The withdrawal was prompted by complaints from some readers who considered the cartoon to be racist.
Last Friday, 26 August, La Vanguardia published this strip of the classic pastime of The 8 Mistakes (La chasse aux 8 erreurs in French) by the French cartoonist Jean Laplace, as it has done since 1977
The series was published in twenty-two newspapers in different parts of the world, including the Spanish La Vanguardia, La Voz de Galicia, El Diario Montañés and Heraldo de Aragón (1)
Jean Laplace passed away in 2018, but La Vanguardia continues to publish his famous game in print with the original date of publication in the top corner and also on its website as an interactive game on its website.
Following the publication of this issue, the readers’ ombudsman received a number of e-mails:
“I am a daily reader of La Vanguardia and , among other things, I play The 8 Mistakes every day. I don’t understand how today, Friday 26 August, they have allowed this drawing to be published, which is totally racist. Are you racist?”, asked Manuel Ribas.
Reader Chiara Arroyo also wrote to me to express her indignation at that day’s cartoon: “It is unacceptable that La Vanguardia should publish a cartoon that is offensive because it is racist. I expect a rectification”.
Joel Albarrán the deputy director and reader’s ombudsman of La Vanguardia replied to these complaints. I have taken the license to reproduce his reply, although the text is only available to subscribers, because I believe this type of response deserves to be published.
In a text entitled “A cartoon out of time“Albarrán assures that“after the readers’ timely warning, it was removed from the pastimes section of the web page and will not appear again in the printed edition“.
And he adds:
“In themore than four decades that have passed since that cartoon was published, we have all learned to identify what certain points of view and cultural expressions unintentionally exude.
Some Tintin cartoons, Tarzan films or the Cola-Cao song of the “little black man from tropical Africa” reflect attitudes that are not of today’s time, but that does not invalidate the fact that they were innocently enjoyed at the time.
Something similar is true of this particular drawing. I think it is only fair to point out that it is an exception that in no way reflects the spirit of Laplace’s 8 Mistakes. Its nosey characters, who find themselves in original and surprising situations, won over readers 45 years ago and today they are part of the essence of the newspaper that is passed down from generation to generation, as for many readers it is a daily habit shared with the youngest members of the household”.
The big difference between withdrawal (or not republishing) and elimination
This is a recurring debate, especially when we talk about the reprinting of comics that in their time reflected the feelings of times when we were not particularly sensitive to certain issues such as sexism, racism, the normalised consumption of alcohol and tobacco, etc., even in works aimed at children’s audiences.
The removal and/or rethinking of graphics and messages and their forms in the reprints is interpreted by many as acts of censorship or at least as an attempt to rewrite history, which as we already know did not always leave us in a good place as a society.
I believe that the unacceptable breaking point in the balance of respect for history occurs when one tries to eliminate or destroy a work completely, as I believe that it is even pedagogical that all those “bad” customs can always be consulted and taken as references of our evolution, or otherwise.