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The Shooting Star: the depiction of Bohlwinkel

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sliat_1981
Member
#31 · Posted: 3 Jan 2012 07:12
Ok you can shoot me for what I'm going to say. I know it was bad timing, but he used a Jewish villian, so what? He used arab villians, American villians, African villians,South American villians, German villians, Belgian villians, etc. Why is it you can't use a Jew as a villian? Is there some special rule that all these other people can have a person decipted as a villian, but Jews can't? That itself is racisim
mct16
Member
#32 · Posted: 3 Jan 2012 15:15
Simply because it was bad timing. Having a Jewish villain during the war could be seen as cosying up to the Nazis.

How about Wronzoff (or Puschov in the English version), the big bearded gang leader of "The Black Island". His Eastern name and beard could make him a Jew, couldn't it?
jock123
Moderator
#33 · Posted: 3 Jan 2012 16:09
mct16:
His Eastern name and beard could make him a Jew, couldn't it?

Yes, it could, but then again, the ship’s cook in Shooting Star might be Jewish, and so might Professor Calculus – any of the characters might be Jewish; however, neither of these, nor Puschov, is drawn as a particular stereotyped Jewish character. As discussed before, you appear to be alone in seeing anything specifically Jewish in the character.

How would Hergé have drawn a bushy-bearded non-Jewish Eastern-European-named character? Exactly the same as he would have drawn a bushy-bearded Jewish Eastern-European-named character, perhaps?
Balthazar
Moderator
#34 · Posted: 3 Jan 2012 16:15 · Edited by: Balthazar
sliat_1981:
I know it was bad timing, but he used a Jewish villian, so what? He used arab villians, American villians, African villians, South American villians, German villians, Belgian villians, etc. Why is it you can't use a Jew as a villian? Is there some special rule that all these other people can have a person decipted as a villian, but Jews can't? That itself is racisim

I agree with you that it would be racist, and indeed patronising, to say that a Jewish person can't also be a villain or that a villain can't also happen to be Jewish. And from today's perspective, when most readers come to a book like this without a background of anti-Jewish prejudice, I don't think it's particularly problematic that Bohlwinkel has a Jewish name and stereotypically cartoon Jewish features that would in any case probably be unrecognised as such by most children today. Even if people do recognise that he's probably Jewish, he is, as you say, just one of many villains of many nationalities and ethnicities in Hergé's work. So I don't think anyone's suggesting that the book shouldn't be read and enjoyed by everyone today.

However, as mct16 suggests, I think your phrase "I know it was bad timing" is something of an understatement, given what was being done to millions of Jewish people at the time, and given that the way Jews were portrayed in Nazi propoganda played a big part in enabling this to happen.

If 99 percent of readers today completely miss or choose to ignore the wartime context of the book, that's great. That's how I read it as a child, and that's how I usually re-read it now. But if you're studying Hergé's work more deeply, it would be ludicrous to believe that none of the choices that Hergé made about the nationality of the goodies and baddies in this book had greater significance to readers at the time it was written. As I said a few pages back in this thread, you surely can't have it both ways. If we accept that Hergé's references to nationalities, historical events, aircraft makes, etc, are significant and politically intended in pre-war anti-Nazi books like King Ottokar's Sceptre, it seems a bit inconsistent to then believe that these choices are all merely coincidental in The Shooting Star.

To be fair to Hergé, I suppose it's just possible that giving sinister American capitalist villains stereotypically Jewish features was such a prevalent cartoonists' shorthand at the time that Hergé may not have realised that he was making Bohlwinkel look specifically Jewish.
But, taken along with everything else - Bohlwinkel's original American nationality, the cut panels from the original newspaper version showing two Jewish businessmen gloating in mock-Yiddish about how the end of the world means they won't have to pay their creditors, the axis-friendly personnel of most of the Aurora team and their German military seaplane - it's hard to believe that readers at the time would have found this adventure as neutral as readers are able to now.

As I said, I don't think all this makes the book particularly problematic today. And I'm not even suggesting we should judge Hergé too harshly for it in the context of its time. I'd assume that he was nervous that Belgian's new Nazi rulers would spot his attacks on them in King Ottokar's Sceptre and was trying to keep out of trouble by making this book a bit more in line with their views. Many people did much worse things to stay out of trouble with the Nazis.

I'm just suggesting that creating a villain who's an archetypal Jewish-American financier controlling underhand and sinister plots from his distant lair against an Axis-equipped scientific expedition probably wasn't an entirely coincidental and neutral choice on the part of Hergé, as you seem to suggest.

In answer to your last point, sliat_1981, I don't think anyone's promoting any special villain-depiction ban for Jewish people. The possibly Jewish villain in The Black Island whom mct16 mentions doesn't seem particularly offensive in the context of that book's mixed-nationality gang, and causes little controversy. Neither does the portrayal of the Jewish gang in the original version of Land of Black Gold, where they're not demonised at all. And where there are cases of non-Jewish ethnic groups being portrayed insensitively given the historical reality of the time - in particularly the black Congolese in Tintin in the Congo - I think people are equally quick to point it out.
Karaboudjan
Member
#35 · Posted: 19 May 2016 21:22
I'm Jewish and have always found The Shooting Star a difficult book to cosy up to. Bohlwinkel is not the only Jewish stereotype to appear in the stories - think of the shopkeeper in The Crab With the Golden Claws and Mr Sakharine - but he is the only one to be acting like a Nazi propaganda character under the Belgium occupation. Without these features he might actually be one of the better, more realistic villains, but they are impossible for anyone with a passing knowledge of European history to ignore.

Also - there's a very good reason why we don't see him again. He's a Jew "brought to justice" in Nazi occupied Belgium. There's only one thing that could mean in that particular time and place. Poor Mr Bohlwinkel.
jock123
Moderator
#36 · Posted: 21 May 2016 16:14 · Edited by: jock123
Karaboudjan:
there's a very good reason why we don't see him again. He's a Jew "brought to justice" in Nazi occupied Belgium.

That's a very interesting point - I'm not certain I've ever seen it expressed, so thank you very much for the insight!

(Oh and, "Welcome back!" Not seen you around these forums for a while! :-))
mct16
Member
#37 · Posted: 24 May 2016 00:43
Even though some critics have pointed out the war-like feeling of doom in "Shooting Star" - the damage caused to the city by the earthquake could reflect the aftermath of a bombing raid - I'm not entirely convinced that Herge set it specifically during the war or the Nazi occupation. The street scenes do not include soldiers or propaganda posters.

In any case, the original Blumenstein is based in America (in the 1940s version) and the renamed Bohlwinkel in Sao Rico (in the 1950s version). In either case, he would quite likely face prosecution in his country of residence rather than be extradited to Belgium - Nazi occupation or not.
jock123
Moderator
#38 · Posted: 24 May 2016 10:31
mct16:
The street scenes do not include soldiers or propaganda posters.

That might have been beyond the pale, in the circumstances; he might be prepared to make a veiled reference about how bad things were when a catastrophe befalls the nation, but an overt reference to the tragedy being visible Nazi occupiers would have pushed him in to being censored (or worse) without doubt.
Karaboudjan
Member
#39 · Posted: 25 May 2016 08:45 · Edited by: Karaboudjan
I hope Bohlwinkel was tried and jailed in Sao Rico; the alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

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