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This paper analyses Herge's Tintin books in terms of the politics of the series, as a precursor to its human rights messages, in particular regarding racism, sexism and due process. Politically, Tintin swings from right to left. Despite heavy (and often justified) criticism of the series as racist, Herge's books are more nuanced, as they include conscious if clumsy anti-racist messages.
Ultimately, Tintin is a quintessentially European product of his time, and the books are in fact a unique chronicle of one half of the twentieth century, warts and all. Nevertheless, the warts (and even Herge's failure to recognise them) have not stopped the ongoing globalisation of the Tintin books' appeal many decades after their creator's death. ...
The books are essentially “adventures” in which our hero grapples with and finally defeats various “bad guys”. Yet the Tintin series is much more than that: it is a quintessential European cultural artifact of the twentieth century which has had a global impact. It is therefore instructive to examine the connections between Tintin and human rights issues.
Of course, a “human rights” assessment is not a litmus test on its own for an evaluation of the worth of the Tintin series, something which is very personal in any case. Hergé’s prime aim was after all to entertain children rather than promote (or denigrate) human rights. Nevertheless, as a prominent and popular cultural product, Tintin implicitly conveys human rights messages (for example, regarding the freedom, equality and dignity of human beings) to its (largely) young readers. In this article, I examine what those messages are and why they are as they are, as another piece in the enormous jigsaw of understanding how attitudes towards (or against) human rights have developed.