Space Jam: A New Legacy has already generated its fair share of buzz amongst fans, but now, one of the actresses involved with the film is upset with the removal of an incredibly problematic Looney Tunes staple. Jane the Virgin actress Greice Santo, who plays a role in the belated sequel, is annoyed with the studio’s decision to exclude Pepe Le Pew from the movie.
According to Deadline, Santos saw the Space Jam 2 scene she shared with the pervy skunk as an opportunity to fight back against sexual assault and harassment. One of Santo’s spokespeople told Deadline:
“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. 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 behavior is unacceptable.”
If you still need more details before you can paint a clearer picture of what exactly is going on with this Space Jam 2 scene, fret not. The scene in question reportedly played out like this:
Pepe Le Pew shares a black-and-white, Casablanca-esque scene with Santo, who is playing a patron to Le Pew’s aggressive bartender. Le Pew, exuding all the creepiness we have come to expect from him, hits on Santo and begins kissing her arm. Santo pours her drink on him and slaps him, hitting him so hard that he spins in a stool until LeBron James grabs him.
Malcolm D. Lee took the reins from Space Jam 2‘s original director, Terence Nance, back in July 2019. That was when all kinds of news regarding the film was breaking, include confirmation of Don Cheadle’s involvement. It was Nance who initially shot the animation/live-action hybrid scene, and it was Lee who ultimately decided that Pepe Le Pew would not be a good fit for the sequel. Probably a good move, honestly.
This latest bit of news comes less than a week after New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow published his searing comments on what Pepe Le Pew has always represented. Saying that the skunk “normalizes rape culture,” Blow made a point to call out the character’s negative impact on popular culture.
People have been discussing Space Jam: A New Legacy for quite a while now (pretty much since it was announced, really), and with the recently released stills from the movie making their rounds online, the hype for the film has never been more feverish. If nothing else, fans of the first film are curious to see how (and if) Malcolm D. Lee and his crew can improve upon the 1996 original. Many already have their thoughts about how they think the film will turn out, but it is best to reserve judgment until it releases. Hopefully, it is more than worth the wait. Fingers crossed!
Circling back to the character in question: It is difficult to imagine Pepe Le Pew resonating with modern audiences in Space Jam 2, especially because he is an alarming character in pretty much every respect. He has pretty much always been this way, too. It is time to leave this problematic character in the past and move forward in a way that allows for more progressive characters and concepts to shine. Here’s to hoping that happens sooner rather than later.
Space Jam: A New Legacy hits theaters and HBO Max simultaneously on July 16, 2021.