Conservatives have been a little distracted recently. First there was the controversy around Mr. Potato Head which turned out be BS. Then they came for the Dr. Seuss foundation, so angry that they pulled six of the writer’s books from circulation over racist content that they…bought a bunch of Dr. Seuss books, therefore making them even richer. So perhaps it was understandable that they’ve missed a recent New York Times column, which called out Pepé Le Pew, saying the Looney Tunes character “added to rape culture.” And now news has broken that the skunk has been yanked from the forthcoming sequel to Space Jam.
For the record, the two incidents appear to be unrelated. Deadline broke the news that Pepé was removed from the film a while back, namely when original director Terrence Nance left. His replacement, Malcolm D. Lee, removed a scene that put the character inside the classic film Casablanca. The scene found him as a bartender in a bar modeled after Rick’s Café Américain. As per Deadline, the scene found him hitting on a woman at the bar, played by Jane the Virgin’s Greice Santo. As per Deadline:
He begins kissing her arm, which she pulls back, then slamming Pepe into the chair next to hers. She then pours her drink on Pepe, and slaps him hard, sending him spinning in a stool, which is then stopped by LeBron James’ hand. James and Bugs Bunny are looking for Lola, and Pepe knows her whereabouts. Pepe then tells the guys that Penelope cat has filed a restraining order against him. James makes a remark in the script that Pepe can’t grab other Tunes without their consent.
But you’ll likely never see this scene because it was cut long ago. As for Pepé, he’s been back in the public eye of late, thanks to HBO Max, which bears a large number of classic Looney Tunes shorts. One of them, 1949’s For Scent-imental Reasons, won an Oscar for Best Animated Short, and it lays the template for almost all of his 18 Golden Era cartoons: Pepé relentlessly pursues a female animal — sometimes a cat — who does not return his affections, often forcing himself upon her.
The Times column aside, there has been no concerted attempt to “cancel” Mr. Le Pew, and you can still watch his shorts on HBO Max and the cartoon streamer Boomerang. And, of course, you can see him in the original Space Jam.