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Who created Pepe Le Pew? Looney Tunes character slammed for 'normalizing rape culture', Internet divided

The narcissistic skunk is stirring conversations about characters like Superman and Bluto and politicians like Biden and Cuomo
Penelope Pussycat (L) and Pepe Le Pew (Warner Bros)
Penelope Pussycat (L) and Pepe Le Pew (Warner Bros)

A New York Times opinion piece argues that classic cartoon characters, such as Pepé Le Pew and Speedy Gonzales, popularized negative stereotypes and 'normalized rape culture'. 

The skanky skunk, known for chasing the skunk of his dreams (who is actually a female black cat), and kissing her arm till she flees, is back in the news, not long after Dr Seuss' books came under fire for their 'racist' and 'insensitive' imagery. NYT columnist Charles M Blow claimed in a tweet that the Looney Tunes character 'added to rape culture.' “RW blogs are mad bc I said Pepe Le Pew added to rape culture. Let’s see. 1. He grabs/kisses a girl/stranger, repeatedly, w/o consent and against her will. 2. She struggles mightily to get away from him, but he won’t release her 3. He locks a door to prevent her from escaping.” It’s true … Penelope Pussycat was often in Pepe’s clutches," he said.



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Pepe Le Pew with Penelope Pussycat (Warner Bros.)

Who created Pepé Le Pew?

Pepé Le Pew is a character from the Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, first introduced in 1945. A French striped skunk, Pepé is shown constantly to be on the quest for love. However, his offensive skunk odor and his aggressive pursuit of romance typically cause other characters to run from him. The character was created by Chuck Jones (who created many popular Loony Tunes, including co-creating Bugs Bunny) and Michael Maltese, who worked on the Merrie Melodies cartoons. Animation producer Eddie Selzer, who was then Jones' bitterest foe at the studio, once profanely commented that no one would laugh at the Pepé cartoons. However, this did not keep Selzer from accepting an award for one of Pepé's pictures several years later.

Jones wrote that Pepé was based (loosely) on the personality of his Termite Terrace colleague, writer Tedd Pierce, a self-styled 'ladies' man' who reportedly always assumed that his infatuations were reciprocated. In 'Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood', a short documentary, Jones told an interviewer, perhaps jokingly, that Pepé was actually based on himself, except that he was very shy with girls.

Pepe Le Pew (Warner Bros)

'Rape culture aimed at kids'

Fans are divided in their opinions of the narcissistic skunk. "Pepe Le Pew always got what he deserved. He never got laid and that was the point," said a tweet. "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," said another.

A Twitter user posted a video of stand-up comedian Dave Chappell, known for his poetically unfiltered and sociopolitically introspective content, talking about Le Pew. "dave chappelle pointed out pepe le pew’s behavior over 20 years ago come up with new material, twitter," they said. "Even as a kid, who grew up w/ Looney Tunes, I knew Pepe Le Pew was inappropriate & didn’t want to watch him. That he represents abuse of women society overlooks as normal. No means no & the cat made it clear she wanted nothing to do w/ his advances. It’s rape culture aimed @ kids," said another.





Pepe Le Pew with Penelope Pussycat (Warner Bros.)

'Pepé Le Pew is Dr Seuss compared to Hunter Biden'

Others called out politicians, wondering why a cartoon skunk was facing flak when real people were missing out on it. "Joe Biden has done more to perpetuate rape culture in the United States than Pepe Le Pew and it's not even close," said a tweet, while another corroborated the comment with a 2008 newspaper article, saying: "new york times reporters are giving pepe le pew a harder time than they did biden even though he's an actual rapist. here's an article describing biden being rapey *from 2008*". "Liberals are such hypocrites they absurdly claim Pepe Le Pew adds to rape culture but can't even condemn Andrew Cuomo," said another. "Pepe Le Pew is Dr. Seuss compared to Hunter Biden," quipped a Twitter user.





'Get a life, turn off the TV'

Some people wondered why such hullabaloo was being made over a cartoon character. "If anything contributes to 'rape culture' in America it's Hollywood and Rap Music. It's not Pepe Le Pew and Looney Tunes. Give me a break," said a tweet. "CANCEL CULTURE: New York Times and Twitter Mods want to cancel Pepe le Pew for trying to have his way with a cat. I still want to hear his side of the story but unfortunately, he's a cartoon skunk," said a tweet. "First they came for Potato Head and I said nothing. Then they came for Dr. Seuss and I said nothing. Now Pepe Le Pew..." added another. "If you watched a Pepe Le Pew cartoon and thought the message was “behave like Pepe Le Pew,” maybe you’re not ready for that and should instead watch shows aimed at a younger audience like Blue Clues or Dora the Explorer," noted a Twitter user. "1-Pepe is an animated skunk (hint). 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," quipped a Twitter user.






What about M*A*S*H*, Superman, Bluto?

Fans thought that the big brute Bluto from Popeye should have been under fire instead, adding an exchange between him and Olive Oil. "Forget Pepe Le Pew. Someone please explain Bluto from Popeye. Bluto: "Come here Olive Oil, give Bluto a kiss." Olive Oil: "Oh no, Bluto!" Bluto: "Fine! I'm gonna saw you in half!"" Others thought a generation of entertainment made jokes about creepy men. "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," said a tweet. 



'Does Silence of the Lambs perpetuate cannibal culture?'

"If the NY Times says Pepe Le Pew adds to rape culture, what will they say about the Coming 2 America sequel where the entire plot is based Leslie Jones' character date-raping Prince Akeem?" quipped another. "Find one... just one... rape or sexual assault where the perpetrator claimed that watching Pepe Le Pew made him think it was ok to assault women. Does Silence of the Lambs perpetuate cannibal culture, too? Some of you need to find a different (and worthwhile) hill to die on," said a tweet.



'Influenced by cartoons = mentally unstable'

Some agreed that people influenced by a cartoon aren't mentally stable. "i never once watched pepe le pew and thought rape was ok. anyone that influenced by a cartoon is not mentally stable to begin with. video games dont cause violance cartoons dont cause rape and Mexicans LOVE speedy Gonzales." The quick-footed Speedy Gonzales is not far behind, as the Internet is up in arms about how 'racist' the depiction of the fastest mouse in all of Mexico really is. "Speedy Gonzales has done more good for the Mexican community than the word 'Latinx' ever will," said another.