Looney Tunes’ Pepé Le Pew ‘retired’ amid concerns he ‘normalises rape culture’
Looney Tunes veteran Pepé Le Pew, the aggressively amorous French skunk, has been retired from Warner Bros in the wake of criticism that the character “normalises rape culture”.
Pepé Le Pew, who alongside Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck delighted viewers during the golden age of American animation in the 1940s, will no longer feature in any of the studio’s projects moving forward – including the upcoming Space Jam 2.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the decision to scrub him from the LeBron James movie, set to hit theatres on 16 July, was made more than a year ago. No reason for his removal, however, was given.
A hybrid live action-animation scene was filmed for the character by the production’s first director, Terence Nance, in 2019, Deadline reported. But after Nance left the production, handing it over to Malcolm D Lee, the scene was reportedly cut altogether.
The scene, sources claim, was a Casablanca spoof with Le Pew as a bartender hitting on a woman played by Jane the Virgin’s Greice Santo. He reportedly would have kissed along her arm despite her rejections.
Beyond the film, Le Pew, who was originally voiced by late actor Mel Blanc, is not scheduled to appear in any future television projects, Deadline said.
It comes just less than a week after an opinion piece in The New York Times raised a stink about how problematic the skunk actually is.
Pepé Le Pew ‘teaches boys that no didn’t really mean no’, says columnist
Pepé Le Pew skits were almost always the same. A mishap means a black cat, usually voiceless other than the occasional meow, now has a white stripe on them. Le Pew mistakes them for a skunk and, rather forcefully, tries to woo them.
In one of the 17 original Pepé Le Pew cartoons, it ends with him chained to an unsuspecting feline. “Now we are inseparable, are we not, darling?” he says, with the last frame of the cartoon being the cat desperately trying to break the chain.
Such scenes, according to The New York Times‘ Charles Blow, feed a culture of “normalised rape”.
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Of course, conservative mouthpieces such as Fox News, long critics of so-called sensitive snowflakes, were among the first to throw tantrums about a fictional skunk facing criticism.
Fox News hosts leapt to Le Pew’s defence on daytime talk show Outnumbered, lamenting his “cancellation”.
“Nobody is perfect for the masses,” guest host Brian Kilmeade whined.
Defending his opinion piece, Blow took to Twitter to explain how Le Pew’s character “taught boys that ‘no’ didn’t really mean no”.
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.
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) March 6, 2021