Americans will have to find another credible solution to the problem of sexual assault because an upcoming cartoon movie isn’t up to the task. Deadspin suggests LeBron James and Pepe Le Pew could have educated people on the problem, but they don’t pass the smell test.
The radical Deadspin sports blog is normally a safe haven for social justice warriors like “King” James. However, it gave him no mercy over his involvement in the movie Space Jam: A New Legacy. James produced that movie and had an acting role in the film, which debuts on HBO Max and in U.S. theaters July 16. Also featured will be Loony Tunes cartoon characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Pepe Le Pew, and others.
Julie DiCaro, the Deadspin writer, castigated Le Pew, the cartoon skunk, for hitting on the ladies without their consent. “Pepe’s only fault is that the men writing the character still think it’s funny when he blows past all the stop signs a woman put up for him,” she writes. “Which makes the scene that was reportedly cut out of Space Jam: A New Legacy so tragic.”
Just to make this entirely clear, Pepe is a cartoon skunk. He’s a parody of a French lothario. In every episode, he mistakes a cat for a female skunk. Hilarity ensues. For everyone but DiCaro and other grim, oh-so-serious shrews.
Pepe was set to appear in a scene as a bartender who kissed the arms of a woman, but she rejected his advances by shoving him into a chair, doused him with her drink, and spun his chair around. Like a moment from Gillette’s toxic masculinity campaign, James stopped the stool and told Pepe he can’t grab other cartoon characters without their consent.
No one’s ever going to see this scene, though, because it was edited out of the movie. Much to DiCaro’s dismay. “This would have been a great lesson for Pepe, as well as the tons of children who will flock to this movie in droves,” she wrote. “What a brilliant way to educate the public about consent. And good for Penelope, she SHOULD have gone to law enforcement for help with Pepe’s stalking long ago.”
The problem isn’t canceling Pepe Le Pew over his sexual harassing character, DiCaro wrote. The scene could have taught kids an important lesson in a country where she says an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. (Pornography and date rape are huge contributors to this problem, but DiCaro prefers to focus on a cartoon character).
Cutting this scene is “an absolute whiff by Hollywood,” DiCaro spouted off. “And by LeBron James, who is producing the film. Why not insist a scene about consent must stay in?”
Evidently the basketball superstar who bragged last week about educating himself on social issues and who won’t shut up and dribble isn’t up on sexual abuse.
In fact, DiCaro speculated that Pepe Le Pew may harass females again in the future because Space Jam passed on a teachable moment. Pepe will one day again force himself on cats, and audiences will laugh “even though rape culture is on steroids in this country.”
DiCaro said that having someone with the stature of LeBron James educate kids about consent would have been a watershed moment for awareness of bodily autonomy. “It’s a depressingly obvious missed opportunity.”
Well believe it or not, the world doesn’t depend on James or cartoon characters for direction on the problem of sexual assault. There are many organizations doing just that, and DiCaro didn’t mention any of them.