How Pepé Le Pew was canceled and thrown under the bus

About halfway through the live action Looney Tunes: Back in action, the camera pans across a Hollywood restaurant as stars talk about their careers. Shaggy and Scooby shake Matthew Lillard for his performance in the Scooby-Doo movieBugs chats with the WB Vice President, and at another table, Mexican cracker Speedy Gonzales and stuttering Porky Pig discuss… political correctness.

But luckily for the pig and rodent, respectively, none of them were “cancelled” like a certain black and white peer of theirs, Pepe LePew.

Cancel culture in animation

Rick Sanchez Rick and Morty
Swimming for adults

Canceling people and characters has become a worryingly hot trend in our current media-obsessed world. Instead of giving certain stars or media a second chance, people are now, for better or for worse, depressed online and will likely never work again. Take, for example, the release of the trailer for Wes Anderson’s latest film. With his all-star cast, Bill Murray, a perennial fixture in Anderson’s filmography, was nowhere to be seen after claiming he was inappropriate on another film set.


Voice actor Justin Roiland has been very publicly trashed by the animated series he worked on following abuse allegations. Elsewhere, recent paraphrases by various Dr. Seuss books now represent language that is considered more relevant and current, and quite frankly this raises an issue of censorship and the feeling of keyboard-banging lynch mobs right outside.

Also Read: Will Rick and Morty Replace Justin Roiland With Sean Dorrough?

And (ridiculously) this undoing of everything wrong doesn’t stop at flesh-and-blood people either. First they came for another Pepe, Pepe the Frog. The big-eyed, big-lipped amphibian had somehow been altered to look like Adolph Hitler and a hooded KKK member. Retweeted first-hand by Trump’s private Twitter at the time (for some reason) in support of himself, Clinton’s rival press team released a legitimate statement that read, “That cartoon frog is scarier than you might realize.”


Pepe LePew
Warner Bros.

Pepé Le Pew’s shtick was always the same. In Paris, a black cat tripped over wet paint (or something similar) causing a stripe to appear on her back and causing her to resemble a skunk. There, Pepé Le Pew, a real skunk (and heavy French stereotype), would smoke cigarettes and spend the rest of the episode pining for the girl as she denied his advances and escaped his scent in the most cartoonish way (hammers to the head, clubs, etc.).

Outcry for the character officially began on March 3, 2021 following an opinion piece by Charles M Blow in his New York Times article titled “Six Seuss Books Bore a Bias”. In it, he mentions growing up watching cartoons, including Pepé Le Pew, and how it “normalized rape culture” and, along with Speedy Gonzales’ friends, “helped popularize the scathing stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexican.”

And honestly? He wasn’t wrong, albeit for the times when the roles were reversed and Penelope Pussycat actually ended up pining for Pepé. On the other hand, one could argue that this was just Stockholm Syndrome at the time. Pepé was over sixty at the time and his stench was still there. With a new one space jam Film on the way — where the Looney Tunes would of course play a big role – something had to be done.

Space jam & foul play

Space Jam 2
Warner Bros. Pictures

Since the release of the first film in 1996, it has literally been allowed to a space jam The LeBron James sequel had since been discussed online, with fans of the first film veering off this somehow still-living original site, and not much else. The original film (coincidentally also starring Bill Murray) would be seen Looney Tunes Characters hire basketball superstar Michael Jordan to help them play a game against wannabe alien slavers. Introducing Lola Bunny, all the melodies got their fair share on screen, including Pepé Le Pew.

Sent in too late Space Jam: A New Legacy came after the first film a full 25 years later. In the meantime, Michael Jordan has completely retired and the Looney Tunes are all but forgotten from current pop culture.

Related: Best Movies Mixing Animation With Live Action, Ranking

On March 7th, before the release of A new legacymeeting reported that a scene involving Pepé Le Pew was created – and subsequently cut from the finished film. Regardless of Blow’s words, it is said to have come with the change of former director Terence Nance and his successor Malcolm D. Lee. meeting wrote the following.

Pepe should appear in black and white casablancalike Rick’s Cafe sequence. Pepe, playing a bartender, starts dating a woman at the bar who is being played by him [actress Greici] Santo. He starts kissing her arm, which she pulls back, then slams Pepe into the chair next to hers.

She then pours her drink on Pepe and hits him hard, causing him to spin on a stool, which is then stopped by LeBron James’ hand. James and Bugs Bunny are looking for Lola and Pepe knows her whereabouts. Pepe then tells the boys that the cat Penelope has issued a restraining order against him. James makes a note in the script that Pepe can’t snag other tunes without their consent.

As Deadline reports, the actress’ representative commented on the situation.

It was such a big deal for Greice to be in this movie. Even though Pepe is a cartoon character, if someone hit a sexual harasser like him, Greice wished she was. Now the scene is paused, and it doesn’t have the power to affect the world through younger generations who will be watching space jam 2, to let younger girls and younger boys know that Pepe’s behavior is unacceptable.

Other plays by women writers like Julie DiCaro and Tatiana Tenreyro echo the same message that leaving the scene is a missed opportunity to learn how to properly unite in the future. DiCaro wrote the following in her excellent piece for Deadspin.

This would have been a great lesson for Pepe, as well as the tons of kids who will be flocking to this film. What a brilliant way to educate the public about consent. And good for Penelope, she should have contacted law enforcement for help with Pepe’s stalking a long time ago.

Literally and figuratively, the character has always just kind of stunk. And if he is to be sacrificed and never seen again, then Pepé Le Pew is no loss. Following the trend of canceling fictional characters named Pepe, this hand puppet shrimp’s time just needs to pass…

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