Space Jam: A New Legacy has “canceled” Pepé le Pew. You might assume a kids’ movie dropping a character whose sole characteristic is his desire to molest female characters without their consent is an unequivocally good thing, but it’s actually more complicated than you might think.
According to Deadline, Pepe’s scene did, of course, feature the skunk forcibly kissing a woman, specifically live-action actor Greice Santo, who then poured her drink on Pepé and slapped him. This was to be followed by Pepé revealing his perennial victim Penelope Cat has filed a restraining order against him, and star LeBron James informing the skunk he “can’t grab other Tunes without their consent.”
Believe it or not, Warner Bros.’ decision to omit a scene featuring the skunk from the upcoming Space Jam sequel came before last week’s New York Times op-ed from Charles M. Blow, which discussed examples of variously problematic kids’ entertainment of the past, including Pepé. Deadline reports Pepé’s scene was shot by the film’s first director, Terence Nance, and it appears to have been dropped sometime after Malcolm D. Lee took over in July 2019.
The scene is neither fun nor funny, which is presumably why it’s been dropped. However, it could have potentially been an important teaching moment in a movie that’s going to be watched by tens of millions of children around the world. In one sense, not giving such a historically problematic character screentime is a good thing, but in another, Warner Bros. had an opportunity to correct that history in Space Jam 2 by making a very pointed statement on consent. Then again, there are plenty of other fantastic animated series these days that do cover important topics such as this on the regular.
Curiously enough, it doesn’t seem like there will be any other opportunities in the future for Pepé le Pew himself to learn the lesson—the Hollywood Reporter says Warner Bros. has no plans to include the skunk character in any capacity in any future Looney Tunes projects. If anyone wants to get completely up in arms about their rights to watch animated skunks sexually assault animated cats, it’s worth noting that all the Pepé le Pew cartoons are still perfectly available on HBO Max with all the other Looney Tunes cartoons, and also Pepé le Pew fucking sucks and has never ever been funny no matter what he’s doing.
Space Jam: A New Legacy—written by Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, and Terence Nance—will release theatrically and on HBO Max on July 16.
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