Is Tintin racist ?

tintin 2Tintin first appeared in 1928.

A Congolese accountant wants to sue the Belgian comic character  because he says Tintin is propaganda for colonialism. – and amounts to “racism and xenophobia”.

tintinHis action follows the decision by Brooklyn public libraries to take Tintin in the Congo off their shelves for similar reasons.

This blogger – Nuala Sawyer – says the Congolese, funnily enough, have embraced Tintin . (see her pics here ), though this poster at “The Week ” said :

“The Congolese who I showed the cartoon too in Congo found it very offensive and very racist.”

So, can something be considered racist by today’s standards, even though it was written 80 years ago ?

enid blyton picIt’s a debate we’bve had in this country about the writings of Enid Blyton, who’s works included “golliwog” characters.

Is a work racist whenever it was written ? Would you be happy for your children to read them ?

27 Responses to “Is Tintin racist ?”

  1. 1 Dennis Junior
    September 3, 2009 at 14:02

    I don’t think that Tin-Tin is racist………He provided young children the ability to understand that you can achieve anything you wanted….

    =Dennis Junior=

  2. 2 Dennis Junior
    September 3, 2009 at 14:08

    So, can something be considered racist by today’s standards, even though it was written 80 years ago ?

    Not really, but, in those days, that type of words would not have been classified as racist…But, in today culture, they should be understood and respect…

    =Dennis Junior=

  3. 3 anu_d
    September 3, 2009 at 14:13

    This is a complex question.

    Any writing has to be looked at in the context of the times it was written in and as intended then.

    Neither in context nor in intent TinTin was racist.

    With layers of political correctness acquired by the society over decades of apssing time…and when looked at with absolute modern days context…TinTin and many other things can appear racial or no as orginally intended.

    We as adults can undertsand…but can we expose our children who will probably not be able to distinguish the chaned conetxt across the eras… to such material?

    I don’t thing we can !

    We must modify the contect to aligh with the modern context and correctness and then give it to the current generation of kids.

    It’s no-body fault nor a big issue…but a mere acceptance of the need to change with times

  4. September 3, 2009 at 15:02

    I am in two minds about this. I have been shocked at reading some otherwise quite good novels written around 60 – 100 years ago, in the attitudes to women, or people from other countries or races or even the upbringing of children. They have ideas which were accepted without question then but would be totally unacceptable now. – and rightly so. Tintin is a classic and has its place but perhaps some of the issues need a makeover – or an introduction.

    I am reminded of the rewriting of some traditional fairy tales to empower women. I like them but I know the old stories and love the new versions even more by knowing them. Perhaps some of the Tintin stories could be rewritten slightly to emphasize a liberation – I am not sure how or who, but I have sympathy with those Tintin offends.

  5. 5 John in Salem
    September 3, 2009 at 15:22

    Sure, it’s racist. So what? It was a product of it’s time, when half the comics around depicted “darkies” and big-nosed Jews and every other racial stereotype you can think of.
    History is what it is and you can’t sue yesterday for not being today. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.

  6. 6 Nigel
    September 3, 2009 at 15:24

    Given how easy it is to make money through the courts, charges of racism are as good as any other for making a few bucks. A book written 80 years ago has historic significance as it remindes us of how things were viewed back then and not necessarily any malice of behalf of the writer. It also serves to tell us where writing must not go in the future.

  7. 7 Archibald
    September 3, 2009 at 16:04

    I read Tintin as a child, they were just an adventure stories to me then. I have read them as an adult and they seemed quite out of step with modern ideologies, but, to criticize them as racist, colonialist works serves no purpose, when they are a vivid window into the mentalities of the times. If you want to take this issue to task, you can start with Disney.

  8. 8 Anthony
    September 3, 2009 at 16:08

    Have you guys ever watched old Disney cartoons? Those Crows in “Dumbo” we’re very racist. My son would watch it, but since I raised him RIGHT, he’s not going to take that as racist. People look for anything to sue over, especially those reverse racist black people.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  9. 9 anu_d
    September 3, 2009 at 16:12

    Hello WHYS,

    so why is my comment not published yet…when those posting 2 hours after mine have been posted.

    If I take the initiative to be amongst the first to read and post…WHYS should respect and publish it in the order recived.

    • 10 anu_d
      September 3, 2009 at 16:27

      ^ WHYS that was a questioned meant the be answered…and not only posted ?

      • 11 Keith- Ohio
        September 3, 2009 at 18:28

        I think WHYS filters their comments and posts the ones they think are meaningful, on both sides of an argument. I’m not criticizing whatever you posted, because obviously i haven’t read it.

  10. 12 Peter SC
    September 3, 2009 at 17:02

    Tintin , tarzan , lion king , 007 and any stories , novels that makes any race looks stupid , evil and bad are racist. Did you notice lions with dark mane are bad lions and they have Chinese names.

  11. 13 nora
    September 3, 2009 at 17:30

    Tintin is like Paddinton Bear, crammed full of colonialist assumptions. I would bury Tintin with Babar under piles of other books with more enlightened thinking but kids like to read what mommy read as a kid, so I would eventually end up explaining why I cringed at phrases like ‘the darkest Argentine’ and images of servile monkeys in butler suits.

    The guy who is suing is bringing the discussion forward on the mindset of empire, so good. It can only motivate young writers to produce more children’s books.

  12. 14 Dave in Florida
    September 3, 2009 at 18:00

    Sixty years ago it was all right to say and write those things; today it is not acceptable. Is it racisit by today’s standards…? Probably. What do you want t to do about — start banning or burning books that inform us of an unpleasent portion of history?

    Rarely does a day pass where I do not see or hear multiple things that I find offensive. Should I let the world come skreetching to a halt because of it?

  13. 15 viola
    September 3, 2009 at 18:09

    Never read Tintin so can’t comment on its content.

    I don’t believe in censorship. Period. Only the children of racists are likely to be turned into racists by reading a comic book, and that’s likely to happen even if they never read anything.

    I was taken aback when my daughter called the famous children’s book, “I Will Always Love You,” by Robert Munsch the book about the stalker mom. However, she doesn’t propose to sue Robert Munsch or his publishers or the country Robert Munsch was born in because he portrayed mothers in what she considers to be an unflattering and demeaning way. She recognizes that the story is about love.

  14. September 3, 2009 at 18:23

    Like most of us, Hergé is someone whose views, attitudes and opinions changed and evolved as he matured. He produced TINTIN IN THE CONGO when he was only 23 years old–and did so in a world where what we would today consider appalling racism was commonplace.

    TINTIN IN THE CONGO is most assuredly full of imagery that is racist by today’s standards, but it is not the work OF a racist. His close decades-long friendship with the Chinese student Chang Chong-jen, whom he met in ’34–and the sublime work he produced largely as a reflection on that friendship, TINTIN IN TEBET–is proof of that.

    Artists are first and foremost PEOPLE and fallible like the rest of us; they simply have the added burden of leaving behind a snapshot of their views and attitudes in the form of their artwork. I wonder how many of us would survive the sort of scrutiny we subject them to, were all of our thoughts and opinions a matter of public record?

  15. 18 Keith- Ohio
    September 3, 2009 at 18:32

    Is Mark Twain racist? Is Shakespeare racist/sexist? Probably, but who cares. They began writing Tin Tin in 1928, when these things were considered reasonable. Too many lawsuits seek to write a wrong by giving some random person a cash award. What does this man have to do with Tin Tin, and why does he deserve anything more than the rest of the world is due because of a cartoon that may be considered racist?

  16. 19 T
    September 3, 2009 at 21:44

    Racism is racism. Just because the States had legal apartheid up until 1965, does that mean now it’s NOT racist? Part of the problem is peopl refusing to talk about race in the first place.

  17. 20 patti in cape coral
    September 3, 2009 at 23:24

    I’ve never read Tintin, so I can’t say, but I remember reading Huckleberry Finn and of course there was a lot of racist language. I have to admit it was disturbing, but the book is a product of its time, and that is the way people spoke. I can imagine my great or great-great grandchildren will be reading what is written currently and will be uncomfortable with the terminology currently used.

  18. 21 Dennis Junior
    September 4, 2009 at 00:20

    Is a work racist whenever it was written ? (No…I don’t think it was racist when it was written, because these stories were produced way, before race relationships…)

    Would you be happy for your children to read them ? (Yes, I would allow any children read Tin-Tin stories…)

    =Dennis Junior=

  19. September 4, 2009 at 08:18

    If it was a reasonable portrayal of reality (with some flexibility for comic effect) at that time, then it is not racist. It’s the accuracy of the portrayal is important. People change over time for example most people in the world today are very Americanised, so portraying them the same way as 10+ years ago would probably be racist.

    I can’t really comment on the Tintin comics specifically. It has been far far too long since I read them.

  20. 23 Drake Weideman
    September 4, 2009 at 14:39

    Tintin needs to be read and enjoyed (I loved Tintin as a child), but consideration of the time in which it was written must be used. This becomes glaringly apparent with the scientific aspects of the stories, which are certainly dated.

    Everyone who is reading or seeing or hearing some piece of art will have their enjoyment and understanding of that piece of art increased if they understand the context (social, cultural, political, etc.) in which the piece was created…which can lead to great teaching opportunities for parents and teachers, and which emphasizes the need for parents and teachers to be involved with the reading, viewing, listening habits of their children and pupils.

  21. September 6, 2009 at 19:30

    Well by all acounts Herge was pretty much a Nazi collaborator during WW2, so why is anyone surprised?

  22. 25 JMS
    September 7, 2009 at 03:40

    Of course it’s racist. It was racist then — full of unexamined racism — and it’s racist now. Just like Mark Twain’s work, just like Victorian gothic novels, just like _Mary Poppins_, for heaven’s sake (and that author REVISED her WORK when she realized the racist content). We have a more discussed cultural lens now that allows us to see the racism and sexism and all those other -isms (if we are people who care to look through the lens — so many people aren’t willing). But that lens existed in 1928 too — it was, perhaps, not as well-polished and discerning, but people who cared knew what racism was.

    Older works can ONLY be presented WITH CONTEXT to children. Otherwise, the inherent racism/sexism/etc of the time will pass as “just an adventure story” or “just a children’s story”. All reading is an educational process, and people now need to take more responsibility for framing the reading of children and adolescents who are less aware of the history and cultural setting of these works.

  23. 26 Dene
    September 8, 2009 at 15:16

    At the bookstore where I worked we kept that one Tintin book behind the counter. Yeah, it’s racist. But I’m a little disturbed at the idea of suing over it, as if only good ideas should be published, since who gets to decide what the good ideas are?

    Unfortunately a lot of good children’s literature reflects truly wrong viewpoints of the time, but I don’t think kids reading the books necessarily soak up the same messages. I think the books remain popular because they have valuable things that appeal to children apart from that–but that it’s a good idea to talk about anything you find bad in the book with a child.

  24. 27 Philip
    September 20, 2009 at 03:07

    If Tintin is racist, what are the simpson ????
    One of the african american (Omer’s friend) speaks english with a strong african accent. All the african americans speak english like that ???? I think so when I watch it. Same for the Indian man…. So I think the Simpson are racists. Stupid ??? yeaaahhhh…..

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