Controversial Warner Brothers character Pepe Le Pew has been cut from the upcoming basketball sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy. The cartoon skunk has been embroiled in controversy since columnist Charles M. Blow of New York Times slammed the character because he “added to rape culture”.
Pepe was a member of the Tune Squad in the original 1996 film and was set to appear in the sequel. However, it has been reported that scenes involving the stinker have been cut, including a Casablanca-like, Rick’s Cafe scene.
The scene had been previously filmed by the original director Terence Nance, who was later replaced by Malcolm D. Lee. Under Lee’s stewardship, Pepe was eliminated from the sequel and will no longer feature.
The removal comes amid controversy following New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow suggesting Pepe “normalized rape culture”. However, the removal is not believed to be connected to Blow’s remarks, as the decision was made some time ago.
Pepe was allegedly set to appear as a bartender in a black-and-white Casablanca-like Rick’s Café scene hitting on a woman at the bar. He kisses the woman’s arm, which she pulls back, slamming Pepe into the chair. She then pours her drink on him, and slaps him hard, sending him spinning in a stool.
Looking for answers on the whereabouts of Lola Bunny, LeBron stops the chair to question the skunk. Pepe then continues to tell LeBron and Buggs that Penelope Cat has filed a restraining order against him. James makes a remark in the script that Pepe cannot grab other Tunes without their consent.
The lady in the bar was played by Jane the Virgin actress, Greice Santo, who is said to be upset over the scene with Pepe cut. Being a victim of sexual harassment, the singer-actress has spoken out on the matter. Santo also recorded debut single “Você Você” in 2018, with multi- Grammy-winning producer Humberto Gatica. The song was created to empower women to stand up to sexual predators and sexual harassment.
With other various backgrounds on the matter, Santo took joy in shooting the scene with Pepe, because the skunk finally gets his comeuppance. A spokesperson for Santo told reporters of Deadline this “was such a big deal” for actress.
“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 behaviour is unacceptable.”
Katie Pavlich said the scene cut from Space Jam reprimanded Pepe for his behaviour. The news anchor said instead of showing people a lesson, they are just simply erasing it “rather than teaching people about the lesson of personal space”.
As well as cutting Pepe from scenes, Lee promised that Lola Bunny will not be “sexualised” in the upcoming sequel of the 1996 hit. Lee, who only watched the original film for the first time in 2019, was caught off guard by the “very sexualized” depiction of the female character.