hergé found himself profoundly embarrassed by these drawings [of Africans]. Not that he felt guilty, conditioned as his early work was by upbringing. What did bother him, looking back, was the wholesale slaughter of African wildlife” and goes on to list the many ways Tintin murders the wildlife only to also excuse this as “cruel, but cruel in a very childlike way” (p. 47) . To Thompson everything pre-The Blue Lotus was simply a precursor and largely untouchable by criticism because Hergé had not yet begun writing for a more adult audience. However, in discussing The Blue Lotus Thompson glosses over the criticisms of the Japanese caricatures and portrays it as a simple vendetta – as if the audience today were the same ones who read Tintin In The Congo or that one could not find the portrayal of the Japanese distasteful unless they had read the former adventure. “Those who have never forgiven Hergé for Tintin in The Congo still seek to accuse him of racism towards the Japanese over The Blue Lotus, but this accusation stupidly misses the point of the story” (Thompson, p.79). No argument is offered for why he should be forgiven or what the point of the story actually is.

 

This is a highly reductive and oversimplified portrait of the artist and does little to assuage any doubts about Hergé’s character, or how to interpret these albums, in addition to being incredibly biased as a historical record. While we may never know exactly how Hergé felt his work is still alive, and it is the living who are left to interpret it. So it is important to continue reading critically, to avoid thoughtlessly recreating the same stereotypes like Hergé did. “There is no innocent reader any longer” (Apostolidès 2010b).

 

 

 

 

Reference List

 

#DayofRemembrance: 12 images of anti-Japanese xenophobia from the 1940’s (and earlier). (2014). Retrieved from http://reappropriate.co/2014/02/11-images-of-anti-japanese-xenophobia-from-the-1940s-and-earlier/

Apostolidès, J.-M., & Hoy, J. (2010). The metamorphoses of Tintin, or, Tintin for adults. Stanford University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05020a&AN=aut.b11704317&site=eds-live

 

Assouline, P. (2009). Hergé : the man who created Tintin. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05020a&AN=aut.b11704251&site=eds-live

McCarthy, T. (2006). Tintin and the secret of literature. London, Great BritainL Granta Books. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05020a&AN=aut.b11199271&site=eds-live

Mountfort, P. (2012). “Yellow skin, black hair … Careful, Tintin”: Hergé and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 1(1), 33. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=79648340&site=eds-live

Thompson, H. (2011). Hergé and his creation. London, United Kingdom: John Murray (Publishers), An Hachette UK Company.

 

Dominic McAlpine

The Colonialist Imagery of Tintin

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

Congo-Cover-Poster3It is difficult for many to look upon nostalgic images of history and come to terms with their problematic qualities. This is particularly profound in Tintin comics, which many people remember fondly from childhood, yet find difficulties with as adults. But as a cultural icon of Belgium, the issue is even more difficult- as the country grows ever more cosmopolitan, the old comics, now in their 90th anniversary year, are becoming harder to look at without criticism. The imagery of white superiority is too prominent. Modern Belgium, and indeed, the modern world, is taking issue with Tintin.

 

White Superiority

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 9.28.51 pmHergé presents the famous character Tintin as a well-travelled, clever, polite fellow, and there is no doubt that Tintin is likeable. The problem is not in the titular character, it’s in the presentation of the world he inhabits. Every depiction of a non-white race prior to Blue Lotus, and many beyond, is a negative stereotype, a caricature. (Mountfort, 2012) Now, today’s multicultural world is far better at understanding the nuances of culture and race, and it has to be recognised that Hergé was caught in the crossfires of the European propaganda machine that led to WWII, (Van den Braembussche, 2002) so I prefer to hold back the judge’s hammer on the artist. However, just because a text was created in a different time does not mean that it is immune to the critiques of today. To draw a quote from Mountfort (2012), “…Hergé unthinkingly reproduces the dehumanising racist stereotypes used to justify Belgian colonialism, including the now notorious ‘white man’s Angry_King_in_Tintinburden’ motif: in one panel Tintin is attributed the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ when he breaks up a tussle between a pair of Africans who are arguing over a hat by cutting it in two, handing half to each. They respond, as the English translators have it: ‘White master very fair! Him give half-hat to each one.’ (1930; Hergé 1991: 47). The text, intended or not, is still offensive and the depiction of black people as imbecilic, intended or not, forgiven or not, is still deeply problematic to it’s audience.

Modern Belgium

C01 62 A_enHergé became aware of the “paternalistic” depictions of his art later on in his life, citing a “bourgeois prejudice” (Mountfort, 2012), and appeared to regret many of his narrative choices. His rightist beliefs were stirred by the political climate – it would be overly-simplistic to call Hergé a mouthpiece for rightist propaganda, or even a reformed racist – to quote from the text: “As Apostolidès (2007: 55) has argued, ‘Hergé placed Tintin in charge of soothing the concerns of a rightist Europe caught in the conflict between communism on one border and capitalism on the other’ and that ‘[u]nregulated capitalism was abhorred even more than communism’ (Apostolidès 2010a: 9).” (Mountfort, 2012). Hergé was a white francophone who lived in Belgium, and his understanding of race and culture was a reflection of his time and country – a colonising power coming to terms with a new cosmopolitan Europe. Now, I have to mention this, Belgium is still sorting out some pretty heinous historical racial issues. Last year the Royal Museum for Central Africa dedicated memorial space to the seven Africans who died in the abhorrent Human Zoo of 1958 (Al Jazeera, 2018)(Boffey, 2018).

I just want to reiterate this: Belgium had a Human Zoo.

A Zoo, full of 598 black people from the Congo.

In 1958.

Belgium is absolutely a country with a problematic history when it comes to the dehumanisation of black people (Van den Braembussche, 2002), but to focus in, the album Tintin in the Congo (1930) draws black people in Jim-Crow-esque, “juju lipped” uniformity, (Mountfort, 2012), the ugliness of the form serving to make it’s white protagonist look more attractive by juxtaposition. Images like this have gone down poorly in Belgium today, and for good reason – they infer that whiteness is more inherently attractive, and that blackness is tantamount to uncivilised savagery and ugliness (Green, n.d.). Belgian activist Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo has been campaigning for over ten years to get this particular book banned, saying that it should not be read to children, as it could negatively affect the way they interact with black people in their community (Mountfort, 2012), (Al Jazeera English, 2019). Currently, the country is celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the series with an extra-large scale exhibition on Tintin as a cultural icon (Al Jazeera English, 2019). It is a nostalgic and interesting series that has touched many readers’ hearts over the last century. But alongside that fact, I hope Mondondo’s campaign gets another bout of publicity. I think his concerns are entirely valid – especially considering that Belgium had a Human Zoo full of black people in 1958.

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It’s exactly how it sounds.

To dissect a series as massive as Tintin and all its imagery- good and bad – would make an entire thesis and then some. This little sliver on its depiction of Central Africans is only a drop in an ocean – but it is still important. It shows how important stories are, how much of an impact books can have on people’s lives. Even if the nostalgia feels tainted, it still moved people as children, and if some of the messages in the text are problematic, it is important to acknowledge them.

 

References

Mountfort,P. (2012).‘Yellow skin, black hair … Careful, Tintin’: Hergé and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture Volume 1 Number 1. doi: 10.1386/ajpc.1.1.33_1.

Channel 4 News. (September, 2018) Inside the world’s ‘last colonial museum’ in Belgium. Retrieved September 11, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYxWXdFBykw

Boffey, D. (April, 2018) Belgium comes to terms with ‘human zoos’ of its colonial past. The Guardian Retrieved September 11, 2019 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/16/belgium-comes-to-terms-with-human-zoos-of-its-colonial-past

Al Jazeera English. (January, 2019) Tintin 90 years on: Belgian comic book stirs racial controversy l Al Jazeera English. Retrieved September 11, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQeBP8Si_XM

Van den Braembussche, A. (2002) The Silence of Belgium: Taboo and Trauma in Belgian Memory. DOI: 10.2307/3090591 https://www.jstor.org/stable/3090591

Green, L. (n.d.) Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans. Ferris State University. Retrieved August 21st 2019 from https://www.ferris.edu/htmls/news/jimcrow/links/essays/vcu.htm

 

 

 

 

Week 7 – Tintin and the Blue Lotus

1. In what specific ways is Tintin a forerunner of late 20th – 21st century transmedia storytelling franchises?

Herge’s Tintin had a strong European audience in the late 20th century. This can be attributed to Herge’s cinematic style of storytelling, where the audience feel like they’re follow the comics from different camera angles and the flow of the scenes work very much like a film. “Acutely aware of the key aspects to be considered in the production of a dynamic film narrative— movement, action, and scene splicing—[Hergé] endlessly varies angles and shots with the express intention of making his stories as authentic as possible.[1]” This allowed Tintin appeal to many and, furthermore, to be developed into other modes of media, including short animated films such as Tintin and the Blue Lotus, other forms of literature as seen with Tom McCarthy’s Tintin and the Secret of Literature, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s 2011 adaptation of Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn, and models for merchandising. There is also Herge’s museum near Brussels filled with Tintin pieces which garners a lot of attention. With Tintin’s success only in competition with the Harry Potter franchise for its scale and mass audience numbers, Tintin has remained one of the most popular franchises in the 20th – 21st centuries.

2. What is the alleged connection between Hergé’s early comics and propaganda?

Herge worked for a right-wing Catholic magazine ‘Le Petit Vingtième’ and had a correspondent who sent him foreign comics to get inspiration from, such as the latest transatlantic development in strip cartoons and his use of speech bubbles beginning in 1928. This correspondent was Léon Degrelle who went on to establish the Rexists, the Belgian equivalent of Fascists, and became their leader in 1935. This political connection led many to believe that Herge’s early comics, such as Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, held anti-communist propaganda or subliminal political views in favour of his former correspondent.

Herge’s politics are evident in his first album, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, as “[it] is so transparent in its anti-communist propaganda that Hergé himself tried to suppress its publication in later years.[2]

3. How would you characterise Hergé’s politics, and how did they apparently change over time?

I believe that Herge’s views on politics, ethnic groups, ideas, etc. was heavily influenced by the time, especially with the censoring of ideas and information. Herge created his comics in a way that would appeal to the mass audience, whether the stereotypes used were correct or appropriate. For many, generic ideas about other people were the only things they knew about them, for example the Jewish stereotypes about them having long, hooked noses and being obsessed with money. Had Herge tried to portray any ethnic group in the most realistic, humane way, they were no guarantees that audiences would understand the context or scene. ‘Exotic’ comes across as more entertaining that normality, throwing in stereotype widely accepted at the time would increase the entertainment factor and therefore sell more copies.

As times changed and public understanding and social understandings changed, Herge’s politics and approach to portrayal of race and character in his comics too changed. Not significantly, for he still made racist or offensive points in his comics such as his portrayal of Congolese men, Japanese characters, Chinese characters and American characters, but Herge was raised in a time where the politics and social norms accepted the stereotypes that came across of offensive and to ‘unlearn’ the fundamental basics of his life growing up would take a while.

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

Herge’s portrayal of race, namely African/Congolese, Japanese, Chinese and American characters and their personalities, sparked controversy across the years. Such stereotyping which may have been accepted prior to WWII was seen in a different light some decades later as the social norms changed. Some albums including these controversies include Tintin in the Congo, Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh, Tintin and the Blue Lotus and Tintin in America.

Characterising race through their appearance, such as Congolese men with black skin and big lips or Chinese men with yellow skin and pig-like faces, is offensive and inappropriate. It was only upon meeting a Chinese man, aspiring artist Chang Chong-chen, that Herge normalised the characteristics of Chinese characters and gave them a more human-like appearance (he kept the evil Chinese characters with overtly yellow skin and pig tails – whether this was to distinguish the good and bad is up to you to decide). Such racial stereotypes landed Herge in hot water and resulted in him republishing albums with changes made to remedy the issues (removing the racist portrayals of minorities in place for a white character seemed like his preferred way to go).

5. How decisively did Hergé address this issue from The Blue Lotus on, and in what ways did it remain problematic?

As I previously stated, Herge did attempt to remedy his previous mistake of mis-portraying Chinese characters as yellow pigs by making them more human, however, a new issue arose with the idea that Tintin would come to the aid of Chinese characters in trouble much like a knight would come to save the damsel in distress. This then characterised Chinese people as being unable to care for and save themselves and needing the white man to save them from their problems. This can be seen in Tintin and the Blue Lotus when Chang gets swept away in the river and Tintin goes in a save him and when Tintin steps in the save a rickshaw driver from an American busniessman.

There are still evident issues with the portrayal of Japanese characters such as Mitsuhirato and his cronies. As stated by Alexander Laser-Robinson, “If we can assume that racism can be defined by the identification or disengagement from a group of peoples, then we can begin to see in The Blue Lotus the deasianization of the Chinese versus the hyperasianization of the Japanese.[3]

Bibliography:

Calamur, K. (2016) Is Tintin Racist? Coming to Terms with Tintin. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/06/tintin/485501/

Laser-Robinson, A. S. (2005) An Analysis of Hergé’s Portrayal of Various Racial Groups in The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus. p.6. Retrieved from https://www.tintinologist.org/articles/analysis-bluelotus.pdf

Mountfort, P. (2016) Tintin as Spectacle: The Backstory of a Popular Franchise and Late Capital. p.5. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4917942-dt-content-rid-10277214_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Mountfort%202016_Tintin%20as%20Spectacle%281%29.pdf


[1] Mountfort, P. (2016) Tintin as Spectacle: The Backstory of a Popular Franchise and Late Capital. p.5

[2] Calamur, K. (2016) Coming to Terms with Tintin. The Atlantic.

[3] Laser-Robinson, A. S. (2005) An Analysis of Hergé’s Portrayal of Various Racial Groups in The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus. p.6

Week 7 – Tintin

Question 4: What issues do his albums raise in terms of representation of “race”, and particularly ethic and stereotyping?

  The reporter Tintin, a Belgian cartoonist named Hergé, became a symbol of courage and unity. However, at the beginning of the series of works in this popular world, Tintin also inevitably suffered from the defects caused by the times, including the racism that was commonplace in Europe and the United States at that time.

  From 1929 to 1983, Hergé worked hard. Round eyes, towering nose, and a pair of uncompromising curls on the top of his head… Tintin, who seems to never grow old, ventures around in the most turbulent half-century of the world to promote justice. However, the other two of Hergé’s first three works brought him allegations of “racial discrimination”.  The more controversial work of Hergé is the 1930 Tintin in the Congo. Congo (Golden) was a Belgian colony from 1908 to 1960 and became the second destination of Tintin after the Soviet Union. The book has repeatedly hunted wild animals and enslaved blacks and so on, so it has been banned in many counties. The British Commission for Racial Equality had arbitrarily accused in 2007 that “Tintin in the Congo” contained terrible prejudice: African Aborigines were described as “barbaric, ignorant, low-ranking races”; black women scorned Tintin, “ White men are amazing… you are our patron saint.”

  However, Hergé storytelling style changed dramatically in 1934- The Blue Lotus, which explored Tintin’s adventures in China, became a turning point; in this book, he truly portrayed the brutality of the Japanese aggressors, through Tintin’s adventure, eliminating of the west misunderstanding of China. What made him changed his style is an international student from China. In 1933, Hergé selected Tintin’s next destination in China. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the creative background, his friends recommended him to Zhang zhongren. At that time, most Europeans still had an impression of China in the 19th century or earlier. They believed that Chinese men left their nephews and women wrapped around their feet; Zhang zhongren “restores” a Chinese with an ancient civilization to Hergé. In order to thank the temporary assistant, Hergé specially joined the image of the Chinese guy “Zhang zhongren” in “Blue Lotus”. “Blue Lotus” was serialized from August 1934 to October 1935, and to a certain extent, it won international solidarity for China.

  When the Japanese ambassador to Belgium protested to Hergé in this regard, the latter refused to make any changes. “Belgium is a free country, artists have freedom of creation, writers have freedom of writing, and authors are responsible for their own works.” Hergé said, “I found a civilization that I didn’t understand, and I realized responsibility.”

  “Blue Lotus” became a major turning point in “The adventure of Tintin”. Since then, Hergé has begun to pursue a sense of reality, with particular attention to the authenticity of the details. Before the creation, he will make the most detailed understanding of the place where Tintin is going. “I am also responsible for the readers” he admitted.

 

APA reference:

Calamur, K. (2016, June 3). Coming to Terms With Tintin. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/06/tintin/485501/

Waterfield, B. (2019, January 11). Racism row overshadows 90th birthday edition of Tintin’s Congo adventure. Retrieved from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/racism-row-overshadow-s-90th-birthday-edition-of-tintin-s-congo-adventure-2j2jbqplv

Bunyan, N. (2011, November 3). Tintin banned from children’s shelves over ‘racism’ fears. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/8866991/Tintin-banned-from-childrens-shelves-over-racism-fears.html

Week 7 Blog Post

  1. In what specific ways is Tintin a forerunner of late 20th – 21st century transmedia storytelling franchises?

Decades before Speilberg’s well known The Adventures of Tintin, the franchise was already a large force to be reckoned with. The comics grew to be translated into over fifty languages, and worldwide book sales grossed close to 350 million (Farr, 2001). With a wide range of high priced merchandise – from crockery to stationary, two radio series, two television shows, eight films (the first of the new media being produced in 1961) and five video games (Wikipedia, n.d.), Tintin has been a forerunner of today’s transmedia franchises long before the latest transmediation.

  1. What is the alleged connection between Hergé’s early comics and propaganda?

Beginning in 1925, Hergé worked for a right wing Catholic newspaper in Brussels known as Le Vingtième Siècle (Goddin, 2007). It wasn’t until the late 1920’s when he became Editor in Chief of a new comic for the magazine known as Tintin in the land of the Soviets. It was an eight page youth supplement that came out weekly. Then in 1931, Hergé released a second album of comics known as Tintin in the Congo. Both of these Tintin albums are identified as right wing propaganda and were later seen as extremely controversial (Cendrowicz, 2010)

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

In Tintin in the Congo, Herge is said to have depicted the Congolese as “good at heart but backwards and lazy, in need of European mastery,” (McCarthy, 2006, p. 37). From 2007 onwards, the book was removed from bookshops – or hidden –  around the world due to several complaints regarding the obvious racism toward the Congolese people who are drawn to “look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles”, (Bunyan, 2011, para 17).

 

Bunyan, N. (2011, Nov 3). Tintin banned from children’s shelves over ‘racism’ fears. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Cendrowicz, L. (2010, May 4). Tintin: Heroic Boy Reporter or Sinister Racist? Time. Retrieved from: https://time.com/

Farr, M. 2001. Tintin: The Complete Companion. London: John Murray

Goddin, P. (2007). Hergé: Lines of Life. Belgium: Editions Moulinsart

McCarthy, T. (2006). Tintin and the Secret of Literature. London, England: Granta

Wikipedia. (n.d.). List of Tintin Media. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Tintin_media

Week 7: Tintin

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

 

The Tintin comics crafted by Herge are a lens through which we can observe the racial stereotypes and discrimination that was prevalent at the time of their writing, particularly in the comics Tintin in the Congo and The Blue Lotus. The way in which Herge shows images of non-westerners is very colonial and often racist. However there is clear development over time in his views on other cultures when the comics are looked at as a whole.

The earliest comic of Tintin was Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, which included the first portrayal of a non-European character in the form of the Chinese torturers. These pony tailed, robe wearing monsters intend nothing but harm for Tintin, and played on fears that westerners had about the far east. However, these overtly racist themes that we can find in Tintin were not to be shed as Herge continued, and are most obviously portrayed in Tintin in the Congo. At the time, the Congo was a Belgian colony and so there is a lot of colonial propaganda speaking to how right the Belgians were to take over that land. “Hergé unthinkingly reproduces the dehumanizing racist stereotypes used to
justify Belgian colonialism” (Mountfort, 2012) by showing Tintin in a position of power in his interactions with the heavily caricatured natives, often showing his “superiority” through both his ability to problem solve, and by the way in which the local speak in a broken version of the language. The text shows an open disregard for the natives having any ability to govern themselves, requiring a white man to solve the most simple of disputes, and lecturing them on how they are all Belgians now. While this was the accepted norm for the society of the time, in the eyes of modern society it is overtly racist in phrasing and intent. Later, there was a remodeling of his portrayal of the Africans, though Herge’s “well intentioned portrayal of trapped African pilgrims liberated by Tintin and Haddock was to backfire” (Farr, 2011) as they still required a white savior to free them from the slave ship, and they act subservient to them as well.

The Blue Lotus shows, in some respects, a significant development from the earlier portrayals of other cultures, especially the use of accurate Chinese culture, art and language within it, primarily driven by Herge’s friendship with a young Chinese artist, on whom the character Chang was based.  The attention to detail, the respect that is shown to cultural traditions and beliefs is far removed from the previously crude and offensive examples in Herge’s work. There are still some negative stereotypes shown, particularly in the offensive portrayal of the Japanese characters during the story. However, much of what we see as racist was the views of the time in which Herge lived, and so it can be easy for us to read to much into his work. While some of his work can be said to show personal beliefs as well as societal ones, to Herge “the hidden meaning and allegories that others found in Tintin’s activities” (Thompson, 2011) were of no importance; he was an artist who held his work as a story that he wished to tell, not the societal propaganda many believe it to be.

 

Farr, M. (2011). Tintin: the complete companion. San Francisco, CA: Last Gasp.

Mountfort, P. (2012). Herge and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 1, 33-49.

Thompson, H. (2011). Tintin: Hergé and his creation. London: John Murray

Week 7, Comics – Question Four

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

Herge’s Tintin albums raise controversial and uncomfortable representations of different cultures and races – in particular, Asian and African characters in Tintin are subjected to this dehumanising characterisation. The controversial representation of those POC (people of colour) groups are illustrated through the heavy ethnic and cultural stereotyping which are evident in Herge’s early comics.

Looking at how Herge portrayed Africans in Tintin in the Congo first, there are clear colonialist and racist themes throughout the album. Historically, due to the Belgian occupation of the Congo, the population of the African nation decreased from twenty million to just ten million as a result of executions, routine torture and mutilation by the Belgians (Mountfort, 2012, pg 37). Keeping in mind that historical situation, Herge had essentially documented and reproduced the dehumanisation and paternalistic relationship between the two races in real life and into his comics. In Tintin in the Congo, Herge relied on the paternalistic imagery between Tintin and the Congolese, making the people in the Congo look like illiterates and child-like characters in need of guidance. Additionally, the African characters are drawn with exaggerated facial features such as extremely large lips. Viewing it from a modern 21st-century lens, it can be collectively agreed that Herge’s stereotypical characteristics of those African characters is racist and is a product of the time. However, it is particularly interesting that, though his depiction of POC characters is uncomfortable and racially ignorant, the Belgian Courts did not ban it. A Congolese student in Brussels filed a case claiming that Tintin in the Congo is racist, however, the Court believed that while it may be racist, Herge did not intend to incite racial hatred – which is an important criterion when deciding if something breaks Belgian’s racism laws (Reuters, 2012). While the Courts stand by their decision, the public has a different point of view entirely. In an opinion piece by The Guardian, Enright (2011) believed that Tintin in Congo shouldn’t necessarily be banned, but it should not be available for children to read. Since Tintin is a comic targeting children, Enright (2011) was concerned that children would learn incorrect opinions relating to racism, and that topics relating to historical cultural relationships should be a topic taught carefully in schools rather than by comics. So, with awful POC representations in Tintin in the CongoThe Blue Lotus could possibly signal a change in Herge’s attitudes towards other cultures and ethnicities.

In The Blue Lotus, Tintin visits China and also befriends a Chinese character named Chang. Before this was published, Herge befriended a Chinese artist in real life, allowing him to learn more about China as well as Chinese art and the Chinese socio-political situation of the time. That real-life influence was evident and also illustrated in The Blue Lotus. For example, the friendship Herge had with the Chinese artist Chang Chong-Chen, was depicted in the comic with Herge introducing a new character, Chang, to the audience. Chang had also saved Tintin near the end in this album, illustrating Chang as a hero figure rather than Tintin. So, on the surface, it does seem that there is a change in how Herge represents POC characters, but there are still some panels in the comics which suggest otherwise. For example, the Chinese characters are drawn with European-like features and the Asian features were more emphasised for the Japanese characters to make those characters seem more antagonistic. So, in order to “… make the Other palatable to a European audience by stripping it of elements that are too powerfully Other…” (Mountfort, 2012, pg 41). In other words, to humanise the Chinese characters, Herge dehumanised the Japanese characters, so in the end, one race is still viewed negatively by the audience. Therefore, while Herge was introduced to a new perspective on POC characters through his real-life friendship with Chang, it is evident that he is still in the sphere of influence concerning the paternalistic views favoured by the rest of his immediate society. So, while his friendship would temporarily take him out of that sphere of influence, Herge is still exposed to the idea that non-European societies are inferior. Thus, the result is that ambiguity of where Herge stands with POC character. Perhaps, in this case, he wasn’t sure himself of how he viewed POC due to those two conflicting ideals.

Enright, D. (2011, November 4). Tintin in the Congo should not be sold to children. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/04/tintin-in-the-congo

Mountfort, P. (2012). Herge and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 1, 33-49.

Reuters. (2012, February 14). Tintin does not break racism law. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/6414293/Tintin-does-not-break-racism-law

Tintin and Comic Books

Hi guys, here are the questions for this week. Please do the readings on Blackboard and choose one to respond to.

  1. In what specific ways is Tintin a forerunner of late 20th – 21st century transmedia storytelling franchises?
  2. What is the alleged connection between Hergé’s early comics and propaganda?
  3. How would you characterise Hergé’s politics, and how did they apparently change over time?
  4. What issues do his albums raise in terms of representation of ‘race’, and particularly ethnic and cultural stereotyping?
  5. How decisively did Hergé address this issue from The Blue Lotus on, and in what ways did it remain problematic? Why should we care today?