Twenty five years after starring alongside Michael Jordan in the original Space Jam, the Looney Tunes are preparing to lace up and take the court with LeBron James in the film's sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy. However, one familiar character will be benched for the upcoming live-action feature.
Multiple news outlets claimed the amorous cartoon skunk, Pepe Le Pew, will not feature in the upcoming film, which is slated to premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16.The reports tried to establish a link between Pepe Le Pew's recent "rape culture" controversy to the decision to drop the cartoon skunk from all upcoming Warner Bros. TV projects.
Rape Culture Controversy
Last week, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow authored an article criticizing racism and other issues in children's media in the wake of the Dr. Seuss racism row. In his piece, Blow argued that Pepe Le Pew, who is featured in several old cartoons aggressively kissing and grabbing female characters against their will "normalized rape culture."
Blow gave an example of the character's "sexually aggressive" behavior with an old cartoon clip he shared on Twitter, which shows the skunk kissing Penelope cat against her will and locking her up inside a room.
'Space Jam 2' Scene Edited Out Months Before Controversy
As pointed out by Deadline, the Pepe Le Pew scene that was removed from Space Jam 2 was filmed by the film's original director, Terence Nance. Nance left the film in July 2019 and was replaced by filmmaker Malcolm. D Lee. Under Lee's direction, the cartoon skunk was eliminated from the sequel a "while ago" and was not even animated for the live-action footage. Citing sources who raw a rough cut of the film three months ago, Deadline said they did not see any footage with Pepe Le Pew in it.
Although this confirms that the cartoon's removal from the upcoming film has nothing to do with the recent controversy surrounding the character, the scene that was edited out of the film showed the skunk making unwanted advances towards a female character without her consent.
In the scene, Pepe plays a bartender and starts hitting on a woman (played by Greice Santo) at the bar. He kisses her arm as she pulls it back, slamming him into the chair next to her. She then pours her drink on Pepe and slaps him hard, sending him spinning on the bar stool, which is later stopped by James' hand. Pepe then tells James and Bugs Bunny, who are looking for Lola, that Penelope cat has filed a restraining order against him, to which James responds that Pepe can't grab other Tunes without their consent.