|January 1st, 2014||#1|
The Epitome of Evil
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: The Unseen University of New York
Herge, the Adventures of Tintin and the Jews
Herge, the Adventures of Tintin and the Jews
Like many children before and after me I grew up reading about the exploits of Herge's (aka Georges Prosper Remi) intrepid reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy. Only many years after reading the original Tintin works did I return to them out of a sense of nostalgia and notice for the first time: their political content. To be sure the debate about the oddrevert or subtle 'racism' of the Tintin stories has long been raging, but what is an ancillary to that debate is whether the Tintin series promotes an anti-Semitic vision of the world.
Now Herge has long been a target of claims that Tintin is anti-Semitic, because the main 'evil genius' character Rastapopoulos is quite clearly designed to be seen as a jew. (1) Herge himself claimed this was not that the case and that Rastapopoulos was supposed to be an Italian. (2) Herge here seems to be guilty of trying to play down the jewish origin of Rastapopoulos precisely because Rastapopoulos is the earliest real villain of the Tintin series first appearing in the fourth Tintin story 'The Cigars of the Pharaoh' (created between 1932-1934) and then returning immediately in the next story: 'The Blue Lotus' (created between 1934-1935).
But yet Rastapopoulos doesn't make a re-appearance until 'The Red Sea Sharks' (created between 1956-1958) and 'Flight 714' (created between 1966-1967), which if you take out the fact that Herge focused on anti-German/Japanese themes from the mid-1930s to the Second World War and then generally did so again after the war: suggests that Herge was well aware of Rastapopoulos' origins in anti-Semitic cartoons.
This can be shown easily enough by pointing out Rastapopoulos' very distinctly drawn (and unique) nose, which is quite literally taken from how Fips (Julius Streicher's legendary cartoonist in 'Der Sturmer') portrayed them.
We know that Herge was a great admirer of new ways and methods to draw and construct cartoons. When we further consider the fact that Tintin's adventures at the time that Rastapopoulos was created were published in the anti-Semitic Belgian journal 'Let Petit Vingtieme' (as part of its children's supplement) and that Herge had correspondents attached to the journal send him examples of how innovative cartoonists were working (one of whom was the famous Walloon nationalist, anti-Semite and soldier: Leon Degrelle).
It becomes almost certain that Herge encountered Fips' cartoons of jews (which were some of the most famous and innovative cartoons of the time rivalling the work of other major cartoonists such as David Low) and that he likely drew on how Fips portrayed jews for his evil mastermind: Rastapopoulos.
To address Herge's claim that Rastapopoulos was meant to be an Italian: we need but notice two things.
The first is that Rastapopoulos is a Greek name not an Italian one: so why on earth would Rastapopoulos have been given a Greek name if he was supposed to be an Italian (he does pretend to be an Italian; the 'Marquis de Gorgonzola', in 'The Red Sea Sharks', but reveals his real name is Rastapopoulos).
The second is that Herge draws Italians (of which there are many in the series: for example see 'The Calculus Affair') very differently to Rastapopoulos with Italians not being dumpy, overweight, bespectacled or having a nose in the general shape of a six (indeed their noses tend to be long and pointed not big and round like Rastapopoulos'). Rastapopoulos is clearly portrayed in the same way as a jew in a Fips cartoon: that simply cannot be a coincidence.
We can see from this that Rastapopoulos is clearly a jewish character that Herge conceived of in the deeply anti-Semitic environment that he was immersed in during the 1930s and then tried to cover his tracks.
We can further see that Herge had no aversion to anti-Semitic views in the 1930s/early 1940s in his Tintin story 'The Shooting Star' (created between 1941-1942): which is usually classed as an adventure (as opposed to a reporter) story in the Tintin canon. However what is usually overlooked is that the head of the San Rico bank; which is Tintin's principal antagonist in the story, is quite clearly portrayed in the same way as Rastapopoulos with a defining 'jewish nose' that makes the identification of the character as jewish in the extremely anti-jewish atmosphere that Herge was then in publishing a near certainty. This is something that Herge must have himself known as he did not have to draw the character the way he did (or put him in such a position where jews were perceived to have much attraction to and influence in), but that he did suggests that he espoused anti-Semitic views himself during this period.
Thus we can see that the Tintin stories do show anti-Semitic tendencies and that what Herge tried to claim after the Second World War was something of an afterthought meant to try and save his name and career (both of which he valued highly).
(1) Benoit Peteers, 2012, 'Herge: Son of Tintin', 1st Edition, John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, pp. 64-65
This was originally published at the following address: http://semiticcontroversies.blogspot...-and-jews.html