Is Tintin Transgender?
Last week I wrote about other dimensions. This week I'd like to take the plunge into alternative animated worlds: what if we could see beyond the published cartoon frames of my favourite character from childhood, Tintin?
There was always something about Tintin's androgyny, his anodyne spirit about making the world a better place. I did sometimes wonder – and I imagined – what Tintin's other world looked like, the one that Herge refused to draw, or at the least, didn't publish. The one where Tintin stopped caring about the world and thought instead about being happy.
Did Tintin cross-dress, when the adventure was finished? He lived with a rich, retired sailor, in a mansion in the countryside, the protective estate of Marlinspike Hall. Did living there give Tintin the freedom to experiment? Did Captain Haddock know? Or was it a secret, Tintin venturing into Brussels and changing there in some three-star hotel, like I used to do in Manchester. Not to get too fetishistic, but did it stop at cross-dressing or were there men involved? The kind that Tintin used to pursue and put behind bars. Perhaps when the pages of a story ended, Tintin pursued similar men for different reasons. Having been raised in a patriarchal system but forced to repress his drives, did Tintin's transgender nature lead to perversions, to S&M games or something more serious? I wish I could draw that world: Tintin hanging out in bars, in heels and a wig and a sequin dress, waiting for the most villainous man in the room to catch his eye. Tintin drinking white-wine spritzers in seedy red-light bars so as not to get drunk. Then gradually, over several comic books, Tintin realizing that to come out at night wasn't enough anymore. Tintin on Hormones. Tintin At the Clinic. Tintin Has Something He Needs To Tell Captain Haddock.
We project onto culture, even as we assimilate it as our own. The dark, midnight worlds of vampires and werewolves made sense to me when I first started to come out for real. I would stand by my hotel window, waiting for the outside to be dark enough for me to head out to Manchester's LGBT district, Canal Street. My nature, that freak-like, monstrous thing that I couldn't talk about and couldn't find anywhere around me, resonated when I watched films like Underworld. But at a younger age, I projected too. I followed the adventures of Tintin, the boy reporter. It wasn't a consciously trans thing, I just liked Tintin's world, but there was something cool about Tintin's all-action lack of masculinity too.
I can see I'm not the only one who's noticed it, recently an academic in France questioned Tintin's true gender. But I'd like to add to this perspective. I realize the Tintin estate would never consent to an alternative universe of Tintin-Transgender; yet I imagine a dimension where Herge replicates his endeavours, those twenty-four story-book adventures but this time with darker themes. Captain Haddock's relentless addictions and love of female prostitutes. Tintin dressing up, then the hormones and the surgery. Professor Calculus producing weapons of mass destruction. The two detectives, Thomson and Thompson, knee deep in police racism and corruption. Tintin falling in love with one of his arch-villains and becoming a drug mule. Tintin's world corrupted, the other side to the whiter-than-white haven that Herge constructed.Is Tintin transgender? The cultural artifice says he isn't, the books are what they are. But there is more to us than the culture that shapes us. We shape it too, fuelled by our inner drives, and the imaginary worlds we produce. Already with this thought, my position has shifted. I ask a second time: Is Tintin transgender? In some parallel dimension, she might be.