Feature Christmas 2009: Diagnosis

Stigma and prejudice in Tintin

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b5308 (Published 16 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5308
  1. Juan Medrano, consultant psychiatrist14,
  2. Pablo Malo, consultant psychiatrist24,
  3. José J Uriarte, consultant psychiatrist34,
  4. Ana-Pía López, community mental health nurse 1
  1. 1Centro de Salud Mental Gasteiz-Centro, 01002 Vitoria, Spain
  2. 2Centro de Salud Mental Bombero Etxaniz, 48010 Bilbao, Spain
  3. 3Hospital de Zamudio, Zamudio, 48170 Spain
  4. 4Txori-Herri Medical Association, 01080 Vitoria, Spain
  1. Correspondence to: J Medrano torridon{at}telefonica.net

    Juan Medrano, Pablo Malo, José J Uriarte, and Ana-Pía López look for evidence of prejudice against mental illness in the Tintin series

    In 2007, a New York library found Tintin in the Congo racially offensive and moved it to a secure back room. The UK Commission for Racial Equality asked for it to be removed from sale because of “hideous racial prejudice,” and a Congolese student in Belgium started a complaint against the book. For Tintin’s creator Hergé, the pen name for Belgian Georges Prosper Rémi (1907-83), Congo was a naive work, influenced by stereotypes and misconceptions common in Europe when it was first published (1930).1

    Despite the older Hergé’s efforts to offer a progressive view of himself,1 2 the Tintin books have been accused of several forms of prejudice. The depiction of Africans in Congo and in The Red Sea Sharks suggested racism. The Shooting Star, published while the holocaust was taking place, was accused of anti-Semitism because a first version featured greedy Jews and a villain has an unintended Jewish surname. Misogyny was suspected because rotund Bianca Castafiore is the only remarkable feminine character. And animal rights activists deplore wildlife carnage in Congo.

    In this article, we analyse appearances of, or allusions to, mental disease in the Tintin series to see how mentally ill people are portrayed.

    Review method

    We reviewed 22 books in the Spanish Tintin collection, published by Editorial Juventud (17th ed, 2005). The Lake of the Sharks, which was based on an animated film by Michel Regnier, was excluded. The early Spanish versions from Congo through to The Crab with the Golden Claws, published …

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