Where Art Thou, Asterix? 

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I've been to three public libraries. All the Tintins and the Asterixes are out. Borrowed by little whippersnappers who should be absorbed in the new Harry Potter.

I cannot find the first Asterix book. That's Asterix the Gaul. The first book I was to read in order to make my 60-book quota before December 31.

Nor can I find Asterix and the Goths.

I can, however, find the later Asterixes: Asterix and the Actress, Asterix and the Black Gold, Asterix and the Magic Carpet. Not the canonical Asterixes.

The Tintins, meanwhile, are not quite as reclusive.

I found and read Tintin in America. The subsequent Tintins also appear accessible through the local libraries.

But the first two Tintins, Tintin in the Congo and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, are nowhere to be seen.

I know the former is out there, because the UK's Commission for Racial Equality recently put out a call to bookstores to ban this book for its racist colonial attitude towards Africans (as reported by the BBC). The book already carries a warning just like CDs with "bad" music. The warning alerts potential readers that the book contains "bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period - an interpretation some readers may find offensive." Since the resulting publicity, sales of the 1931 comic has risen by almost 4000%.

I am prepared to be offended by Tintin in the Congo. But until the library succumbs to popular curiosity and purchases a copy, I skipped ahead to Tintin in America.

Replete with 1930s American stereotypes - Chicago gangsters, rampant development, cowboy lynch mobs, innocents tied across railroad tracks - the book is most offensive when it comes to the representation of the First Nations. We're talking boys and arrows, tomahawks, papooses, references to scalping, and "torture poles." You've also got the usual, mostly hyphenated "Indian" names: Big Chief Keen-Eyed-Mole, Browsing-Bison, Bull's-Eye, and Lame Duck.

Yet, with six more books to go until I get to the expletive-rich Captain Haddock, I do appreciate this gem from the mouth of the Mighty Sachem:
Let us raise the tomahawk against this miserable Paleface with the heart of a prairie dog!

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Everybody in the States is freaking out about Tintin in the Congo because it's apparently racist.

Yeah, you can't have a white kid and a black kid sitting next to each other enjoying one another's company.

Then again, I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I loved eating pancakes at Sambo's, and I thought that turning tigers into butter was about the best way you could possibly deal with large carnivores.

There are lots of really prejudicial materials out there, but I wonder if there's not a little knee-jerkery going on...
Only Tintin in the Congo is racist? They haven't read the other Tintin books, obviously.

Besides, like the Americans should talk. Every time someone dies in a movie where there is a black character and a white one, the black character always dies. And don't get me started on the boring representations of females in Hollywood - what a bunch of bores those women are!

What's Sambo's? What's this about tigers turning into butter.
I looked and I don't have the Congo book. Dangit.

I think Moofie is talking about the book Little Black Sambo. I loved this book as a kid - because of the tiger part. (The tiger is chasing Sambo, so he climbs up a tree to get away. The tiger runs so fast around and around the tree that he turns into butter! I still remember that illustration.)

I think there were restaurants called Sambo's but I'm not really familiar with them.
Hmm, I'll have to read up about that Black Sambo thing. Thanks for clarifying things for me, Rurality.
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