Pepe le Pew Pepe le Pew

Pepé Le Pew, the aggressively lusty pseudo-French skunk, is being locked away. The Looney Tunes character has been removed from the upcoming feature Space Jam: A New Legacy and Warner Bros. has no plans to use him in future projects.

The news came days after New York Times contributor Charles M. Blow renewed controversy around the character, in first a column then a tweet. Blow wrote that “Pepe Le Pew added to rape culture,” channeling longstanding unease about Pepé’s insistent pursuit of female characters he repels.

According to Deadline, Pepé was actually scrubbed from Space Jam: A New Legacy some time ago, for reasons unrelated to Blow’s comments. A live-action scene was shot with actress Greice Santo by the film’s first director Terence Nance. Pepé would have been inserted in animation. Nance was replaced as director by Malcolm D. Lee in the summer of 2019, and the scene was later cut from the film, in which Pepé now doesn’t appear at all.

Deadline describes the deleted scene: Pepé starts kissing the character played by Santo, only for her to pull back and hit him. LeBron James, the film’s star, appears and tells Pepé that he can’t grab others without their consent. A spokesperson for Santo told Deadline she was upset that the scene was cut, as it showed Pepé being punished for his behavior.

Pepé Le Pew was created by Chuck Jones, who directed almost all the classic Warner Bros. shorts starring the character, including 1949’s Oscar-winning For Scent-imental Reasons. In his autobiography Chuck Amuck, Jones elaborated on his motivations for creating the character:

Pepé Le Pew presented no problem to me. I needed his self-assurance, his absolute certainty of his male desirability, his calm self-assurance, his logical interpretation of any female peccadillo as simply a loving way to convey her love for him. So Pepé was not a recognition in myself of his wonderful attributes but an absolute recognition in myself of the absence of those traits. I needed Pepé in the same way that I needed Bugs (nothing heroic in my mirror). In high school I was not only a wimp, I was a wimp-nerd-nebbish. I was 6’1” and weighed 132 pounds. I was transparent to the other sex; girls could look through me to admire other boys.

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Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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