We learned recently that Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon skunk that loves to sexually harass women, won’t be making it into Space Jam: A New Legacy. This may not come as such a surprise as regardless of the fact that he’s an antagonist, a children’s cartoon character that gropes nonconsenting women is bound to attract controversy in 2021. But, in an interesting twist, it turns out that a scene was shot with Jane the Virgin‘s Greice Santo featuring the character that’s been left on the cutting room floor.
According to a report from Deadline, the scene would have been a parody of Casablanca with Le Pew as a schmoozing bartender who begins hitting on Santos’ character. After he kisses her arm, Santo slams Le Pew down into the chair, pours her drink over him and gives him a hard slap. It’s at this point that Le Bron James’ and Bugs Bunny show up, with Le Pew explaining that he’s had a restraining order filed against him by Penelope Pussycat, followed by James pointedly telling the skunk that he cannot grab women without their consent.
Though the live-action portion of the scene was filmed, it was decided relatively early on that Le Pew wouldn’t make it into the movie and he was never animated. But that Santo, who has campaigned against domestic violence, isn’t happy. A spokesperson for the actor explained that:
“This was such a big deal for Greice to be in this movie. Even though Pepe is a cartoon character, if anyone was going to slap a sexual harasser like him, Greice wished it would be her. 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 Pepe’s behavior is unacceptable.”
It’s a fair point and, as many have explained out, Le Pew is obviously intended – even in his heyday – to be a critique of sexually aggressive men. I’m with Greice on being annoyed about this as it sounds like this could have been a great opportunity to show younger audience members the best way to deal with harassment.
Warner Bros hasn’t commented on Le Pew being cut, though judging by this it’s safe to say they’re wary of any controversy around the movie. Either way, it seems that this character is firmly on ice, with no plans to include him in any upcoming Looney Tunes shows or movies.
Space Jam: A New Legacy lands on theaters and HBO Max on July 16, 2021.