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No Girls Allowed in Your Adventures, Tintin?

By Maya Brown

So the other day I went with my friends to see The Adventures of Tintin at the movies. On my way out the door my mom told me she had heard that the author of the Tintin comic books was really sexist, so I went with a mind to watch out for any sort of sexism or stereotypically portrayed women. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that, because there were absolutely no women in the movie at all.  Okay , you got me; I exaggerate a little bit.  My apologies. There were two.

That’s right, two women in the entire feature-length movie.  It wasn’t like there was a small cast either. There were 16 characters of some importance, with multiple henchmen, pirates, and reporters gracing the film. And not only were there only two women, out of the multiple scenes, conversations, and action sequences the guys had, those two women literally had two scenes. One each. That’s right, not only were there only two women in the whole movie, there were only two scenes in the whole movie that included women speaking at all. And who were these women, might you ask? One was a famous opera singer, clad in a tight pink dress, and used as a pawn in an evil plan to crack a glass case with her voice (oh, real important). In her brief moment of fame she did a good job of looking stupid, confused, and oversexualized. The second woman was Tintin’s landlady, who I think had all of two lines.

Even the dog, Snowy, was a boy.

The sad part is that this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill action-y “boys movie.” Tintin was directed by Steven Spielberg, got huge press, and has been very well received by critics—the movie made New York Magazine’s Top 10 List for 2011, and HitFix’s top 10 films of 2011.  Yes, the visuals were amazing.  Yes, the action sequences were great.  But where were the freaking girls?

So let’s connect the dots between Tintin and our protest of LEGO’s new Friends line. LEGO has told us that after four years and millions of dollars in research, new pink and purple, Barbie-fied LEGO sets are what girls want. This may be what girls are saying they want, but why? Because they’re not offered anything else! Girls do not come out of the womb oo-ing over pink blankets and obsessed with looking prettier; they are taught these things by companies that now include LEGO.  And not only are they constantly shown images telling them to like pink and to care about what they look like, but when a movie with pirates and sword fights comes along, they are all but shoved out of the picture. By not including any interesting girls in Tintin all the millions of girls who watch are told that they don’t belong in this world. Their job (our job) is to party, lounge by the pool, or go to spas.  And if we want that one small scene, we better play it just right: stupid, confused, and oversexualized. No adventures for us.

Girls aren’t interested in regular LEGO sets because we’re wired differently?  Not remotely.  Girls aren’t interested because media never tells us that we’re allowed to be.  So when LEGO makes a set geared specifically towards girls, they are just exemplifying what movies like Tintin have been telling us on a regular basis: that we don’t belong center stage.

Girls need to be represented in movies like Tintin because seeing ourselves in such films tells us that we can like anything and do anything we want. Marketing the LEGO Friends line doesn’t give girls more options; instead it reaffirms what girls are supposed to want and allowed to play with. We need to see ourselves in the media doing unique things, brave and adventurous things, like fighting pirates or trekking across the desert.  Now those are options.


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16 Responses to “No Girls Allowed in Your Adventures, Tintin?”

  1. Geraldine says:

    I agree! I saw Tintin and enjoyed it, but when I was reading this blog I thought “what two women?” I didn’t remember them at all, their presence – and impact – were so minor. I know comic book fans want movie adaptations to stick far-too-faithfully to the original stories, but when these stories were written in times of female inequality, they need – and deserve – to be updated. I hope a girl is included in the sequel, and not as a “love interest” or “eye candy”, but as an adventurer in her own right!

  2. LivTokyo says:

    Are we still talking about this? While as a feminist, I agree that media portrayals of women are very important in media, as a child who was raised on Tintin, I would have been a lot more offended had Spielberg messed with a classic just in order to insert a female character, who probably would have ended up being the token “feisty female” about which you published last week. Yes, Herge was a sexist. He was born in 1907. You’ll probably find that most men from that era were sexist. A movie made from a classic comic published in the 1940s (a movie that, for once, stayed refreshingly true to the original) has little to nothing to do with the LEGO debate, which is taking place front and center right now.

    • LivTokyo says:

      The token “feisty female” blog was not published by this author, just on the same host – sorry for the confusing reference.

    • Annie says:

      So, the sentiment that existed a hundred years ago means it’s ok to keep repeating it now? I don’t know if we’re supposed of demand that they should have did some gender switcng on the characters before making the new film (though would that have mattered much?), but I think this is definitely a valid criticism. The fact is that the story does not exist only at the time when it was written, and certainly does impact young people who watch it today.

  3. Karen Heck says:

    Love your blog, Maya. I think back to the days when I was a teenager poring over Seventeen wishing my hair was straighter and blonde and I think of how I wish my enlightenment had come sooner. You go, girl!

  4. Zednik says:

    Oh please! Don’t fall for this! “Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn” was written in 1943. So now we need to rewrite literary works to make them fit someone’s view of how the world should be? Should we also throw a girl on the raft with Huck and Jim? If anyone has a right to complain it is men. Pick any sitcom and you will will find smart, clever women and ridiculous, male buffoons. Not since “Little House on the Prairie” has a smart, sensitive, strong, handsome, caring man been portrayed on TV. (OK. Maybe, I exaggerate. But this article does, too.)

  5. omegaraiel says:

    Girls can always buy regular LEGO sets. Just because there’s a pink set for girls doesn’t mean all the other sets are boys only. Are we nott supposed to give kids who like pink an option?

    I find the LEGO debate silly. Meanwhile, the Tintin observation I find quite valid.

  6. Patrick says:

    I never saw Tintin (and frankly will never want to), but i will weigh in on the Legos (only cause they were mentioned here). I have two daughters and I have done my utmost best to raise them on anything (mostly guy related because I have no experience with girls toys and the whole gender expectations are stupid) and my eldest loves boy legos and most boy things and colors. My youngest loves those stupid friend legos and the color pink. Only boy activities were encouraged, but she chose pink and likes “girl” things all on her own. So while she may not have come out of the womb predisposed for the girl stuff she quickly identified with it (she has had less exposure to media gender roles than her sister as I no longer have cable), sometimes kids like what they like.

    As for Tintin? He is a fake hero, ask my eldest. For her it is Captain America, Spiderman, or noone (I cannot help her taste in comic companies sigh).

  7. Breanna says:

    Actually, the reason for this is because Tintin is supposed to remain a neutral character. In the comic books the only reason you could tell Tintin was the main character was because where he goes, so does the story. His opinion is rather broad so the reader can sort of make up their own opinion about him. By giving Tintin a girlfriend, it would mean giving him a definite personality or a preference on something. The story does have a girl that plays an important part and wasn’t shown too much in the movie, which is ok since she’s not always around. This would be Signora (a French title for a singer) Bianca Castafiore. She plays a huge role in Tintin and the Castafiore Emerald, so fret not. Besides, during the time of Tintin little boys weren’t as interested in girls. Us Americans love romance and is the basis of most of our stories while in other places such as Belgium, authors like Hergé would have focused more on Tintin’s adventures and heroism rather than his love life. Especially since the series is meant for young boys rather than girls. Besides, it would mess up the whole story if a girl was added. I am a girl and I know how you feel, but I think I’d scream if they added a character to a classic series from before you were born. You see, Tintin is just as iconic and famous as Mickey Mouse in Europe. This would ruin the whole movie. I’m sorry you have to think Hergé is sexist and even more sorry someone would suggest it without first reading the books. Hope you understand, now.

  8. Breanna says:

    Oh, and even if it’s not as a romantic interest, it would still ruin the plot.

  9. sara says:

    Maybe you should make a movie with a girl in it. Siriously.You could make a cartoon animated (with a girl.)! Or you could gather up your friends and make another “The Adventures of TinTin “movie! With a girl! Remember To get a red head for TinTin! :•)

  10. bluelightsaber123 says:

    I totally agree! I’m a girl and I’ve just watched the Tintin movie and after it im just like “why r there no girls?” i really find it sexist when girls are not allowed to be in action films and its soooooooo annoying when people assume we’re all weaklings. I love Star Wars, Avatar :The last airbender, and The hunger games, and the best part about them is that GIRLS GET TO PLAY A LARGE PART FIGHTING. like really, in avatar, some of the most awesome charaters are girls (eg. Azula, Toph, Katara, Korra, Mai). And in Star Wars, there are female Jedi. Katniss was the frikking main charater of the hunger games (im pretty sure you’ve read the books or watched the movie). So why no girls in Tintin and why does LEGO have to be so annoying?!?!?!?!?! Whenever i go into a mall with my brother and sees the lego friends, we just make fun of the incredibly stupid sets that will NEVER match up to star wars. Plus, i really dont get the idea of ‘boy colors, girl colors’. whenever i hear “black, grey, and navy are boy colors” i really wanna punch the person who talked. Its. So. Annoying.

  11. Adam Duffield says:

    I disagree, afterall where does it stop?
    Forces aspects into a story will ruin said story. Women arent shown in a bad light they just dont feature very much in the story. theres nothing wrong with that
    Remember in silent hill when they forced the male character into it and it butchered the pace? (Lets not got into the whole changing the leads gender then havuing to force a male in cause thats a different issue)
    So yeah, going to see a movie thinking it have to have X amount of importance for women/men is stupid, cause thats not how good stories are made

  12. Tintin says:

    I disagree on Tintin having a girlfriend, and I agree of having a girl character that is not related to Tintin. As far as I know, he is not in search for romance in this movie. He is in search for adventures. And if we will add a girl, it will ruin the film. Seriously, it will.

  13. Nat says:

    I am a girl myself and when it comes to Tintin and girly stuff, such as Barbie, I decide to make the best of both worlds. But I think you (And some of the other people who commented on this post) should do a little research and look back at the past before you come to a conclusion on the whole sexism thing regarding Herge and Tintin. Herge did know women a bit well (Had an innocent high-school romance and then married twice) but could not give them centre-stage in his stories back then, let alone a girl for Tintin, because it would’ve raised awkward questions, like “What would they do at night?” Many young boys (Not all) did not/were not permitted to have romantic or sexual feelings for girls back then, until they were old enough to. And if they did, then there would be trouble, your education would be screwed and girls would be disowned, bla bla bla. It was also a bit of a strict rule for Franco-Belgian comics that the heroes stick to their stories and be celibate and all that. I have never thought that Tintin and Herge are sexist and I never will, because I owe them a lot. They taught me how to choose my friends, to respect the past, take risks and to protect myself when necessary. As to the whole gender stereotyping thing with girly stuff, people only make an assumption out of it. They believe what they see and hear and teach it to their children IMO. And the opera singer in the movie (Bianca Castafiore) is not stupid or confused or over-sexualised. She is a supporting character, very popular and funny and a parody of most people’s opinions of opera music (Which I love). Also, you should read Jo, Zette and Jocko, also by Herge, because Zette is a girl who actively helps out her brother Jo in their own adventures. Besides, Herge was Catholic. And we all know what comes with being Catholic: HIGH morals. Sure, I love girly stuff, because I like looking good as a girl, but I don’t suck myself into it because of stories I’ve heard about going too far with it by using plastic surgery and anorexia. What I’m saying is, you are both right and wrong. Wrong because Tintin is not sexist just because there aren’t that many important women in the stories. And you’re right, girls can like girly stuff and like adventure stories too. I could name a lot of girls who love Tintin as much as I do. However, I disagree with “Patrick” about Tintin’s status as a hero. Sure, Tintin’s a blank slate who seems to be very young and with no family other than a dog, but that’s just a part of his allure. It makes us want to speculate and fantasize about who he really is. Someone’s been growing up on too many muscular superheroes. And I agree with Breanna 100%.

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