Tintin isn’t racist. He’s just drawn that way. So ruled a Belgian judge yesterday in a long running attempt to get TINTIN IN THE CONGO, the second book in the popular series, banned on account of racism.
The book — like many of its era — uses typical racial “blackface” caricatures for the natives and portrays them as childish buffoons. Originally drawn in 1931, Tintin creator Hergé revised it in 1946 and redrew a few panels in 1975 — but only to tone down a scene where a rhino is stuffed with dynamite, not because of any racial overtones.
Belgian jurist Valery de Theux de Meylandtruled that Hergé did not have racist intent when drawing the work.
“The representations (of African people) by Herge are a reflection of his time,” De Theux de Meylandt wrote.
Intention is a key criterion in substantiating a charge of racism. The court is expected to deliver a judgement rejecting or accepting Mondondo’s argument that the book’s depiction of Africans is racist.
“We see in particular that Tintin in the Congo does not put Tintin in a situation where there is competition or confrontation between the young reporter and any black or group of blacks, but pits Tintin against a group of gangsters … who are white,” De Theux de Meylandt also wrote in the statement.
TINTIN IN THE CONGO has long been an object of controversy — it was the last Tintin book to be published in English, and libraries have asked for it to be withdrawn on racial grounds.
Racial caricatures of the same type are also present in the work of a sad number of great cartoonists, from McCay to Eisner to Tezuka.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.