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Tintin in the Congo: A review thread

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jock123
Moderator
#11 · Posted: 15 May 2010 00:28 · Edited by: jock123
cigee:
The question become: how do you decide which books should be removed, and which ones kept?

On a case by case basis. You look at the book, or whatever, and think - “Is that more trouble than it’s worth?”
cigee:
the subject of racism in books written in the past is still quite controversial.

Of course - I think that that is probably the case wherever you go in the world.
cigee:
"To kill a mockingbird", whose subject is about confronting racism, is still in the top 10 list of books that people complain about because of its racist content, according to the association of public libraries in the U.S. Other classics, such as "Tom Sayer" (sp? - sorry, I've never read it) or "Huckleberry Finn" seem to raise complaints every so often.

Yes, but the point with each of these is that they are actually work which describe and portray the issues of race and racism within their own texts: the issues are central to the plot of each, and each offers at least some critique; Congo does not actually address the racism it has been said to propagate.
cigee:
But it does have one thing going for it: it is a reflection of that attitudes of the time.

I’m not certain, personally that that argument holds water: lots of things reflect attitudes which are no longer held to be appropriate or sustainable, and most of them are let slip into oblivion when their day is done.
cigee:
should it be banned?

That’s far too formal a sounding proposal: I’m just suggesting that it’s a book that we could probably do without, and that it could be let go out of print: I’m not looking for legislation, just a grown-up attitude which says, “Okay, it’s a fair cop: the book has had its day, but its really not worth preserving if it genuinely is demeaning to a section of the community, and it has no great redeeming features to be presented to justify its place on the book-shop shelves.”
It’s not asking for people to hand in their copies, to make bonfires, and it being expunged from the record. It can sit in library collections and be consulted by those wishing to see the extent of the issues it raises. But it’s a bit of a clunker, a sad own-goal, and we will now retire it from the opus.
As I’ve said before, it’s a path which Hergé was happy to let Soviets tread just because he personally found it embarrassing, yet he didn’t seem to think that embarrassing others was as important.
cigee:
Banning just one book could open a can of worms

I agree, the issue of banning notwithstanding, but some cans of worms need to be opened and addressed, otherwise it could equally be that society is just turning a blind eye.
luinivierge2010
Member
#12 · Posted: 15 May 2010 09:44
Unless I am mistaken, during all (or most) of these debates on "Tintin au Congo", the terms "racism" and "racist" are never properly defined.
jock123
Moderator
#13 · Posted: 15 May 2010 11:53 · Edited by: jock123
luinivierge2010:
Unless I am mistaken, during all (or most) of these debates on "Tintin au Congo", the terms "racism" and "racist" are never properly defined.

I’m not quite certain what you are driving at - is the distinction you are making that the terms in general are not defined, or that how the terms would be applied to this book is not defined?

If it’s the first, well like many things it is difficult to define a term which relates to a point of view. Broadly speaking, racism is the view that ethnic characteristics define one’s behaviour, and that there are superior and inferior races.

However this definition itself will sit in a continuum, because what one person may perceive as racist, another will not take offence to. Such examination must look at the intention of the work, and the amount of offence that may be given, intentionally or unintentionally. There isn’t a fixed level that can be measured, or a scientific test for it.

For example, the depiction of the Scotsmen in Black Island might be seen as a light-hearted use of a common archetype, as promoted by the likes of Sir Harry Lauder, or a heavy-handed reliance on a crude stereotype used to ridicule the Scots since before the Highland Clearances.

Again, I think it something which has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis: to look for another analogy, we know that breaking windows by throwing stones is anti-social and dangerous; however, there is a big difference between you throwing stones and breaking my windows because you don’t like me, and throwing stones and breaking my windows because you are going to drag me out when my house is burning down. I can put up with the anti-social aspect of having no windows because I’ve come out of it with my life.

If you are just throwing stones out of ignorance, that is maybe in some ways excusable, but the sad fact is that I still end up with no windows, and nothing gained, so I’d like to think that the best way round that is to take away your stones, or at least for you to stop throwing them…

So, as I suggested last time, I think that the perceived racism within Huckleberry Finn, for example, is there because Twain is turning a spotlight on it, and finding the position of those who express notions of racial superiority wanting. I can see a place for that in a world where the spotlight perhaps hasn’t yet penetrated to all the corners.

Congo doesn’t really do that, it is merely an example of a book that one can hold up and say, “This is the sort of questionable material that was produced in the early 20th century”, and it would be possible to do that with a few frames, you don’t need the whole book to show that.

Furthermore, with Twain, you could also produce other books, newspaper articles and general evidence that he was very much a champion of fairness and an exposer of hypocrisy.

With Hergé it would be much harder, even when he was most likely casting his stones out of ignorance and in tune with the society of the time in which he lived; you have only got to show the potentially anti-Semitic interpretation which can be placed on some of his characters, and the depiction of the islanders in The Secret Ray, to show that he might have thought more about what he was doing, and taken better action to allay his critics’ fears.
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#14 · Posted: 16 May 2010 23:50 · Edited by: Harrock n roll
I don't see a problem with Congo remaining in print so long as there is a decent explanation within the book and it's sold in the adult section of bookshops, rather than the children's section. Currently there isn't an explanation in the French edition. There is in the English edition, but I personally think it's lacking and could be slightly more substantial (a page or two?).

I think the main difficulty with Congo is that Tintin's target audience is kiddies - Tintin is usually found in the children's section of bookshops and libraries. The Congo issue is a bit different in Belgium and France (and a few other countries) where it has been in print for many, many years. I believe the recent English release of the colour edition, followed by the CRE debacle brought the issue to the fore, and so the French readers are having to think about something they've not considered until now. The English release also highlighted the problem of it being a 'kid's book' and it did get banished from the children's section in Border's (before they disappeared) and moved to the 'adult' section (really just the graphic novel section, where any kid could actually find it if they looked).

We all know the argument that within the standards of the time it wasn't that controversial. Today we can see it's certainly racist, but compared to other comic works that dealt with Africa at the time I actually think it's very respectful. I think it's pretty tame compared to other early to mid-20th century portrayal of Africans which I've personally seen in a comic strip form. Tintin is a victim of his own success because he's still in print, whereas most of those other ones have long disappeared.

So my main point is, as an historical artifact for adults there ought to be no problem with it - just consider what other things adults are allowed to read! But if it's going to be marketed as a children's book then I'm not sure that an extensive explanation as justification for it would be enough.
CK95
Member
#15 · Posted: 25 Jan 2012 12:27
Sorry if this has been mentioned elsewhere, but I noticed an inconsistency with Tintin's shirt. On page 36 for example, Tintin is introduced to the class with 2 breast pockets, then on the following panel in front of the blackboard, the pockets are missing.

See page 34 also. Thoughts?
kittyfloss2
Member
#16 · Posted: 19 Aug 2012 21:33
Sorry if someone has already posted something like this; I looked through
the forum and I did not find anything. *

I was just wondering if anyone found Tintin in the Congo disturbing?
I found it horrible how he killed all those antelope, with blood all over the ground and coming out of the deer (considering in the later books they don't show any blood).

How he killed the monkey and climbed into it like a suit was just awful.


* Moderator note: Thanks for searching, kittyfloss. There are actually a few forum threads (which you may have missed) that touch on the controversial subject of the animal hunting in this book alongside the more-discussed issues of racism and colonialism: this general review thread, to which your post has been moved, and also this thread and this thread debating whether Tintin in the Congo should be banned, which might also interest you. And welcome to the forums, by the way! The Happy Tintinologist Team.
Tintinrulz
Member
#17 · Posted: 21 Aug 2012 15:05
I found the racism to be disturbing at times. I hate animal cruelty but the poaching of the African wildlife in "Tintin in the Congo" was so over-the-top it was completely hilarious! If you take it too much to heart, you might want to lighten up. It's just a silly (and dated) comic.
robbo
Member
#18 · Posted: 21 Aug 2012 15:42 · Edited by: robbo
Harrock n roll:
So my main point is, as an historical artifact for adults there ought to be no problem with it - just consider what other things adults are allowed to read! But if it's going to be marketed as a children's book then I'm not sure that an extensive explanation as justification for it would be enough.

I think this is the crux of the perceived problem; the mistake is selling and publishing Tintin in Congo as one of the series of comics aimed at children in the children's section in the bookshop. Maybe it would be better to simply republish and sell it as a historical facsimile in the adult graphic novel section and remove it from the rest of the set of published albums.

mat
mct16
Member
#19 · Posted: 21 Aug 2012 16:38
robbo:
sell it as a historical facsimile in the adult graphic novel section and remove it from the rest of the set of published albums.

This was actually done after a human rights lawyer complained about it. I don't know if the practice has lasted though.
robbo
Member
#20 · Posted: 21 Aug 2012 16:55
mct16:
This was actually done after a human rights lawyer complained about it. I don't know if the practice has lasted though.

You could be right, the Egmont 2007 edition is currently unavailable on Amazon. Perhaps it is being dropped quietly?

mat

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