What it says on the Tintin
August 18, 2015 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Tintin au Congo à poil (Tintin in the Congo, naked) (full archive) is a subverted version of the classic Tintin au Congo comic, where the titular character is literally stripped of its colonial clothes (before | after) (links NSFW due to Tintin's penis).

Tintin in the Congo was created in 1931, and revised by Hergé in 1946 and 1975 to tone down the racist stereotypes, colonial paternalism and animal cruelty of the original version, though its remains to this day highly controversial in the US and some European countries. Congolese citizen and Belgium resident Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo (in French) has been trying since 2007 to get the book banned (or at least prefaced with a warning) in Belgium and France, without success so far. Tintin au Congo à poil, by French (or Belgian) illustrator Thomas Lebrun, and Pappa in Afrika, a parody by South African artist Anton Kannemeyer that portrays Tintin as a racist white Afrikaner, both attempt to address those problematic aspects in an artistic (rather than legal) way.

In DR Congo, Tintin au Congo's legacy is complicated, as shown by Nancy Rose Hunt in Tintin and the interruptions of congolese comics, an erudite analysis of the book's influence in this country (and particularly on the local comic book scene). Indeed, many Westerners have been puzzled by the enduring popularity of the comic in the DRC. Kinshasa's tourist trade has turned Hergé's characters into a source of income and some have been hotly defending Tintin au Congo, like Congolese blogger Alex Engwete and Congolese Minister of culture Jeannette Kavira, who claimed that the book was a "masterpiece" (in French), and then went on saying that in those times it was indeed necessary "to use a stick to make the Congolese work", a bizarre defense of colonisation that caused some serious facepalming (in French) in the DRC.

Others, like the director of Congo's national museum lament the popularity of the book: it would be more respectful to Congo and the whole of Africa if we spoke of images that value the Congo, and not Tintin. For Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou, the true question is not the existence of the book - a piece of colonialist (racist and paternalistic) propaganda that has also become part of the Congolese culture and "should remain as a proof of the Belgian spirit of the 30s, one historical proof of a certain Western way of thinking" - but rather the lack of proper education about colonisation in former colonial powers (in French), notably France and Belgium.

Note: Tintin au Congo à poil, which is still unfinished, was originally published on a French blog in 2011, but the images were quickly removed by the author, possibly due to fear of litigation from the lawsuit-happy Editions Moulinsart, who holds the Hergé estate (though these rights have been successfully challenged recently).
posted by elgilito (21 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
links NSFW due to Tintin's penis

Great post, but I must admit that the above wasn't a phrase I was expecting to ever read.
posted by sobarel at 8:21 AM on August 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


Related: Gordon Zola.

He wrote a couple parody Tintin's
posted by From Bklyn at 8:24 AM on August 18, 2015


The Tintin books are artifacts of their time, and yeah, their times were pretty awful toward the "exotic" places Tintin travelled to. I'm not familiar with this one--somehow it wasn't one of the "teach you French" texts used in school, imagine that!--but even the ones I have read in the original have some pretty questionable stuff. I'm not surprised they have a complicated legacy.

Putting Tintin in the emperor's new clothes is a fun and cheeky way of addressing some of that. The last couple of links make it sound like they should do that to the nominal rights-holder, too.
posted by immlass at 9:12 AM on August 18, 2015


...tone down the racist stereotypes, colonial paternalism and animal cruelty...
hmmm...I notice that Tintin now isn't gender neutral any more.
posted by Namlit at 9:15 AM on August 18, 2015


Well, seems there's a penis, but let's not be hasty..
posted by Segundus at 9:28 AM on August 18, 2015


Great post, but I must admit that the above wasn't a phrase I was expecting to ever read.

Apparently you never went searching for Tintin comics online to practice your French reading skills in the early 2000s, because if you had you'd have found the tremendously disturbing world of online Tintin fanfic porn.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:38 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tintin fanfic porn is certainly a way to work on your French, but maybe not your first choice of ways.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:00 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't find it's so strange that some people in the DRC like the book - maybe for people that see their country mentioned often in media, it may sound weird that one part of the works of an internationally recognized BD character is cherished because it takes place in said country, even if the said part of the works is racist, paternalistic and downright offensive to the point most other people wished it went away forever.

(not saying those people are right, but for someone who lives in a country half* the world thinks it's Brazil, the other half a province of Spain, I can understand why some people might like it)
posted by lmfsilva at 10:11 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tintin fanfic porn is certainly a way to work on your French, but maybe not your first choice of ways.

Depends on just what kind of French speaking you plan to do, honestly.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Embarrassing to cry out "Zut alors, Capitaine Haddock!" at the moment of la petite mort though.
posted by sobarel at 10:44 AM on August 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's still better than "Bachi-bouzouk!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:08 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I notice that Tintin now isn't gender neutral any more.

Wait, what? Since when is Tintin gender neutral?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:17 PM on August 18, 2015


The Tintin books are artifacts of their time, and yeah, their times were pretty awful toward the "exotic" places Tintin travelled to.

Less so as the years went by. Compare au congo or en Amerique with au Tibet and we could be talking a different author. To say nothing of the sympathetic portrayal of Gypsies in Castafiore Emerald.
posted by BWA at 2:45 PM on August 18, 2015


Less so as the years went by.

Oh, yes, definitely the later books (including the revisions of Congo) are less offensive by modern standards. But Tintin as a whole is very much of a piece with the sort of pulpy serials that are ancestors to the Indiana Jones movies, and the books and serialized stories that are ancestors to those, and so on, and a lot of that would just not fly well today.
posted by immlass at 3:59 PM on August 18, 2015


I loved the Tintin books as a kid, but the Congo book never fit well with the others and was clearly an outlier. I like the subversion of this reworking of it, though I know people have complicated feelings about the original.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:13 PM on August 18, 2015


Tintin Travels is pretty good, and I thinked FPP'd on MeFi previously: In order to make sense of Tintin, I traveled the world in his footsteps.
posted by BinGregory at 8:04 PM on August 18, 2015


He didn't make it to Congo in his travels but he discusses Tintin in the Congo here: King Leopold's Specter
posted by BinGregory at 8:08 PM on August 18, 2015


Wait, what? Since when...


Tintin is (was) soooo gender neutral
posted by Namlit at 8:58 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tintin is (was) soooo gender neutral

Well, just saying it again doesn't really answer the question. Is Tintin's gender neutrality a thing, out there in the world? Is it the subject of fanfics or academic papers or something? And how is he gender neutral? What does that mean?

I'm not trying to squelch anybody's fun, but I've never heard a word about Tintin's supposed gender neutrality until today, and doing a quick Google search I find a few women cosplaying as Tintin, and this thread.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:24 PM on August 18, 2015


Is Tintin's gender neutrality a thing, out there in the world?

Franco-Belgian comics used to be extremely prude compared to US comics. In France, censorship on juvenile publications was extremely restrictive: here's a very good paper on the topic: Tarzan under attack, Youth, Comics, and Cultural Reconstruction in Postwar France. The most popular series (Tintin, Astérix, Lucky Luke, Blake and Mortimer, The Smurfs...) not only featured exclusively male heroes, but the characters were drawn and behaved asexually: no bulging muscles, no blatant virility, no romance whatsoever. Many series are about two (or more) "men" living together in a largely womanless world: female characters were usually absent or kept safely in the background, due to their titillation potential for young male readers. Out of 300 characters, there are about 10 women in speaking parts in the whole run of Tintin and only one (Bianca Castafiore) is a significant character. This asexuality more or less disappeared in the late 1960s as more openly sexual (including female) characters were authorized in juvenile publications (the Smurfette in The Smurfs, Natacha), but the older heroes (Tintin, Astérix...) did not change much in that respect. So, indeed, Tintin's "gender neutrality" (actually his lack of masculine characteristics) has been a running joke for half a century now and the subject of many parodies including the one featured in the FPP.
posted by elgilito at 3:54 AM on August 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh indeed. I meant the person of Tintin, not the series as such (otherwise I would have written asexuality). Thanks elgilito for explaining.
posted by Namlit at 4:40 AM on August 19, 2015


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