The idea of an unflappable French skunk chasing after a petite feline was always offensive to the French, though even they mostly thought it was pretty funny back in 1945 (they dubbed their version with an Italian accent). But after a recent New York Times article accused Pepé Le Pew of “adding to rape culture” the Looney Tunes character was axed from the upcoming movie Space Jam: A New Legacy.
The scene in question involves Pepé falling in love with his co-star Greice Santo. When his unwanted affections go too far, Santo has to set him straight with a slap to the face. It’s a classic Pepé Le Pew trope that hasn’t aged well.
But not everyone is happy with Pepé getting canceled. After hearing of the deletion, Santo expressed her disappointment, saying:
“For me, it was so important to have this scene in a movie to inspire the younger generations, and also the older generations, so we can correct that behavior…I felt that this scene was a way to show kids that this kind of behavior is wrong.”
Her passion was so intense, a representative for Santo even offered a bounty of $100,000 for a copy of the scene, which prompted Warner Bros. to issue this statement:
“It is a crime for someone to solicit another to steal and distribute Warner Bros.’ property.”
Despite her willingness to break the law, Santos makes an interesting point. We agree that sometimes entertainment goes too far (like Birth of a Nation restarting the Ku Klux Klan in 1915) and needs to be handled like the hazardous material it is. But as cancel culture continues to swell, there’s a tendency to want to rewrite history by erasing the sins of the past (and create new sins where there are none).
This approach may lead to an overcorrection. Think about it, if we create a world void of any controversy, we may be dooming ourselves to repeat these same mistakes. Not everything can or should be viewed through the scope of today’s lens, for that in and of itself creates a narrow field of vision in which to perceive human history.
Not to mention, hitting Command+A+Delete on all bad behavior in art and culture will not prevent bad behavior in real life, just like plugging our ears when Creed comes on the radio doesn’t stop Scott Stapp from Eddie-Vedering all over the rug.
All half-baked philosophizing aside, as the firehose of cancel culture shows no signs of letting up anytime soon, let us turn our attention to ten cartoon characters we predict will one day be scrubbed from the proverbial Space Jams of tomorrow – and see how well Donald Duck’s lawyers fend off his jail time when the indictments are handed down.