In the midst of controversy surrounding the Looney Tunes character, it has been reported that Pepé Le Pew will not be featured in the upcoming sequel Space Jam 2. Last week, Pepé had faced renewed backlash when he was criticized among other classic cartoon characters in a controversial New York Times op-ed by columnist Charles M. Blow. Based on his inappropriate behiavor toward Penople Pussycat, Blow says Pepé Le Pew had "normalized rape culture."
Deadline reports that Pepé Le Pew, who had starred in the original Space Jam, will be absent in the sequel, but that his presence had already been axed long ago. Reportedly, the sequel's original director Terence Nance had filmed a live-action scene with singer and actress Greice Santo (Jane the Virgin) and Pepé Le Pew. When new director Malcolm D. Lee took over for Nance in 2019, he eliminated that scene entirely, and Pepé was never animated for the footage that was shot. Word is the skunk won't even be making a cameo appearance.
Per Deadline, the deleted scene would have seen Pepé appearing in a black-and-white Casablanca-like Rick's Cafe sequence. As the bartender, Pepe would start hitting on a woman at the bar (Santo) by gently kissing up her arm. She responds by slamming Pepé into a chair, pouring her drink on him and sending him spinning on a stool that is stopped by LeBron James. Pepe then reveals Penelope has filed a restraining order against him, and James reportedly says in the script that Pepé "can't grab other Tunes without their consent."
According to her spokesperson, Greice Santo is upset about the removal of her scene as "she took joy in shooting the Space Jam sequel with Pepé, because the skunk finally gets his comeuppance." A victim of sexual harassment herself, Santo's debut single, "Você Você," was inspired by the #MeToo movement and encourages women to stand up to sexual predators. In 2016, she also launched the non-profit Glam with Greice to empower victims of domestic violence.
In the NYT op-ed, Speedy Gonzales was also criticized as a character "whose friends helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans." Still, it doesn't appear that the quick-running rodent will be axed from Space Jam 2 in the way Pepé Le Pew has been. Taking to Twitter in the wake of the controversy, Speedy Gonzales voice actor Gabriel Iglacias addressed the situation and his upcoming voice role in the movie.
"I am the voice of Speedy Gonzales in the new Space Jam," Iglesias writes. "Does this mean they are gonna try to cancel Fluffy too? U can't catch me cancel culture. I'm the fastest mouse in all of Mexico."
Another big change that fans have noticed for Space Jam 2 is that Lola Bunny will have a much different look. This comes after Lee watching the original movie and feeling that the character was too "sexualized" and that a makeover was necessary.
"This is a kids' movie, why is she in a crop top? It just felt unnecessary, but at the same time there's a long history of that in cartoons. This is 2021. It's important to reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters," Lee told Entertainment Weekly. Space Jam: A New Legacy will premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16, 2021. This news comes to us from Deadline.