Pepé Le Pew was recently banned from reappearing in any of Warner Bros. cartoons and in the second Space Jam film because of his relentless, creepy pursuit of Penelope the cat. The skunk would not take no for an answer and has been tagged as emblematic of rape culture.
But this is no secret. Just ask Dave Chappelle, who was onto Pepé Le Pew more than 20 years before this conversation even started.
Chappelle was watching the cartoons with his nephew and was immediately taken aback by the skunk's behavior.
WARNING: profanity, sexual situations and reference to rape
dave chappelle pointed out pepe le pew’s behavior over 20 years ago come up with new material, twitter https://t.co/acFuxee47K— ✪ daniel barnes ✪ (@✪ daniel barnes ✪)1615056659.0
Chappelle said after asking the audience if they ever rewatched childhood cartoons as an adult:
"...I was with my nephew, sitting there watching Pepe Le Pew, and I said, 'Now, pay attention to this guy because he's funny. I used to watch him when I was little'."
"And we're watching Pepe Le Pew, and… 'Good god, what kind of f*cking rapist is this guy? Take it easy, Pepe!'"
@Danny8bit @redsteeze It's crazy how Dave's old stuff is so much better than most of his new stuff— Pietro New Jersey (@Pietro New Jersey)1615060087.0
@Danny8bit https://t.co/uPbA9lakWd— Bramslammin (@Bramslammin)1615060572.0
@Danny8bit https://t.co/95dgJgoRIJ— Kenneth McGrath 🍁 (@Kenneth McGrath 🍁)1615085153.0
@Danny8bit I'm not surprised that the NYT wrote an article about it. But I am surprised that there are a LOT of pe… https://t.co/aksE2kajju— Marcellus King (@Marcellus King)1615058392.0
Oddly, Space Jam 2 has now become an extremely volatile center for what The Washington Post labeled a "culture war."
"Such controversies over characters, comic book creator Gene Luen Yang says, speak to how powerful cartoons are. 'Cartoons are simplifications—but they simplify in order to amplify,' says Yang, the former national ambassador for youth literature."
@Danny8bit The evidence 🔑🔒👇🏾 https://t.co/GfxTXt65i7— SocialDistanceHer (@SocialDistanceHer)1615064971.0
@Danny8bit Pepe was offputting to my entire generation. I was a child and it was offputting. This latest move shoul… https://t.co/daQ9vOUeLm— Jay Neilson (@Jay Neilson)1615063611.0
@Danny8bit Yeah, they quickly corrected this in later versions of him. In "New Loony Tunes" his new theme was he's… https://t.co/qeLFWiKrhB— Underrated Classics Channel (UCC) (@Underrated Classics Channel (UCC))1615072942.0
@Danny8bit As far back as Richard Pryor, all kinds of social movements have consisted of standup comedians nailing… https://t.co/6REWSbw3Uk— Luke Maynard (@Luke Maynard)1615064418.0
@Danny8bit I cannot lie, I said this ish years ago when they were trying to enact stalking laws lol I blamed pepe l… https://t.co/t2s00JPrf6— In my defense I was left unsupervised (@In my defense I was left unsupervised)1615090231.0
Space Jam 2 also recently redesigned Lola Bunny to be less sexualized, which has caused conservatives to melt down over the loss of their "furry goddess."
"Lola Bunny's skill on the basketball court has always been a big aspect of her character," writes Carly Lane of Collider.
"So, it's fitting that she's getting a makeover to her uniform that visibly mimics her teammate LeBron James."
@Danny8bit @redsteeze I knew when I I was 5 years old that Pepe's behavior was inappropriate. Funny but inappropriate.— Clancy Poolosey (@Clancy Poolosey)1615066688.0
@Danny8bit Seriously, people are just now realizing this? I remember the damn comedic skits about the two.— Zineera (@Zineera)1615076536.0
@Danny8bit I think it did make me feel really uncomfortable and bad for the cat as a child, though.— J (@J)1615074500.0
@Danny8bit Exactly where my mind went as well! Ahead of his time!— Adam (@Adam)1615064478.0
@Danny8bit Yeah Pepe always creeped me waaaaaay out.— ACS 🧢 (@ACS 🧢)1615088748.0
Chappelle may have been ahead of his time on criticizing Pepé's behavior, but we are behind the times in addressing these problems across mainstream media.
Will society ever keep up with comedy?