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.