On the heels of the report that a number of Dr. Seuss books have been pulled by the published due to racist caricatures, the cancel culture has turned its stink-eye to Looney Tunes. In particular, renowned skunk Pepe Le Pew has been singled out for canceling, due to his overly-aggressive actions toward unwilling females.
First of all, let’s say up front that it’s pretty silly that we’re talking about cartoon characters. On the other hand, kids (and some adults) learn behaviors from cartoon characters, which is the reasoning why Pepe has been cut out of the Space Jam sequel (hadn’t heard about that? Lucky sod).
And second, cartoon or not, sexually aggressive behaviors are not acceptable in today’s more enlightened society. When Pepe was created, however, those behaviors were much more tolerated by society. Pepe was based on a combination of a Maurice Chevalier movie character, and a staffer at Warner Brothers studios who couldn’t accept the fact that women at the studio weren’t into him. This was the middle of the 20th century, and aggressive male behavior was the norm in American society.
Today’s norm is clearly different: Behavior like that is no longer tolerated. Everyone gets that (we hope). And so naturally we don’t want to have anything to do with despicable characters who—
Okay, hold on. This is the problem with cancel culture gone too far. Sure, if you’re talking about a person (or character) that acts counter to social norms, ostracization is an option. But a person’s (and even a character’s) attitudes don’t have to be locked in stone. A person (and even a character) can change. A healthy society should want to help its citizens who want to become better people, not run them out of town on a rail. And seeing a person (or character) learn from their mistakes and act properly may be—no, it clearly is a better image and lesson for others than shunning them and acting like they don’t exist.
So, I submit that cutting Pepe Le Pew from future movies, commercials, television, whatever, is not the best thing to do with the character. Instead, we should see a modern, enlightened Pepe, capable of hanging out around pretty girls and acting like a perfect gentleman (or, at least, still randy but polite about it), and his old friends happy to be hanging with him instead of trying to label him a loser and ditch him.
Because throwing an undesired person away is easy. Supporting that person and helping them to change for the better is much harder… but it’s worth the effort, especially when you’re talking about a friend, or anyone who’s life is worth something.