Has Pepé Le Pew become the latest victim of cancel culture? These are the type of questions we are being forced to answer in the digital age, as outraged “fans” of Mr. Le Pew have loudly voiced their displeasure online over the fact that he is being cut out of Space Jam: A New Legacy due to criticism of the cartoon skunk’s character in a recent New York Times article. The only problem? That’s not what actually happened. Here is what you need to know (to be fair, we’re using the word “need” pretty loosely in this case).
Like any great lie, there are kernels of truth to be found in the story of Pepe Le Pew being removed from Space Jam for being problematic. It is true that the character had a scene in the Space Jam sequel that did end up being cut from the film. And it is also true there was a recent New York Times article where Charles M. Blow briefly criticized the character in passing, arguing that Pepe Le Pew’s entire schtick of mercilessly and aggressively hitting on Penelope Pussycat “normalized rape culture.”
However, these two truths have absolutely no connection to each other, as Deadline confirmed that Le Pew’s removal from the film had nothing to do with Blow’s article. In fact, Le Pew’s scene, which was reportedly going to speak on the importance of consent in all romantic encounters, was cut from the movie long before the article was published.
The reason for Le Pew’s removal isn’t explicitly stated but it’s suggested that the change was made when director Malcolm D. Lee was brought in to replace Terence Nance. But of course, none of those facts have stopped people from viciously blaming The New York Times for ruining a movie that they haven’t even seen yet.
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