AceShowbiz - Pepe Le Pew has been sidelined in "Space Jam: A New Legacy". The controversial cartoon skunk is reportedly not featured in the upcoming live-action/animated sports comedy film following a debate about the character normalizing rape culture.
Deadline reported that a hybrid live-action animation scene between the French skunk and actress Greice Santo, which was shot back in June 2019, was left on the cutting room floor. The said scene was filmed under the direction of Terence Nance, before the helmer left the production.
When Malcolm D. Lee took over the helming duty, he decided not to include the scene and the character was never animated for the live-action footage which was shot. According to sources who saw a rough cut three months ago, they didn't see any kind of cameo by the skunk.
Based on the description of the scene, it was going to address Pepe's disturbing behavior. The said scene was reported to feature Pepe in a black-and-white Casablanca-like Rick's Cafe sequence, where he's portrayed as a bartender. Pepe is depicted as making unwanted advances on a woman played by Santo. He begins kissing her arm, which she pulls back. She then slams Pepe into the chair next to hers, pours her drink on Pepe, slaps him hard and sends him spinning in a stool, before it's stopped by LeBron James' hand.
In the scene, Pepe also tells James and Bugs Bunny that Penelope cat has filed a restraining order against him. That's when James reminds Pepe that he can't grab other Tunes without their consent.
Santos, who has been a victim of sexual harassment and has spoken out against it, is left disappointed after learning that the scene was cut, because Pepe is going to get his comeuppance in it. Her spokesperson told Deadline, "This was such a big deal for Greice to be in this movie. Even though Pepe is a cartoon character, if anyone was going to slap a sexual harasser like him, Greice wished it would be her."
The spokesperson added, "Now the scene is cut, and she doesn't have that power to influence the world through younger generations who'll be watching 'Space Jam 2', to let younger girls and younger boys know that Pepe's behavior is unacceptable."
While noting that the removal of the skunk has nothing to do with the allegations that the character added to rape culture, Deadline also reported that there are currently no plans to feature Pepe on current Warner Bros. TV series or in future Looney Tunes projects.
Pepe came under fire after New York Times published an op-ep criticizing the skunk as a character who "normalized rape culture." Charles M. Blow, who wrote the piece, said he was targeted by right-wing blogs for calling out the cartoon skunk.
"RW blogs are mad bc I said Pepe Le Pew added to rape culture," Blow tweeted. Doubling down on his opinion, he pointed out, "Let's see. 1. He grabs/kisses a girl/stranger, repeatedly, w/o consent and against her will. 2. She struggles mightily to get away from him, but he won't release her 3. He locks a door to prevent her from escaping."
"Space Jam: A New Legacy" is set to be released in theaters and HBO Max simultaneously on July 16.