The Tintin controversy is spreading
to the U.S. The adventures of the boy reporter who travels the world have been bestsellers for many years. But one book in particular, Tintin in the Congo, has some people upset about the comic book's portrayal of Africans.
Complaints about Tintin in the Congo, a comic book originally published in 1931, gathered momentum recently when David Enright, a lawyer in London, happened to pick up a copy as he strolled through a Borders store there.
What he saw in the book - suggestions "that Africans are subhumans, they are imbeciles, that they're half-savage" - is not in dispute. Even Herge, the celebrated author and illustrator of the 23 Tintin books, was said to regret the volume before his death in 1983.
Borders' next move in Britain, which was announced after the Commission for Racial Equality leveled charges of racism, was to transfer the comic to the adult graphic novel shelves. Now, the United States and Australia have followed suit.
Recognizing this moment of skillful damage control was Foreign Policy's Passport blog. "It's a fair solution," they wrote.
The application of "adults only" rules to commerce are rarely this well received, with a notable exception being the consensus that formed around the video game Manhunt 2.
The media coverage of the affair has led to soaring sales of the Tintin in the Congo on Amazon. As for who is buying them, well-meaning Tintin fans will hope they aren't "laughing for the wrong reasons," a suspicion that helped Dave Chappelle decide to abruptly end his lucrative TV show that addressed racial issues in comedic sketches.
The Tintin series is more popular in Europe and Australia than it is in the United States, but the controversy has raised awareness of the series. It's interesting that the author publicly regretted the tone of this particular book before his death. Originally written in 1930 (and published in book form in 1931), the comic reflected the racist attitudes of the time. Borders UK's solution to the issue was to place the book in the adult section of the bookstore, presumably because adults could read the book and understand the context, where as children would not.