As you’ve heard by now, there’s been a lot of controversy over the classic Looney Tunes character Pepe Le Pew. The character has been cut from Warner Bros. upcoming film Space Jam: A New Legacy. The news came after New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow called out the cartoon character for adding to “rape culture.”
Pepe Le Pew was created by legendary animator Chuck Jones, and his daughter Linda Jones is not happy about the character being canceled. She explains to TMZ that the character was never meant to be interpreted as a rape-y character, but “the times have caught up with him to make it seem that way.”
Linda goes on to explain that the original running gag with Pepe, was “never meant to be predatory… it was more about how much he stunk as a suitor, despite thinking he was desirable.”
She admits that it doesn’t look good with today’s standards, but insists the people “who were watching him in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s were NOT thinking of that dynamic as normalizing rape culture.”
She goes on to say that her dad “was a super liberal dude, and was never out to hurt people.” The whole point and purpose of the character was meant to be “pure comedy.” She also says Pepe “never raped another character on the show.”
Linda went on to suggest the studio rebrand the character that would capture “the spirit her father intended,” She says they should “write him as a perpetual job-seeker who keeps getting rejected, but constantly changes up his routine thinking he’s the perfect candidate.”
Pepe Le Pew always seemed like a clear spoof of the ideas of romantic pursuit in films and TV – particularly European media. It also doesn’t take much research to learn that Chuck Jones modeled the character after a colleague named Tedd Pierce, who (somewhat delusionally) thought himself a ladies man who was able to engage women.
And therein lies the irony: Pepe Le Pew is arguably one of the earlier callouts that society is plagued by self-styled lotharios who never quite get the message that they’re creepy and unwelcome.
So canceling Pepe Le Pew may ironically be punishing one of the only characters of his time to raise such awareness. If there is one criticism of Pepe Le Pew that’s worth discussing, it’s probably the character’s implied commentary on European (particularly French) men.