Gabriel Iglesias is a comedian his fans know as Fluffy. While he’s most well-known for his hilarious standup, audiences will soon be hearing his voice as the famous character Speedy Gonzalez from Looney Tunes in the upcoming Space Jam 2. Or will we? Cancel culture has come for Speedy Gonzalez many times. If it comes for the character again, will it come for the comedian as well? Gabriel Iglesias tweeted about this after a recent New York Times article.
The New York Times article centered around the Dr. Seuss Books that were recently pulled from the shelves. In the middle of the article, the writer mentioned several stereotypes he witnessed while growing up. Specifically, about Gabriel Iglesias’s character, he said, “Speedy Gonzales, whose friends helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans.” Which wasn’t much, but does bring the focus back on Speedy.
But is Gabriel Iglesias wrong to be concerned about cancel culture someday coming for him and his character? That may not be such a stretch. Cancel culture has been an issue for Speedy Gonzalez long before we had popularized the term. In 1999, the Cartoon Network would only air Looney Tunes episodes with the character late at night, when kids wouldn’t be watching. The thinking was that Speedy Gonzalez may be beloved, but that if we’re going to do something about racism, we shouldn’t show racist depictions to children specifically. The people at the network said that they were not HBO and Cartoon Network was not the place.
There was a lot of pushback to pulling Speedy Gonzalez from the air—from the Latino American community. Organizations came together and ran a “Free the Mouse” campaign. The conversation around Gabriel Iglesias’s character has always been unique. Speedy was first created in 1953. He was drawn with a big sombrero and a thick Mexican accent. He was heavily depicted with Mexican stereotypes for the time by white American creators for a white American audience. The voice actor at the time was Mel Blanc, of Russian-Jewish heritage. Blanc also voiced many of the other characters. Even with all of this background, there was more to the character than first met the eye. Speedy Gonzalez was always managing to outsmart the other characters. He was funny and quick-witted. And he became popular with Mexican-American audiences and Mexican ones for his clever antics.
In 2016, we were supposed to see a movie centered on Speedy. While that didn’t happen, it would have brought a lot of attention to the character. This was long before Gabriel Iglesias became involved with the project, and voice actor Eugenio Derbez was chosen for the role. At the time, he told Deadline, “In Mexico we grew up watching Speedy Gonzales. He was like a superhero to us, or maybe more like a revolucionario like Simón Bolívar or Pancho Villa.”
With so many Latino voices proud of Speedy Gonzalez, it leaves audiences unsure what to do with some of the clearly racist considerations made in his creation. Will cancel culture come for the fastest mouse in all of Mexico again? Or will the new movie with Gabriel Iglesias manage to make big changes on this one? The creators have already faced some heavy decisions in this area. They changed Lola Bunny from the way she was drawn in the original film. She won’t be as sexualized. Pepé Le Pew won’t be appearing in the movie, due to controversy surrounding his character.
We’ll have to wait to see how audiences react to their new take on Speedy. Space Jam: A New Legacy is set to release in theaters and on HBO Max July 16, 2021.