Complexity of Cartoon Characters

By Neha Seenarine


‘Space Jam’ is coming back to theaters, but with all sequels, the characters are never the same.

Photo from Collider

The sequel, ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ will not feature Pepé Le Pew and Lola Bunny will have a new look.

Pepé Le Pew has been removed from the film. His character promotes rape culture relentlessly with the same storyline. 

“Each begins with a cat, usually but (interestingly) not always female, getting a stripe of white paint on its back, usually (but not always) by accident,” said Jennifer Finney Boylan, journalist for The New York Times. “This makes our hero, Pepé, mistake the cat for one of his own kind — and his response to those of his own kind is always deep and passionate love. He has a curious way of expressing it, though. Even though he is French (which in the Looney Tunes world is shorthand for relentless amour), his terrible smell repulses the objects of his affection, who struggle valiantly to get away, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. “Odor-able Kitty” ends with Pepé with a chain around his ankle. “Now we are inseparable, are we not, darling?” he says. The shot follows the chain across the room to the cat, whose leg is also bound. The last we see of the pussy, she is desperately hacking away at the chain, trying to get free.”

In today’s world, Pepé Le Pew’s image of being a cartoon bachelor is not acceptable. Some may argue that audiences are too sensitive about animation. However, cartoons are created by people with a purpose. There are writers that sit down to create a character and their motives. An animated French skunk can easily be portrayed as a womanizer by simply flirting.

There is a line that should not be crossed. Critics act like sensitivity is a problem. However, the media industry should be mindful of its viewers. In a world with the ‘Me Too’ movement and the constant fight for people to be heard; there are victims who have been taken advantage of. It would be traumatic to sit down and watch a family-friendly movie that depicts rape. When the movie is over, it can leave a good or bad impact on someone.

It would be a step backward if Warner Brothers chose to leave Pepé Le Pew in the ‘Space Jam’ sequel. At the end of the day, companies have a reputation to protect. ‘Cancel culture’ is real. The internet will not hesitate to black-list industries. It is either lose the skunk or lose the company’s revenue.

The ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ controversy did not stop there. Lola Bunny is dressed appropriately for a children’s movie. However, ‘Space Jam’ fans are appalled with the lack of cleavage. 

Cartoon characters do not have to be sexy. Animated female characters like Lola Bunny are portrayed to have a fit body and be seductive to the protagonist (in this case, Bugs Bunny). She is a bunny that plays basketball, it is okay if Lola has a flat chest. 

Sex appeal does not add value to a character. For example, the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) from Marvel Comics wears a revealing costume. When the comics were adapted to live-action movies and shows, actress Elizabeth Olsen, wanted to wear clothes that covered her body when playing Wanda Maximoff.

“It’s funny because sometimes I look around and I’m just like — wow, I’m the only one who has cleavage, and that’s a constant joke because they haven’t really evolved my superhero costume that much,” Olsen told ELLE Magazine in 2018.

The Disney+ show, ‘WandaVision’, debuted a new look for the Scarlett Witch. Olsen gave input on how she wanted her costume to function. 

“She is so practical that she immediately put it on and she was like, ‘OK, I can do this move and I can’t do this move. And I need to be able to do this move,’” ‘WandaVision’ director, Matt Shakman said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight this week. “We were like, ‘Great!’ So then we have to re-engineer it because those suits are tough. I mean, it’s one thing to look amazing. It’s another thing to actually function.”

Photo from Disney+

There are more to characters besides how they look. Characters are impressionable to audiences based on their behavior. It is important for young audiences to get a glimpse of heroes projected for who they are, not how pretty they look. Young audiences should be kept away from bad influences that will taint the way they think. They are young, let them imagine the world as good and inspiring.

We are seeing a shift in the entertainment industry. Our characters representing our culture as society develops with new standards. Would you be satisfied with your favorite cartoon being rebooted to represent today’s ideals?




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *