We truly live in the stupidest timeline when children’s media is a hotbed of debate for grown adults. The latest item to get into internet shouting matches over is Space Jam: A New Legacy and its removal of serial harasser Pepé Le Pew.
For the uninitiated, Pepé is a lecherous skunk whose cartoons see him aggressively hitting on a female black cat (retroactively named Penelope Pussycat) who manages to end up with her back marked by a white stripe, causing the clueless French sleaze to mistake her for a fellow skunk. The joke of the cartoons is typically Pepé’s stupidity, both from being oblivious to Penelope’s demonstrable lack of interest and his inability to tell the difference between the two animals.
He has recently, and not without merit, been accused of glorifying rape culture, and it was assumed this was the reason for his removal. However, the horny narcissist was removed from the narrative long before he became part of the public discourse.
Filming on the project began in June last year, but a few weeks later, original director Terence Nance left the project citing the typical “creative differences” that always gets wheeled out when nobody wants to get into specifics, and was replaced by Malcolm D. Lee.
A rough cut of the film was then assembled three months ago, but the scene involving Pepé, which actually made a point of addressing his behavior as unacceptable, had been left on the cutting room floor. While it’s not clear exactly when the decision was made to remove him, it was certainly well before he was thrust back into the public consciousness.
There are several reasons that Lee could have had for dropping the scene, such as its tangential nature causing issues with pacing or the events not tonally meshing with a children’s sports film. Whatever prompted the decision, Space Jam: A New Legacy is now a target, but people should make sure they have all the facts before commenting.