Despite starring in the original ‘Space Jam’ film back in 1996, Pepe Le Pew – the French striped skunk who’s constantly on the quest for love – will not feature in the upcoming sequel. 

The overly-flirtatious skunk has been criticised by New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow who claims the character irresponsibly enforced inappropriate behaviour.

“Some of the first cartoons I can remember included Pepé Le Pew, who normalised rape culture,” he writes.

He adds, “Speedy Gonzales… friends helped popularise the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans; and Mammy Two Shoes, a heavyset Black maid who spoke in a heavy accent.”

He also points out how the fictional skunk kisses girls repeatedly, without their consent and against their will. The skunk goes so far as to lock “a door to prevent her from escaping”.

“This helped teach boys that ‘no’ didn’t really mean no, that it was a part of ‘the game’, the starting line of a power struggle. It taught overcoming a woman’s strenuous, even physical objections, was normal, adorable, funny. They didn’t even give the woman the ability to SPEAK,” he explains.

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According to Deadline, the character will not be appearing in Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Despite the rumours circulating, the decision reportedly had “nothing to do” with the columnists recent remarks in spite of the remarkable timing.

A hybrid live-action animation scene between Jane the Virgin’s Greice Santo and Pepe Le Pew was shot in June 2019, but has now been scrapped.

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A spokesperson for Santo 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. 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.”

Space Jam: A New Legacy is set to hit screens on 15 July 2021.

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