Listening to Wagner and Burzum, and reading Tintin is probably the trifecta of Euro-racism, or at least it can’t be done without knowing clearly what I’m engaging in. I was in St George’s (as usual) picking up some books (again as usual), talking with Jamie, then took a wander and found a stack of Tintin comics. Tintin was long my lunch accompaniment when I was a child (or at least that is my memory), with peanut butter and jam on toast. After reading Tintin again, today I went out and bought said items plus some Neuköllner Spross bread and … well, anyway, Tintin.
“Is Tintin acceptable to read these days?” I asked Jamie. In-between childhood and now I was well-aware of ‘over-reaction and hyper political correctness’ in regard to Hergé’s earlier, more overtly colonial works (if you change the term ‘political correctness’ to ‘being nice to people’ it’s actually what they’re saying), and have distinct memories of Tintin in America, the portrayals of Native Americans and Africans, and it isn’t pretty.
The Shooting Star from 1942 gets off to a pretty good start in this respect. It was one of my more favourites, having astronomy, meteorites, giant mushrooms and an oppressive, slightly hallucinogenic quality. Then we meet the principal antagonist, the spider at the centre of the web, a fat, be-speckled crooked businessman with a giant proboscis of a nose, who despite the not-so-Jewish name of Bohlwinkel is unmistakably the meanest caricature. Bohlwinkel was originally known as Blumenstein. Sure, Hergé caricatures everyone, from the drunken Captain Haddock to the prima donna Bianca Castafiora; there are different positions from which one may caricature, and Europe 1941 for Jews isn’t one of them. But as Hergé says, “That was the style then.”
I really liked Tintin when I was young, and still do. The art, the line-work, colour, stories, humour, all appealed to me then as they do now; it’s both light and entertaining, and serious and political. And definitely in places racist, colonialist, crypto-fascist, and the answer to my question, “Is Tintin acceptable to read these days?” is probably something like, “Weell… it’s not The Birth of a Nation …”