NEW YORK — A New York Times columnist has called out Looney Tunes cartoon character Pepé Le Pew, claiming in a tweet and an op-ed that the amorous French skunk has “added to rape culture.”
Columnist Charles M. Blow wrote an op-ed piece for the Times on Wednesday, reacting to the banning of six books written by children’s author Dr. Seuss. On Tuesday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that it will stop publishing “And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs” and “The Cat’s Quizzer,” The Associated Press reported. The books were banned because of racist and insensitive imagery in the stories.
In his opinion piece for the Times, called “Six Seuss Books Bore a Bias,” Blow, who has written about politics, social justice and vulnerable communities since joining the newspaper in 1994, added that some of the classic Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons produced by Warner Bros. during the 1940s and 1950s also contained racial stereotypes.
“Some of the first cartoons I can remember included Pepé Le Pew, who normalized rape culture; Speedy Gonzales, whose friends helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans; and Mammy Two Shoes, a heavyset Black maid who spoke in a heavy accent,” Blow wrote.
Blow’s column also comes in the wake of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s apology after three women accused him of sexual harassment.
The passing reference to Pepé Le Pew, a character that chased felines he often mistook for female skunks, raised some hackles on Twitter.
Blow fired back in a tweet Saturday morning.
“Right-wing blogs are mad because I said Pepé Le Pew added to rape culture,” Blow tweeted. “Let’s see. 1. He grabs/kisses a girl/stranger, repeatedly, without consent and against her will. 2. She struggles mightily to get away from him, but he won’t release her. 3. He locks a door to prevent her from escaping.”
In a follow-up tweet, Blow added that the cartoon stereotype “helped teach boys that ‘no’ didn’t really mean no, that it was a part of ‘the game,’ the starting line of a power struggle. It taught overcoming a woman’s strenuous, even physical objections, was normal, adorable, funny. They didn’t even give the woman the ability to speak.”
Comedian Dave Chappelle pointed out a similar observation in one of his routines.
Blow’s op-ed was criticized by some people on social media, who said it was another example of “cancel culture.”
“Who had ‘Pepé Le Pew getting canceled for being a rapist’ on their 2021 Bingo card?” one person wrote on Twitter.
Another Twitter user predicted Thursday that when people “defend a cartoon French skunk with consent issues,” it is “going to be the best, dumbest day on the Internet.”
Another tweet made the comparison between the French skunk and the “Coming 2 America” sequel starring Eddie Murphy.
“Racism must be exorcised from culture, including, or maybe especially, from children’s culture,” Blow wrote in his op-ed. “Teaching a child to hate or be ashamed of themselves is a sin against their innocence and a weight against their possibilities.”