Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tin Tin in Congo & Other Sales Scandals

The Hergêology of Rin Tin Tin:
Discrimination and Censorship in Artistic Representations of the World.

It was recently brought to my attention that a certain book had registered sales improvements of approxiamately 3000%. Armed with an amused curiosity and a passion for literacy, my attention had been peaked, and I asked myself ‘what kind of catalyst would make for such a phenomenal boost in sales?’ And the answer resounded quite clearly: Scandal. Now scandal comes from perhaps fulfillment of some organizational need and proceeds to spread like wildfire, a potentially or seemingly devastating subject matter. Gossip and rumour serve as powerful vehicles in such efforts, as do brash reactive stances from people engaged by art forms and media that might rub them the wrong way. The results sometimes contradict the subjects that these tools seek to highlight with urgent satirical intent, and other times precisely because of them! Controversy engages people. There is no sense in denying it. But the question to be asked is: do we, once engaged in the subject of the controversial or mildly objectionable even, become so deeply impression-ed by it that we are all at once filled with this heavyset prejudice on impact? I think not. Rather, I hope, on behalf of self-respecting individuals capable of debating the views for themselves, that we are not all that impressionable or reactive.

The case in point is that of the now infamous Tin Tin who has been the staple food of generations of children, and whose basic alma mater, Hergêology, has been brought to question. Tin Tin is the creative brain child of Georges Remï, famously known as Hergé. Tin Tin in Congo, is depicted addressing a group of children with the words: “Let me teach you about your country: Belgium”. And it would seem, all the silkworms in heaven couldn’t spin enough yarns to hold together hells fragile gorge. So, is Hergêology discriminatory? Is Tin Tin racist? And has Tin Tin contravened the bounds of decency by saying the darnedest things? The Commission for Racial Equality seems to think so. I am not so easily convinced.

Kids (Children) do say the darnedest things. And Tin Tins world was Belgium. Or if he spoke as satirical imperialist, then all the world is Belgium. Lets not forget, that the dear ol’chap has a little white dog named Snowy. Mans best friend, indeed. (Had Snowy been a black dog, would that have been a problem too?) One wonders. There is a scene in the book where Tintin is made chief of an African village because he is a "good white man" and a black woman bowing to Tintin saying: "White man very great ... white mister is big juju man!". This serves to highlight the essence of racial degeneration as a significant part of history, aside from the debatable issue of the subject matters political aptness. Perceptions that might exist at a point in history have no doubt shown to alter often radically across relative spans of time. By highlighting discriminatory views from the past only serves to re-affirm their outdatedness in present day thinking, and re-assures contemporary social polity that such violations of individual, minority and general rights are indeed a thing of the past. The idea is not to ignore that discrimination has been a part of the social pre-text, but to celebrate that significant shifts in thought and the duty to uphold progressive constitutional guarantees are part of the new gospel of reforms.

Censorship is a crass thing. I decide what I read. The advent of the information autobahn has done much to place ready information and mis-information at the hands of anyone who might willingly dive into its abyss at the deliberate double-click of a mouse. And so we engage with delight and deliberation, the manifold stuff that comes our way, openly allowing our sensitivities and sensibilities a chance to digest the matter. Many despotic and totalitarian states have actively encouraged the censorship of media in general, and books in particular. In apartheid South Africa, a book on the art of chess called “Black King, White Queen” was banned purely because of the mixed racial connotation that it seemingly illustrated. I am wondering as I write this, if Chess, the Game might have been banned as well. I should look that one up!

Tin Tin is yet another art form in the myriad works that the historically inspired (re)-produce. And of course, art is the representation of the world and the way the world sees itself. Art engages people, seeking and creating a kind of validation from both the objections and affirmations of dialogues generated. If anything that the artist has portrayed must bite at our sensitivities with such might, then it points at reflections of our selves. The use of satire and parody can be seen as necessary representation of social memory: this serves as a measure by which we can remind ourselves never to transgress the bounds of rights and liberties in employing discriminatory practice. (The discriminations being highlighted are quite likely reflections of thought from the spectator crowds.) We need not pretend that racism is not part of our history. All we need do is ensure that it does not happen again. The sweep-it-under-the-rug scenario of some bookstores resorting to banning Tin Tin is not a solution. In the same way that a ban on abortion doesn’t guarantee that babies will not be flushed down decrepit toilets in rundown filling stations(the abortion eg is a bit questionable), and banning prostitution will not stop people soliciting themselves for money. Unless of course, the world is Belgium. And unless we were surrounded by rivers of chocolate. Chances are slim, since no-one dares to dream such things! I am beginning to think, after this rather dessicated debate, that perhaps all of this hype was really a strategic (and rather clever) marketing ploy on the part of the Tin Tin Classics Publishers. The recipe is flop-proof really: Whisper the word, mix in some scandal. add a pinch of debate, sprinkle around the media here and there and voilá! There you have it: 3000% self-raising ingredient. Worked like a charm, I say!


diatribe said...

i am llost for words lady kim!


KimyaShafinaaz said...

thats quite unlikely diatribal one!

go on.. try again !!!


verbosity said...

Its a tough bet between whats politically correct artistic representation and what turns out offensive to a particular group of people. Tin Tin made its impact on large numbers of people, so for the most part it was very disappointing to see Herge get all whitey arrogant like that. But Kim, as usual you got an interesting spin on the thinking and so we can look at another view. Always more views.

reader said...

It's time those who call themselves writers, actually write something instead of critting others.

Delete this blog and try writing a real book.

KimyaShafinaaz said...

dear verb: i hear you! but i choose to engage rather than be a fence-sitter, as you would know by now:)

dear reader:

welcome to the blog of an engaged debater. and thank you for the incredible compliment! :) should i write a book? indeed i shall! once again :P and then some! theres a responsibility on writers to engage an audience of sorts and to make use of God-given talents such as critical reasoning and the like.. so, dont be shy!

KimyaShafinaaz said...

and i most certainly will not delete this blog! especially if it could incite such deep-felt and inspired comments as iv been lucky enough to witness :))

diatribe said...

hehe! reader? whoever you are!!! in the real world, our lady kimya is a writer. a renowned one. and she about to make some many waves, so watch this space! oh and one more thing -


so by public demand, it aint going anywhere! damn straight!

Anonymous said...

Looks like you just sold a few more copies for your literary kin.

Scandal? I smell more of a writers conspiracy! clever, getting us to buy more books to support the collective cabal of word churners! :P


KimyaShafinaaz said...

hey, well.. whatever works! ;)

now why did u go and kill the crab chronicles is my question? just aweful of u!