Linda Jones, the daughter of late Pepe Le Pew creator Chuck Jones, thinks the controversial cartoon skunk shouldn't have been canceled. Last week, Pepe went under the microscope when a New York Times columnist accused him of normalizing rape culture with his inappropriate behavior toward Penelope Pussycat. It was then reported that he had been totally scrubbed from Space Jam 2 and wouldn't be used in any other Looney Tunes projects at Warner Bros.
Speaking with TMZ, Linda says she "strongly disagrees" with the notion that Looney Tunes favorite Pepe Le Pew contributed to rape culture. She also firmly believes that nobody who ever watched Pepe "was inspired to go out and rape, or even harass, people." Linda goes on to add that the 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."
Describing her late father as very liberal, Linda also explains that the "purpose of Pepe was pure comedy," and that Mr. Jones was never out to hurt people. While Linda agrees that Pepe's forceful approach doesn't look good in 2021, she explains how people watching the cartoon in previous decades never thought of it this way. That might have been "wrong or ignorant" of audiences back then, but "that just wasn't the vibe, nor the intention."
As far as his removal from Space Jam: A New Legacy, Linda says it's Warner Bros.'s prerogative to take him out of the movie if they feel that the character needs a break. However, she also pitched an idea for a way to save the character by simply rebranding him. Maintaining the spirit of the idea behind Pepe, Linda says to write him as a "perpetual job-seeker who keeps getting rejected, but constantly changes up his routine thinking he's the perfect candidate."
It remains to be seen if Warner Bros. will heed this advice by giving Pepe a new gimmick, or if the cartoon skunk will remain on the shelf indefinitely. What we do know is that he won't be a part of the Space Jam sequel at all, despite having a presence in the original movie in 1996. A live-action scene filmed with singer-actress Greice Santo putting Pepe in his place was reportedly axed by director Malcolm D. Lee, and the character doesn't even show up for a cameo appearance at any other point in the movie, not even in the background.
Another controversy related to Space Jam 2 relates to Lola Bunny's redesign, with the cartoon rabbit given a new look that can be considered more family-friendly. Lee chose to alter Lola's look after watching the original Space Jam and feeling that the character was too "sexualized." As with the Pepe Le Pew news, Lola's makeover generated a lot of backlash on social media with many fans labeling the change as unnecessary censorship.
In any case, Space Jam: A New Legacy will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16, 2021. This news comes to us from TMZ.