Media

Tintin and the court case

By Rebecca Davis 20 October 2011

Over the past fortnight, intrepid comic-book sleuth Tintin has been both in the cinemas and in the dock. As Stephen Spielberg’s 3D Adventures of Tintin opened, less attention was paid to the closing of a four-year-long court case about Tintin in the Congo happening in Brussels. By REBECCA DAVIS.

A Congolese man called Bienvenu Mondondo, 41, has been petitioning the Belgian courts for the last four years to have Tintin in the Congo declared “a justification of colonisation and of white supremacy” and banned as “racist”. The publishers’ lawyers defend the comic, which has sold 10 million copies since its publication in 1931, as not racist but merely reflecting “kind paternalism”, and say that to view Tintin by the standards of contemporary norms on race would be a “totally twisted reading”.

This isn’t the first time the comic has been in trouble. In the UK in 2007, the Commission for Racial Equality branded the book “racist claptrap” and called for its removal from shelves. The unintended result was that sales of the comic rose from 70 a week before the complaint to 1,400 copies in the week directly afterwards. As a result of their campaign, recent publications of the book have included a caveat saying that “Tintin in the Congo reflects the colonial attitudes of that period in its depiction of African people”.

It must be said that most reasonable people today would indeed find the comic racist – but then most literature of that era was the same. The portrayals of black people are offensively stereotyped, their speech is rendered as a kind of pidgin dialect, and they supposedly worship white people for their cleverness. Animal rights groups would also be unhappy with the scene where Tintin blows up a rhinoceros with a stick of dynamite.

A ruling in the Belgian court case is expected in February. DM



Read more:

  • Tintin ‘racist’ court case nears its conclusion, in The Telegraph

Photo: Reuters.

Gallery

While we have your attention...

An increasingly rare commodity, quality independent journalism costs money - though not nearly as much as its absence.

Every article, every day, is our contribution to Defending Truth in South Africa. If you would like to join us on this mission, you could do much worse than support Daily Maverick's quest by becoming a Maverick Insider.

Click here to become a Maverick Insider and get a closer look at the Truth.


United Nations

Ramaphosa urges world leaders to ‘end the wars’ and prove themselves worthy of Mandela

By Peter Fabricius

Adolf Hitler was the first European leader to ban human zoos.