Space Jam Sequel Cuts Scene Featuring Love-Obsessed Skunk Pepé Le Pew: Reports
Pepé Le Pew will reportedly not be making an appearance in Space Jam: A New Legacy.
The LeBron James-fronted animated/live-action-combo sequel to 1996's Space Jam, that starred Michael Jordan, will not see the return of the love-obsessed French skunk, known for his incessant pursuit of fellow Looney Tunes character Penelope Pussycat.
According to multiple outlets, including Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter, Pepé Le Pew was scrapped from the film after initially being written into the storyline over a year ago. Deadline reports that a scene between the skunk and Jane the Virgin's Greice Santo didn't make it into the final cut of the film.
The outlet further reports that the exchange between Santo — who, according to Deadline, was disappointed with the decision to cut the scene — and Pepé Le Pew involved the skunk hitting on her and kissing her arm before having a drink poured on him and, then, being slapped by Santo.
"This was such a big deal for Greice to be in this movie," her spokesperson told Deadline. "Even though Pepé is a cartoon character, if anyone was going to slap a sexual harasser like him, Greice wished it would be her."
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The spokesperson continued, "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 Pepé's behavior is unacceptable."
Warner Bros. has not commented publicly on the reasoning behind Pepé Le Pew's reported absence from the film.
The news comes after New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote in a Wednesday opinion piece that he believes the character, first introduced in 1945, "normalized rape culture."
After sharing a clip featuring Pepé Le Pew and Penelope Pussycat from an old Looney Tunes cartoon, Blow wrote on Twitter Friday that he believes the images "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 added.
Pepé Le Pew's absence from the new film may, for many fans, echo a decision made last year to eliminate Elmer Fudd's signature weapon in HBO Max's reboot, Looney Tunes Cartoons.
"We're not doing guns," executive producer Peter Browngardt told The New York Times in June. "But, we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in."
"We're going through this wave of anti-bullying, everybody needs to be friends, everybody needs to get along," Browngardt added. "Looney Tunes is pretty much the antithesis of that. It's two characters in conflict, sometimes getting pretty violent."
As for Space Jam: A New Legacy, Entertainment Weekly gave a first look at initial images of the movie — directed by Malcolm D. Lee, produced by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and also starring Don Cheadle — last week.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is set to hit theaters and HBO Max on July 16.
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