Why Is Everyone Talking About Pepe Le Pew? The Latest Looney Tunes Controversy, Explained
Looney Tunes’ iconic cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew is #canceled.
Last week, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow claimed that Pepe Le Pew, known for his persistent romantic antics, “added to rape culture.”
Following the controversial claim, it was speculated that a hybrid live-action animated scene with Pepe Le Pew, shot back in June 2019 for Space Jam 2 with LeBron James, may have been scrapped.
Warner Bros. has also reportedly scrubbed the character from any future Looney Tunes content on HBO Max and other platforms.
Below, here's everything we know about the controversy surrounding Pepe Le Pew.
Who Is Pepe Le Pew?
Pepe Le Pew is an animated French skunk featured in Warner Bros.' original Looney Tunes cartoon series. Le Pew is known for his sexually aggressive nature, forcing his unwanted advances on female characters — including a cat named Penelope — failing to ever woo them with consent, possibly in part due to his skunky stench. (His last name is a play on the "P.U." exclamation for when something smells bad.)
Why Is Pepe Le Pew Trending?
Pepe Le Pew is trending after New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow claimed the character “added to rape culture.” Many believe the character is problematic.
Does Pepe Le Pew Promote Rape Culture?
Many believe that Pepe Le Pew’s relentless pursuit of female characters in the series represents and promotes rape culture.
“1. He grabs/kisses a girl/stranger, repeatedly, w/o consent and against her will. 2. She struggles mightily to get away from him, but he won’t release her 3. He locks a door to prevent her from escaping,” Blow explained on Twitter.
He continued, "This helped teach boys that 'no' didn’t really mean no, that it was a part of 'the game', the starting line of a power struggle. It taught overcoming a woman’s strenuous, even physical objections, was normal, adorable, funny. They didn’t even give the woman the ability to SPEAK."
According TMZ, Linda Jones, daughter of Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones, "strongly disagrees" with the recent NYT op-ed.
Jones admits that the skunk's grabby approach doesn't look good by today's standards, but claims the character was more about how much he stunk as a suitor, despite thinking he was desirable. She also says she doesn't think anyone who ever watched Le Pew was inspired to go out and harass people.
Will Pepe Le Pew Be in the Space Jam Sequel?
Despite starring in the first Warner Bros. Space Jam movie back in 1996, Pepe Le Pew will not be included in the upcoming theatrical sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy, out July 16, Deadline confirms.
Warner Bros. also revealed that they have no plans to include Le Pew in any projects going forward.
What Was the Cut Pepe Lew Pew Space Jam 2 Scene?
Pepe Le Pew was set to play a bartender who hits on a woman at a bar in Space Jam 2, Deadline reports. In the since-removed scene, Le Pew begins kissing a woman's arm, before she slams him into a chair. The woman pours a drink on Lew Pew and slaps him. Basketball player and Space Jam 2 star LeBron James then enters the scene and makes a remark about how Lew Pew can’t grab other Tunes without their consent.
Are There Any Other Controversial or Problematic Looney Tunes Characters?
Besides taking aim at Pepe Le Pew, Blow also wrote about fellow Looney Tunes character Speedy Gonzales in his NYT op-ed, saying he "helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexican."
In the original Space Jam film, the production team thought the character Lola Bunny would appear too masculine so they decided to make her sexy, emphasizing her feminine attributes, such as large breasts and come-hither eyes. Animators dressed the female bunny up in a crop top and skirt, exposing her midriff and cleavage.
Malcolm D. Lee, director of Space Jam: A New Legacy, told Entertainment Weekly that they made sure this updated version of Lola Bunny was created with an “appropriate length on her shorts” and that she was “feminine without being objectified,” for the upcoming sequel.
Last June, Looney Tunes streaming on HBO Max banned character Elmer Fudd from using a gun in response to U.S. gun violence.
Space Jam: A New Legacy will premiere in movie theaters and on HBO Max on July 16.