Pepe Le Pew will not appear in the forthcoming Space Jam sequel, amid claims that the Looney Tunes character “normalised rape culture”.
Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring LeBron James, originally featured a scene in which the animated French skunk harasses a young woman at a bar.
The scene, according to Deadline Hollywood, then saw the woman slam Pepe into a chair in retaliation, before pouring a drink over him and slapping him.
The scene was reportedly cut from the film last year, but criticism of the character has surfaced in recent days. In a comment piece for The New York Times last week (3 March), columnist Charles M Blow wrote that Pepe Le Pew “normalised rape culture”.
The character, who has historically been depicted as sexually harassing women, has been criticised before, with comedian Dave Chappelle calling him “a rapist” in a 2000 stand-up special.
In a new statement, a spokesperson for actor Greice Santo, who appeared in the cut Space Jam 2 scene with the character, condemned its removal.
“This was such a big deal for Greice to be in this movie,” the spokesperson told Deadline. “Even though Pepe is a cartoon character, if anyone was going to slap a sexual harasser like him, Greice wished it would be her. 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 behaviour is unacceptable.”
The Independent has reached out to Warner Bros for comment.
Space Jam: A New Legacy, which will be released in the UK later this year, will also feature a new version of the character Lola Bunny.
Director Malcolm D Lee said last week that she will not be as “sexualised” as she was in the original 1996 film.
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