Cartoon character Pepe Le Pew has been cut from LeBron James’ Space Jam sequel.
The Looney Tunes cartoon character, depicted as a lovestruck French skunk, appeared in the original 1996 movie, which starred basketball icon Michael Jordan and featured a mix of cartoon animation and live-action.
However, Pepe’s not returning for the follow-up, titled Space Jam: A New Legacy, which is set to hit cinemas in July, according to Deadline.
Editors at the outlet report that a scene featuring Pepe was filmed when Terence Nance served as director on the flick, but was cut when Malcolm D. Lee took over.
In the black-and-white scene, Pepe plays a bartender who begins kissing the arm of a woman at the bar, played by actress Greice Santo. She then pours her drink over the cartoon character and slaps him across the face. James admonishes Pepe and tells him that he can’t make romantic advances on women without their consent.
A representative for Santo told Deadline she was upset to learn her scene with Pepe had been cut.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
The cartoon character was also recently criticised by The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, who claimed Pepe “added to rape culture.”
There has also been an outcry over the redesign of the character Lola Bunny after Lee said her appearance in the first Space Jam movie was “not politically correct”.
“Lola was very sexualised, like Betty Boop mixed with Jessica Rabbit. This is a kids’ movie, why is she in a crop top? It just felt unnecessary,” the director told Entertainment Weekly.
– Cover Media