Deadline - He starred in the first Warner Bros. Space Jam movie back in 1996, however, Pepe Le Pew will not be showing up at all in the upcoming theatrical sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy on July 16.
With the Looney Tunes French skunk besieged by controversy in the wake of New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow slamming that the cartoon character “added to rape culture,” Deadline has learned that a hybrid live-action animation scene between Jane the Virgin actress Greice Santo
and Pepe Le Pew, shot back in June 2019 for Space Jam 2 was left on the cutting room floor. ...
Pepe was set to appear in a black-and-white Casablanca-like Rick’s Cafe sequence. Pepe, playing a bartender, starts hitting on a woman at the bar played by Santo. He begins kissing her arm, which she pulls back, then slamming Pepe into the chair next to hers. She then pours her drink on Pepe, and slaps him hard, sending him spinning in a stool, which is then stopped by LeBron James’ hand. James and Bugs Bunny are looking for Lola, and Pepe knows her whereabouts. Pepe then tells the guys that Penelope cat has filed a restraining order against him. James makes a remark in the script that Pepe can’t grab other Tunes without their consent.
Upon learning that her scene with Pepe was cut, Santo was upset according to her spokesperson. The actress-singer has been a victim of sexual harassment and ... even has a non-profit, Glam with Greice, which aims to empower victims of domestic violence to change their lives for the better. Santo took joy in shooting the Space Jam sequel scene with Pepe, because the skunk finally gets his comeuppance.
Let me see if I've got this straight. Sometime between whenever they were making Looney Tunes, let's call it the 1950s, and 2019, someone at Warner Brothers figured out what I knew when I was six years old. That Pepe Le Pew sucks. He's a one joke character who in every episode got all Frenchy and cross-species sexually aggressive with a black cat who, in the opening minute, would accidentally get a stripe of white paint down her back. Not understanding sexual aggression at the time, I didn't hate him for that. I hated him for the much more relevant reason to a first grader. He committed the unpardonable sin of being painfully funny. And for making me wait another 10 minutes for a Daffy Duck, who was objectively hilarious.
So realizing that schtick wouldn't work any more, the producers of "Space Jam 2" made the decision to turn the joke back around on the horny little bastard. To go all meta and put a modern twist on it. Update it for the post Harvey Weinstein world. Which is good writing. And they had the good sense to cast an outspoken #MeToo activist to be in the scene. The audience gets the joke. Greice Santo gets to deliver a message to got along with comedy. Lebron gets a punchline. Everybody wins.
But somehow between June of 2019 and today we've decided, what? That you can't make that joke? Even if it means cutting the actress out of the movie altogether. Even though the joke isn't that a horny French rodent trying to bone an unwilling, paint-stained cat is funny, but the opposite. The butt of the joke is what was considered funny 70 years ago no longer is. Where's the harm there? Because the bit is sexual harassment adjacent? Who's going to be offended by that? I mean, somebody will because somebody is offended by literally everything. But if we eliminate every gag in every movie to protect the delicate sensibilities of people who miss the point of the joke, we might as well just quit making comedies altogether. Let's just stick with somber Frances McDormand dramas and give up on trying to make audiences laugh.
2021: When even making fun of a smelly, cartoon, anthropomorphic, heavily accented Franco weasel is banned. The comet can't get here fast enough. At least we'll always have Dave Chappelle's take on him.