William & Mary

Tintin in the Law Library

Jonathan Tuttle, Cataloging and Metadata LibrarianTitTin_Cover

The law library holds over 2,000 DVDs. Some deal directly with law, like The Paper Chase, while others have nothing to do with law, like Midnight in Paris. Some DVDs that seem to have no bearing on law actually do have some surprising connections.

Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin came out last winter, two months before a court in Brussels ruled that the 1946 comic Tintin in the Congo was, despite some disturbingly drawn African characters, not intended to incite racial hatred. It was the cartoonist Hergé’s (pen name of Georges Remi) second book featuring the winsome young Belgium reporter, Tintin. On assignment in the Congo, Tintin and his canine companion Snowy meet a variety of adventures with stowaways, gangsters, and big game animals.

The book remained popular in the Congo up until Belgian colonial rule had receded far enough into the past for Tintin in the Congo to take on a sour, nostalgic taste. In 2007 Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo filed charges in Brussels to have the book banned as racist. The case opened in a criminal court before being heard in a civil court in April 2010. Despite the loss in Brussels, Mbutu Mondono vowed to appeal, bringing the case to France and potentially the European Court of Human Rights.

The feature films at the law library are great for study breaks, and you don’t need to be writing a paper on colonialism to watch The Adventures of Tintin. But in a library, everything is connected. With the effort to ban a comic book in Europe, one DVD on the first floor has new echoes in the second floor stacks. The colonial angle can be seen in the collection with the subject heading Colonies – Africa. Resources on racism can be brought together with Race discrimination – Law and Legislation – European Union countries. And Belgian law is in the KJKs, Law -- Belgium.

Photo credit: https://farm1.static.flickr.com/199/501560066_10abdacd9a_o.jpg, via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TinTin_Congo.jpg