Looney Tunes lover Pepé Le Pew is facing criticism for behavior which New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow argues "normalized rape culture."
In an op-ed titled, "Six Seuss Books Bore a Bias," Blow addressed the racism and sexist stereotypes that exist in children's content. Among the content that Blow found problematic were Pepé Le Pew and Speedy Gonzales.
For those unfamiliar, Pepé Le Pew is a French skunk on a constant quest for love. His stories often involved an aggressive and relentless pursuit of a female black cat (retroactively named Penelope Pussycat). Penelope would often find herself getting an accidental white paint stripe on her back, leading Pepé to mistake her for a skunk.
“Some of the first cartoons I can remember included Pepé Le Pew, who normalized rape culture; Speedy Gonzales, whose friends helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans; and Mammy Two Shoes, a heavyset Black maid who spoke in a heavy accent,” he wrote.
Naturally, Blow's column was met with a mixed response which ultimately led to Blow doubling down on his initial stance. On Saturday, Blow tweeted the following in defense of his original claim:
Blow isn't the first person to call out Le Pew's problematic behavior. Comedian Dave Chapelle has a popular skit in which talked about children's cartoons and pointed out a similar problem with Le Pew's actions.
Warner Bros. hasn't responded to Blow's op-ed, but the company has previously taken steps to update the portrayals of its classic cartoon characters. Last year, the company made the decision that Elmer Fudd would no longer carry a rifle.
“We’re not doing guns,” said Peter Browngardt, executive producers of the rebooted Looney Tunes series, told the New York Times. “But we can do cartoony violence – TNT, the Acme stuff.”
With the Looney Tunes making a comeback through a rebooted series on HBO Max, it will be interesting to see how Warner Bros. handles Pepé Le Pew. It's also possible that the company could cancel the character completely and scrub any past episode featuring the skunk from its catalog.