A lot of older cartoons are very much products of their time and as a result, don’t hold up too great when viewed through a modern lens. We’ve already seen Disney slap several of the studio’s animated classics with warnings over potentially outdated or offensive content, and now the Looney Tunes’ amorous skunk Pepe Le Pew has found himself in the firing line.
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow recently blasted the animated favorite for glorifying rape culture, and the news has leaked this week that Pepe was part of a scene shot for Space Jam: A New Legacy, one that was ultimately never animated and dropped from the movie altogether when director Malcolm D. Lee stepped in to replace original helmer Terence Nance.
The moment in question involved Pepe and actress Greice Santo, and was modelled after the iconic cafe scene from Casablanca. Le Pew was cast as a bartender hitting on Santo’s character, who winds up getting a taste of his own medicine when she slams him into a chair, pours a drink on him and even slaps him for good measure.
LeBron James and Bugs Bunny then show up looking for Lola Bunny and Pepe gives them the information before revealing that Penelope Pussycat has filed a restraining order against him, while he’s also told by the basketball star that he shouldn’t be touching other Looney Tunes without their consent. Admittedly, the entire thing sounds incredibly bizarre from start to finish.
Not only that, but according to Santo’s spokesperson, the actress is said to be upset that the scene was cut from Space Jam: A New Legacy, after she’s publicly spoken out about sexual harassment in the past and she was happy to do be involved because Pepe got his comeuppance and then some. While it was omitted long before Pepe Le Pew became the target of online fury, it’s still noteworthy that even animated characters aren’t immune to having their historical behavior placed under the microscope.