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Linda Jones tells EW she hopes "the essence of the character might be carried into something that's more acceptable now."

By Omar Sanchez and Nick Romano
March 09, 2021 at 05:59 PM EST
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Linda Jones, the daughter of the late Pepé Le Pew creator Chuck Jones, is speaking out after it was revealed that the character didn't make it into Space Jam: A New Legacy and a New York Times op-ed argued Pepé contributed to rape culture.

In an interview with TMZ, Jones said she "strongly disagrees with the notion the suave skunk contributed to rape culture" and "doesn't think anyone who ever watched Pepé was inspired to go out and rape, or even harass, people," the outlet wrote.

Jones spoke with EW Tuesday to provide more context. She said her father was a compassionate liberal man who originally made the Pepé cartoons for an adult audience getting ready to watch their movie at the theater on the weekend back in the '30s and '40s — back when a reel of cartoons and trailers would play in front of a movie and never be seen again. Jones likens Pepé to a Charles Boyer-type, a popular French actor at the time who became famous playing prototypical suave characters.

Pepe Le Pew
Pepe Le Pew has been under fire.

In the cartoons, Pepé is seen aggressively pursuing Penelope Pussycat, who Pepé mistook for a female skunk. Jones points to Pepé being fooled by Penelope's white stripe on her back.

"There's a difference between the decision to identify these cartoons as not being appropriate now, and that they contributed to the rape culture then," she reasoned.

Jones, 83, said she has no problem with Pepé being scrapped from the Space Jam movie, though, adding that she's an advocate of being sensitive to these kinds of issues seeing as she's been through a lot herself working her way up as an executive of her own company.

Jones added that she believes it's the prerogative of Warner Bros. to sideline Pepé if they see fit, but hopes that they can bring back the character in another form or fashion down the line.

"The essence of the character might be carried into something that's more acceptable now," she said.

EW confirmed this week that the decision to exclude Pepé from the new Space Jam, after a scene had already been planned but not fully animated, was made a long time ago and not as a result of the New York Times piece. The studio also updated the look of Lola Bunny in the new film as to depict her in a less sexualized manner.

The New York Times had published the op-ed last week in which the writer named Pepé among childhood characters who "normalized rape culture." Speedy Gonzales was also mentioned as having "friends" who "helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans."

Gabriel-Iglesias, the voice actor behind Speedy Gonzales on the new Space Jam, responded to the Times op-ed with humor.

"I am the voice of Speedy Gonzales in the new Space Jam," Iglesias tweeted on Saturday. "Does this mean they are gonna try to cancel Fluffy too? U can't catch me cancel culture. I'm the fastest mouse in all of Mexico."

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