Pepé Le Pew got another subtle snub from Warner Bros. this week on HBO Max. The streaming service now has user icons available for family members to distinguish their unique viewer profiles. While several Looney Tunes characters are options, Pepé Le Pew was not.
Pepé Le Pew has been a figure of active controversy for nearly a month now on social media, with many critics saying that his old cartoons perpetuated rape culture and some defenders arguing otherwise. Fans have been on the lookout for anything to indicate that the skunk is "canceled," and this new sleight did not escape their notice. HBO Max's new batch of character icons includes Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird, Tazmanian Devil and Marvin the Martian — but not Pepé.
Admittedly, there are dozens of characters in the Looney Tunes pantheon that were not included in this new batch of user icons — let alone all the characters under the Warner Bros. umbrella. The new icons also included renderings of DC Comics superheroes and villains, Hanna-Barbara characters and more. However, the recent controversies have Pepé fans particularly vigilant, so this absence is notable.
Pepé Le Pew has been a controversial character for decades now. The observation that his lovestruck schtick was not harmless goes back to before arguments about "political correctness," yet for some reason, the argument has found fertile soil in 2021. This latest iteration began when Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to stop publishing six of the author's old books.
At that time, The New York Times published a column by Charles M. Blow, where he mentioned Pepé as just one of several examples of children's media that bears re-examining. However, readers latched onto this criticism — familiar as it was — and Pepé has been trending ever since.
So far, the only visible damage this seems to have done to Pepé's cartoon career is his removal from the upcoming Space Jam sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy. However, according to a report by Deadline, Pepé was removed from the movie long before this new controversy sprung up, with no input from the public.
As for the HBO Max icons, there are plenty of other characters without their faces available on the streaming app. Given Pepé's absence from most Looney Tunes productions in recent years, it seems likely that the character is simply not popular enough to warrant a spot.