Pepé Le Pew isn’t in the top tier of Warner Bros.’ iconic lineup of Looney Tunes characters, but he’s still instantly recognizable to many around the world. So, the news that the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacy featured a scene with him alongside Jane the Virgin‘s Greice Santo that was ultimately cut from the movie, along with rumors that the studio is permanently benching the skunk, was greeted with dismay.
The going theory is that the sexually aggressive cartoon lothario simply doesn’t land in 2021 and Warner Bros., apparently fearful of controversy, have dodged the issue by ditching him altogether. The impetus for this seems to have been an NYT columnist arguing that Pepé Le Pew added to rape culture by merely depicting sexual harassment, regardless of its context.
That’s been pushed back against, though. Fans pointed out that Le Pew was always the antagonist and that the point of the cartoons was to satirize pushy men. Santo was dismayed that the Space Jam 2 scene was tossed, too, saying via a spokesperson that it demonstrated to young viewers that Pepé’s behavior is unacceptable and that “if anyone was going to slap a sexual harasser like him, Greice wished it would be her.”
Now, Linda Jones, daughter of Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones, has said that she “strongly disagrees” that Pepé endorses rape culture and goes on to point out that his cartoons were created during the 50s, 60s and 70s when sexual harassment was more overt. She explains that her father (described as a “super liberal dude”) wanted to shine a light on real-life jerks who behave like Pepé and teach children that being pursued like this is not okay.
And as for his deleted scene in Space Jam: A New Legacy? She doesn’t think that the character deserves to be dropped, but given that it’s Warner Bros.’ decision, her opinion doesn’t really matter. WB has remained quiet on the story, but it’s clear that the Le Pew isn’t coming back anytime soon and there are no plans to include him in any future Looney Tunes shows or movies.
Space Jam: A New Legacy, meanwhile, lands in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16th, 2021.