Thursday, November 03, 2011

Belly-Banding TINTIN IN THE CONGO with a Warning

With Steven Spielberg's adaptation of THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, the classic graphic novel written and illustrated by George Remi (Hergé), Egmont UK is releasing TINTIN IN THE CONGO for a new audience. This time, instead of letting "colonial" content stand as is or bowdlerizing it, they've decided to pursue a new strategy:
“We took the unusual step of placing a protective band around the book with a warning about the content and also included an introduction inside the book by the original translators explaining the historical context."
Already, UK booksellers typically move the novels out of children's areas into the adult graphic novel sections of their stores.

We've discussed the option of bowdlerizing content on the Fire Escape before, and I took a poll, asking visitors to the Fire Escape when, if ever, it would be okay to update a classic children's book to reflect changing mores about race. The results (152 votes) were almost equally split between those who thought some changes might be in order, while the rest arguing that a book must stand as is.
Slightly more than half of you (83 votes, or 54%) said never.

Among those who felt it might be worth it to change a classic book, we see a strong belief that an author alone retains the right to change the story. Fifty-nine voters (38%) thought it would be appropriate to update if the author were still alive and wanted the changes.

Twenty-eight (18%) thought it would be permissible to revise a classic children's book if the publisher included a note in the re-issue explaining the reasoning behind the change.

Fifteen of you (9%) thought it would be okay to update if the changes made were incidental rather than integral to the plot, and fifteen (9%) more were amenable if the copyright holder (a descendant) were still alive and authorized the changes.
What do you think about Egmont UK's belly-banding move? And if you're interested, here's how I weighed in on the issue. Enjoy the trailer for the film, scheduled for release December 21st:




2 comments:

acebauer said...

I am of two minds. First, the exploitation of the Congo was one of the worst in the colonial history of the African continent -- it became the blueprint for some of the worst abuses in Africa. By the time Herge wrote Tintin, Belgian's policies had moderated some, but were still atrocious. So any book that places colonial Belgium in a good light makes me want to scream.

Then there's the other strong view I hold that books, no matter how offensive, are not for me to censor. To yell about, complain about, point out its flaws, encourage people to avoid -- yes. But banning, no.

That doesn't mean that the author, or rather in this case his estate, and the publisher could decide to hold back from publishing an offensive book. Unfortunately, with a character as lucrative as Tintin's, they have little incentive not to publish. The band doesn't make the material any less offensive, but at least it provides a warning. Putting it in the adult section does make it harder for kids to get to it right away.

I guess I'd be happier if it never made it to the shelves to start with. But at least the label gives some warning.

Helen's Book Blog said...

I LOVE the Tintin books and have read them all multiple times. However, I never read the Congo or the one about Native Americans because I didn't have them until I was an adult and then found them offensive.

However, it isn't for me to censor. I do like the idea of an explanation of context so that today's readers can be informed of history's atrocities and understand why the book was written the way it was written.

Looking forward to the movie!