Why is out­dated and of­fen­sive Mod­esty Blaise still ap­pear­ing?

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Mau­rice Smithers

I HAVE al­ways been a fan of comics and car­toons, es­pe­cially those with clever, satir­i­cal content. The cur­rent of­fer­ings by The Star are, how­ever, mostly tired and bor­ing.

Madam and Eve is lo­cal, rel­e­vant and mostly good, while Six Chix has its own quirky charm, with usu­ally thought-pro­vok­ing content. The rest are not worth read­ing any­more, re­hash­ing themes they first ex­plored decades ago. Many of them are mildly sex­ist as well, re­in­forc­ing bor­ing old stereo­types that are (or should be) as­signed to the dust­bin of his­tory. They are all ei­ther Bri­tish or Amer­i­can, and not the best, most cur­rent of­fer­ings of ei­ther coun­try.

Mod­esty Blaise over­stepped the mark big time on Mon­day. I read most Mod­esty Blaise books a long time ago, in­trigued as a boy by the sto­ries of an em­pow­ered woman who fi­nally pre­vailed against what­ever odds were thrown at her. I don’t re­call how the books (writ­ten by a man) re­flected is­sues of sex­ism and racism, but they were writ­ten in the 1960s and my young mind prob­a­bly didn’t re­act to di­a­logue that would be con­sid­ered of­fen­sive and un­ac­cept­able to­day.

But there is no ex­cuse for pub­lish­ing a comic strip in 2018 which in­cludes the fol­low­ing gem: “For a red­skin girl, you aren’t half im­pa­tient, Lucy.”

For some First Na­tion Amer­i­cans (so wrongly called Red In­di­ans), the term “red­skin” is as ab­hor­rent as the word “k ***** ” is to South Africans. In ad­di­tion, Lucy is clearly a woman, not a “girl”. Third, what stereo­type of First Na­tion women is Wil­lie Garvin evok­ing in his com­ment on “pa­tience”? This is not the first ex­am­ple of out­dated, of­fen­sive lan­guage in the se­ries.

Mod­esty Blaise comic strips are not “high lit­er­a­ture” that must be pre­served in their orig­i­nal form, even if of­fen­sive. There­fore, if the pro­duc­ers of the se­ries do not see fit to re­place un­ac­cept­able ter­mi­nol­ogy, the strip should not be pub­lished, cer­tainly not in a South African news­pa­per.

‘Red­skin’ is as ab­hor­rent as the k ***** word


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