Tintin and Contemporary Politics

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Presentation made at Tintin Conference, at University College, London on 10th January 2014.

Published in: Education, News & Politics

Tintin and Contemporary Politics

  1. 1. Tintin and contemporary politics Tintin Conference University College, London 10th January 2014 Subhayan Mukerjee mail@subhayan.com Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  2. 2. Two objectives ● A chronological look at 20th century politics through Tintin’s adventures ○ ○ ○ ● Before the Second World War During the Second World War After the Second World War A look at other “political” issues ○ ○ ○ Tintin as an ideal European hero Tintin and human rights Tintin and sexism Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  3. 3. Before the second world war Tintin’s first appearance He boards a train to the Soviet Union in Le Petit Vingtième, the weekly youth supplement to Le Vingtième Siècle (Le XXe Le Siècle) Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  4. 4. 1929-30 Communism in the Soviet Union ● ● ● ● ● ● The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 The founding of the Soviet Union in 1922 Tintin in the Land of the Soviets published in 1930 Hergé worked for a right wing Belgian newspaper, Le XXe Siècle The story was thus inherently and intentionally biased against the Bolshevik government to instill anti-Marxist and anti-Socialist ideas into children Examples ○ ○ Bolsheviks rig elections The government steals the people’s grains Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  5. 5. 1929-30 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  6. 6. 1930-31 Racism and animal cruelty in the Congo ● ● ● ● Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com Congo was a Belgian colony between 1908 - 1960 Tintin in the Congo was originally meant to educate young Belgians about their country’s colonial regime Hergé’s most controversial story ○ Racism - depiction of African natives as subhuman, “monkey people” ○ Animal cruelty - Tintin kills animals wantonly, chimpanzees, antelope; in the original version he blows up a rhino with dynamite Immature, ill-researched story, when compared to the later ones.
  7. 7. 1930-31 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  8. 8. 1930-31 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  9. 9. 1930-31 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  10. 10. 1931-32 Capitalism in the New World ● ● A masterpiece of satire. Hergé mocks American capitalism ○ finding an oilfield in Red Indian country ○ Gangsters’ Syndicate of Chicago ○ widespread mechanisation of industries ● Original versions raised some controversies ○ lynching of African Americans Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  11. 11. 1931-32 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  12. 12. 1931-32 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  13. 13. 1931-32 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  14. 14. 1934-35 Political insurgencies in the Far East ● The Blue Lotus is one of Hergé’s pivotal works ○ ○ ● Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com attention to historical accuracy ■ The Mukden incident ■ Japanese invasion of Manchuria ■ The League of Nations realistic, less contrived storyline Tintin takes a stand against Asian stereotypes
  15. 15. 1934-35 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  16. 16. 1934-35 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  17. 17. 1935-37 Politics in South America ● In The Broken Ear, Hergé creates two fictitious countries to draw parallels with his story and South American politics ○ ○ ○ ○ San Theodoros, a satirical version of a South American nation under the yoke of military dictatorship Historically similar to Bolivia or Argentina The Grand Chapo War The minor character of Basil Bazarov, and his equivalent in real history - Basil Zaharoff Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  18. 18. 1935-37 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  19. 19. 1938-39 Balkan politics ● ● King Ottokar’s Sceptre is one of Hergé’s political masterpieces. Stunning parallels with Balkan politics leading to WW2 ○ ○ ○ ○ Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com Syldavia = Transylvania + Moldavia ? Borduria is a typical Eastern Bloc nation under a totalitarian Fascist government Musstler = Mussolini + Hitler? Steel Guard and the Romanian Iron Guard
  20. 20. 1938-39 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  21. 21. 1939-45 The Second World War ● ● ● ● Belgium had been annexed by the Nazis Hergé was now working for Le Soir, a pro-Nazi newspaper Subtle references to the World War in the earliest (unfinished version) of The Land of Black Gold Anti Semitism and Nazi bias in early editions of The Shooting Star ○ ○ deleted panels showing Anti Semitic caricatures The “enemy” was originally sponsored by the United States Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  22. 22. 1941-42 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  23. 23. after the second world war Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  24. 24. 1950-53 The Space Race ● ● ● ● The space race between the USSR and the USA inspires the epic two-part lunar landing adventure Syldavia’s secretive atomic research center Borduria’s attempts at sabotage Rise of a polar world, continued in The Calculus Affair. Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  25. 25. 1954-56 The Cold War ● ● ● Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com The Calculus Affair is yet another political thriller Syldavia and Borduria are shown as two superpowers, attempting to get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction. Professor Calculus’ visit to Geneva was possibly inspired by CERN.
  26. 26. 1954-56 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  27. 27. 1956-58 Slave trading in the middle east ● ● ● ● The Red Sea Sharks is a logical sequel to The Land of Black Gold Rampant slave trading in the Red Sea by Arabs Tintin and Captain Haddock take a humanitarian stand, in an attempt to help the African natives Hergé’s way for making up for the controversies in the Congo? Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  28. 28. 1956-58 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  29. 29. 1961-62 The politics of the media ● The rise of the paparazzi culture forms the backdrop of The Castafiore Emerald. ● Politics between rival media houses ● Ill treatment of gypsies Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  30. 30. 1975-76 Politics of a banana republic ● ● ● Tintin and the Picaros, Hergé’s last complete story is a political masterpiece. Oppressive military dictatorships of South America San Theodoros as a satirical banana republic ○ ○ ● Revolution sponsored by the International Banana company stratified social classes Human rights ○ Tintin insists that the revolution be completely non violent and bloodless Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  31. 31. 1975-76 Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  32. 32. Tintin - the ideal comic book hero ● ● ● Comics originally written in French. A certain French law of 1949 banned all children’s literature that showed cowardice and ignominy in favourable light. Probably why Tintin was shown to be ○ noble, courageous, dignified ○ like an overgrown boy scout, in pursuit of a simple ethical code Politically motivated legislation to curb Superman in Europe? Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  33. 33. Tintin and human rights ● An overgrown boy scout in pursuit of a simple ethical code ○ ● Early stories created many controversies ○ ○ ○ ● Animal cruelty Racism Antisemitism Later however, Herge made amends ○ ○ Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com What ethics? Tintin and Captain Haddock against slave trading Tintin enforcing that a revolution be bloodless
  34. 34. Tintin and sexism ● ● Terribly skewed sex ratio of characters Only ONE major female character ○ ● Bianca Castafiore Helpful, “good” person, but often shown in negative light ○ melodramatic, comically foolish, whimsical, absent-minded, talkative Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com
  35. 35. Thank you Particularly, Professor Hari Nair for inspiring me to work on this topic. And, Tyler, for helping me present this from Calcutta. Subhayan Mukerjee / blog.subhayan.com

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