No one had Pepé Le Pew becoming a figurehead of the anti-cancel culture movement on their 2021 bingo card, and yet here we are. This month, a damning New York Times op-ed blasted the classic Looney Tunes character for glorying “rape culture,” due to the French skunk’s non-consensual pursuing of his love interest. This led to Warner Bros. announcing that Pepé will be retired from the cartoon universe’s roster and will no longer feature in future movie and TV projects.
The decision led to a vocal backlash online from those who felt the studio’s reaction went too far and in response, a petition has been set up on Change.org which calls for WB to bring back Pepé and reverse his cancellation. Several petitions exist on the site, in fact, but the most popular is currently standing at over 1,000 signatures at the time of writing, with the initial aim being to get to 1,500.
In addition to this blanket ban, Pepé has also been removed from upcoming sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy. This case is slightly different, though, as the skunk’s big scene in the film – in which he would’ve learned about the importance of consent from star LeBron James – was cut months ago. Actress Greice Santo was set to appear in this sequence, as a woman who slaps Pepé when he flirts with her, and she’s blasted the decision to delete it. In fact, she’s offering a $100,000 reward for anyone who can unearth the raw footage of it.
Looney Tunes cartoons have long been the subject of controversy, thanks to various racist and stereotypical presentations of other cultures over the years, but it seems these new allegations against Pepé Le Pew are just one step too far and have led WB to ban one of the franchise’s iconic characters for the first time, despite other divisive figures like Speedy Gonzales, for example, not facing the same treatment. Fans might be fighting his case, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to make the studio change its mind.