Looney Tunes character Pepé Le Pew is raising controversy on social media this weekend, although many users are tired of the debate. The New York Times published a column by Charles M. Blow this week about racism and bigotry in children's media in general, including Pepé's cartoons. While many people have heard this criticism before, others are reacting as if it's the first time.
Blow's column was about the prevalence of racist imagery and stereotypes in children's media in general, going back to the early-20th century. It was written in response to Dr. Seuss Enterprises' announcement that it would stop publishing six of his old books. Blow mentioned Pepé Le Pew off-handedly, but it became the center of the conversation later when he tweeted that "[right wing] blogs are mad" about the charge. Now, the whole issue is being re-litigated online, and many people on both sides of the issue are wondering how productive the conversation really is.
The idea that Pepé Le Pew promotes rape culture in his cartoons is far from new. The salacious skunk has been criticized for decades, yet every time the question comes up it is treated as a brand new revelation. Many social media users felt exhausted by its latest iteration, wondering how this could be up for debate.
Others thought that it was distracting any politically-minded people from discussing more pressing matters, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people tried to steer the conversation towards something more actionable, with mixed success.
These days, Pepé Le Pew is a rare sight in Looney Tunes productions, appearing with different motives if at all. Still, the conversation around his history rages on. Here is a look at what people are saying about Pepé Le Pew in 2021.
dave chappelle pointed out pepe le pew’s behavior over 20 years ago
come up with new material, twitter pic.twitter.com/acFuxee47K— ✪ daniel barnes ✪ (@Danny8bit) March 6, 2021
Many users pointed out that the Pepé Le Pew date is at least two decades old at this point. One of the most popular iterations of the problem was in Dave Chappelle's 2000 stand-up special Killing Them Softly on HBO.prevnext
Who had “Pepe Le Pew getting canceled for being a rapist” on their 2021 Bingo card? pic.twitter.com/apggrcANiZ— NUFF (@nuffsaidny) March 6, 2021
Of all the debates people expected to have online in 2021, re-hashing Pepé Le Pew caught many by surprise. The old bingo card meme format emerged again here as well.prevnext
People are dying, losing homes, hungry and yall worried about a damn Pepe Le Pew pic.twitter.com/DkZaZK6VD8— DKT (@darleneturner53) March 6, 2021
*Sees discourse on Pepe le Pew and Speedy Gonzales* pic.twitter.com/dw7niY0yce— 🌹🌺🌲🧢Comrade Manhattan⚒🏴🚩 🔮 (@Gero4568) March 6, 2021
Many critics argued that those discussing Le Pew are engaged in performative politics, when they should be more worried about the pressing issues of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recession.prevnext
1-Pepe is an animated skunk (hint).— Siri Sans Souci (@siristone) March 6, 2021
2-He never rapes the cat.
3-It’s an exaggeration of love at 1st sight.
4-Part of the humor is how the cat is going to get the white stripe to make her a female skunk-Pepe le Pew only falls for his own species.
5-Get a life.Turn off the TV.
The pro-Pepé arguments were generally consistent, claiming that the cartoon is harmless. Many also resisted criticizing them considering that they are old and are no longer being made.prevnext
I don't know if Pepe Le Pew normalized rape, but a generation of teen/adult entertainment made jokes about men spying on/feeling women against their will: M*A*S*H*, Superman, Caddyshack, Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Porky's, Stripes, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club.— JRehling (@JRehling) March 6, 2021
Some users shared other potentially offensive productions from the last few decades to fuel either side of the argument. This soon exceeded the realm of cartoons and tackled movies, sitcoms and just about every other corner of pop culture.prevnext
10 years ago, WHICH REALLY isnt that long ago, AT&T released this adorable ad with Pepe Le Pew and his girlfriend Penelope. YEP REALLY PROBLEMATIC. GET A LIFE pic.twitter.com/TQlFE68jvt— CavArts (@LooneyTunin63) March 6, 2021
The most recent iterations of Pepé Le Pew were generally the most confusing for this weekend's arguments. Many were not even aware of the changes in the skunk's dynamic.prevnext
First they came for Potato Head and I said nothing. Then they came for Dr. Seuss and I said nothing. Now Pepe Le Pew...— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) March 6, 2021
One day we’re going to cancel Pepe Le Pew and conservatives are going to defend a cartoon French skunk with consent issues.
It’s going to be the best, dumbest day on the internet.— Amanda Smith (@AmandaRTubbs) March 5, 2021
Finally, many posts simply marveled at the absurdity of having a Pepé Le Pew debate at all in the year 2021. With so much more to worry about and so little new information to go on, the whole thing struck many as a bizarre distraction.prev