Linda Jones, daughter of Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones, is speaking up about the controversy over Pepe Le Pew. According to a new report from TMZ, Linda Jones stated that she "strongly disagrees" with a recent NYT op-ed, which suggested that Pepe Le Pew's relentless pursuit of Penelope Pussycat reinforced certain aspects of rape culture. Linda Jones reportedly counters that notion by saying that people who watched the lothario skunk character never took away a message that harassing let alone raping people. Jones reportedly went so far as to point out that Pepe Le Pew never raped anyone in any of his cartoon shorts, and doesn't deserve to be canceled and kicked out of Space Jam 2.
Like so many other Looney Tunes fans, Jones argues that while societal changes certainly make Pepe Le Pew's antics look bad by modern standards, the point of the cartoon was never to glamorize his actions. Reportedly, Jones says the cartoons were more about "how much he stunk as a suitor, despite thinking he was desirable." Jones also reportedly admits that watching Pepe Le Pew through the lens of modern society makes him look like he's breaking all kinds of rules about consent.
At the same time, Jones points out that modern audiences need to remember that in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the societies of those eras were not likely to associate Pepe Le Pew with rape, consent, or any of those thoughts - which were very much not part of the social discourse at that time. So many of Chuck Jones' Looney Tunes characters were inspired by real-life pop-culture figures, themes, and trends of the times the cartoons were made in; Pepe Le Pew always seemed like a clear spoof of the ideas of romantic pursuit in films and TV - particularly European media. It also doesn't take much research to learn that Chuck Jones modeled the character after a colleague named Tedd Pierce, who (somewhat delusionally) thought himself a ladies man who was able to engage women.
And therein lies the irony: Pepe Le Pew is arguably one of the earlier callouts that society is plagued by self-styled lotharios who never quite get the message that they're creepy and unwelcome. So canceling Pepe Le Pew may ironically be punishing one of the only characters of his time to raise such awareness. If there is one criticism of Pepe Le Pew that's worth discussing, it's probably the character's implied commentary on European (particularly French) men.
As of now, a scene with Pepe Le Pew has been cut from Space Jam 2, and Warner Bros. is reportedly scrubbing the character from any future Looney Tunes content on HBO Max and other platforms.