Tintin Goes to Parliament

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PARIS: France's legislature would never be caught dead discussing anything as trivial as an extramarital affair. Not when it could be debating the politics of that intrepid cartoon adventurer, Tintin. On Wednesday, the National Assembly marked the 70th anniversary of the character's birth by debating his political allegiances. "It's a little tongue-in-cheek," says TIME Paris correspondent Bruce Crumley. "The Gaullists are arguing why Tintin encapsulates the virtues of center-right nationalism, while the socialists claim him for the center-left by pointing to his compassion and altruism." And then of course the traditional chorus on the fringes cites everything from Tintin's racist colonial adventures to the fact that his creator, George Remi (aka Hergé), is accused of collaborating with the Nazis during the war.

Delegates can, however, agree on Tintin as the prototype citizen of the new Europe: "He was created in Belgium and adopted by France, but in translation he has been embraced by the whole continent," says Crumley. "They see him as a European counterbalance to Mickey Mouse." As if an anti-Mickey were needed in a country that honored Jerry Lewis as a cultural treasure.