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The ideology of Tintin

Comments about Hergé and ideology.

Hergé started making the comic strip series Tintin in 1929 for the children's section of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle[?], aligned with the Rexist[?] right-wing movement. He continued on other media until his death in 1983.

As a young artist Hergé was influenced by his mentors, specifically the Abbé Wallez[?]. This shows in his most important works, the Tintin series. As the artist develops ideologically, so does the series.

Table of contents

First albums

Tintin first albums, written and drawn during the 1920s, were anti-Soviet, pro-colonialist, and anti-American. This is obvious from the first three albums, which mock the Soviets, the indigenous people of Belgian Congo and the white inhabitants of the US respectively. Hergé was young, Belgian and catholic and published in a catholic newspaper. He was naďve and under influence (of ???) and his comics were reflecting the dominant ideolgy in Belgium at that time.

Turn-around with The Blue Lotus

Things began to change with The Blue Lotus[?] (his encouter with Tchang Tchong-Jen[?] may have changed his mind): his vision of China is more subtle and the album can be read as anti-imperialist. (Some more about the political row this album caused)

The Second World War

Things got more complicated later. King Ottokar's Sceptre was obviously anti-nazi : Musstler (MUSSolini-hiTLER) the dictator of Borduria tried to oust king of Syldavia Muskar XII. The Situation was very similar that of Anschluss in Austria in 1938. But some albums were more controversial. The early and unfinished version of Land of Black Gold is generally considered as pro-Arab, anti-Zionist and anti-British.

A very controversial book is The Shooting Star which is about a race between two crews who are trying to reach a meteorite landed in the arctic seas. This race can be interpreted as a competition between Europeans (German occupied at that time) and Anglo-Americans. The financial backer of the Anglo-Americans has a Jewish name, although this has been changed in some editions, and Tintin flies a German plane (an Arado 196). Others say the ideology is not obvious and maybe it was done to fool censorship but it can be discussed.

Generally it is accepted that Hergé during the nazi-German occupation of Belgium tried to avoid writing controversial Tintin stories. The ones written in that period, The Shooting Star, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham's Treasure, are all stories in which the protagonists leave the known, political world in search of treasure elsewhere.

Post-war

The Calculus Affair is anti-Stalinist but there is nothing specifically controversial in it.

The Castafiore Emerald takes part for the gypsies.

Flight 714 is obviously mocking Marcel Dassault[?] who was both Jewish and a weapon seller, this could be interpreted as anti-semitic by some but there's no reference to the fact he was Jewish. Weapons sellers are a recurring theme in Tintin, there are several (more or less obvious) references to De Havilland and Vickers Armstrong[?].

Picaros

The last controversial album is Tintin and the Picaros; it has been seen both as left-wing and right-wing. In it, Tintin goes through profound changes. Where the fans were originally put off by cosmetic changes, this is the first album in which Tintin changes from a faceless hero to somebody of flesh and blood. Where in all earlier stories the reporter was able to change his environment for the better, here he is able to change the enviroment too, through revolution, no less. Or so it seems. For in the very last panel of his very last finished album, Hergé shows how the new order still has the military keeping order in the slums, of which the inhabitants are off no better and no worse.


To do:
  • Hergé got arrested: his working during the war was seen as collaboration.
  • Hergé rewrote and redrew an enormous amount of his stories. For instance, Captain Haddock's heavy drinking got edited severely, and The Black Island was almost entirely redrawn, because the British publisher felt the depiction of England and Scotland in that album was outdated. Yet, possible racist and anti-semitic parts of the story were maintained. See http://www.cwi.nl/ftp/dik/strips/KUIFJE/ for examples.
  • The Red Sea Sharks is of course a statement against the modern day slave trade, although it is not clear if it is ideological in nature.



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