Does Pepe Le Pew Stink?

(Warning:  some adult themes in the following post, albeit about a cartoon character…)

Striped skunk Pepe Le Pew has been kicking around as a Warner Bros. character since 1945, but to some this skunk is a male chauvinist pig and sexual predator.  With some saying that the amorous skunk normalizes rape culture, Pepe has been dropped from the sequel to Space Jam, and won’t be appearing in further Warner Bros. productions for the foreseeable future – – Sacre bleu!

Now this skunk was a one-trick pony, so to speak,  portrayed as a french character complete with accent who fancies himself highly desirable, whereas his skunk scent and unwanted advances made him in reality abhorrent to the object of his affections, usually one Penelope Pussycat, who was originally nameless.  In his classic routines, Pepe would be easily deceived into thinking that the black and white feline was another skunk once she wound up with a streak of white paint down her back.  Penelope would vigorously resist the skunk’s unwanted advances and attempt to flee from him, but Pepe could easily keep pace with her with a kind of bouncing hop classic to himself; he was truly “high on a feeling.” There were variations to this formula, but Pepe seldom abandoned his arguably predatory pursuit.


Herein lies the rub, and Pepe’s conflict with contemporary societal norms.  To the skunk, no never meant no, but resistance was all part of the game, and represented normal behavior.  It was alright for Pepe in his own mindset to persist in his unwanted aggressive physical advances, because the female was simply playing “hard to get,”  and her resistance was adorable, appealingly cute, and even amusing.  Hence, the accusations that Pepe was normalizing rape culture.  He simply grabbed poor Penelope, and tried to foist himself on her.  Fortunately, we never saw any skunk/kitty domination porn out of it, although in some dark corners of the internet you could probably find it.  Trust me on this; I’m a furry…

There was a bit more to the character as well, playing upon the stereotype that all Frenchmen were great lovers, whether they actually were or not.  Pepe certainly thought that he was, and his narcissism lent a bit of comic irony, which was part of the running shtick of the character.  He was also a skunk, and they don’t smell like roses!  Whether blinded by love or lust, Pepe in most of his cartoon outings failed to recognize that Penelope was of a different species entirely, so you had that comic misidentification  going on, a “love is blind” kinda thing.  Pepe was at core sexually frustrated in spite of his personal perspective that he was at least potentially some kind of love god, a hot item “on the make.”  He never prevailed, but he was certainly persistent, to a flaw. This is no longer considered a virtue as it once perhaps was, but now is rather a red flag of inappropriate behavior.  Pepe might today face charges for his conduct were Penelope of a litigious mind; watch out for a kitten who isn’t smitten!  Perhaps Foghorn Leghorn could defend Pepe in court…“The boy, I say, the boy was just doin’ what comes naturally, and after all, he’s French…”  

This unwanted persistence of male suitors played well generations ago at the general time of his origin, and Pepe Le Pew was certainly not the only character guilty of it.  For example, Dean Martin’s seasonal song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has also been largely dropped from favored Xmas song playlists for just the same reason as kind of an anthem of date rape. There’s a fine line between seductively sexy and creepy these days, and what was once constituted as “boys being boys” doesn’t fly well any more; just ask any number of disgraced pervy politicians, although charges stick much better to some than others, ahem! 

I’m kind of glad that Warner Bros. is dropping Pepe Le Pew rather than trying to reform him; it just wouldn’t be the same, and our skunk is after all incorrigible, a self-deceived romantic rogue whose essence would be destroyed by being sanitized.  While Pepe was a product of his time and that time is now past, I’m going to miss the lovestruck rascal even if he is politically incorrect by today’s standards…this skunk was such a dog, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, a slick if clueless anachronism and stereotype, the “locksmith of love” in love with love and himself.  The path of true love, so they say, seldom runs smooth, although hope springs eternal even while the “game of love” may for some have a baffling rule book.  As Pepe might say, “You know, it is possible to be too attractive.”  He may have been delusional, but he didn’t suffer from self-concept problems…


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6 Comments on “Does Pepe Le Pew Stink?”

  1. carycomic Says:

    In all fairness to the politically over-correct? The cartoon from which you excerpted the phrase about being too attractive did end with a case of “turn-about = fair play.” As Pepe wound up falling into a can of blue paint that both suppressed his BO and enhanced his mustelid musculature. While Mlle. Penelope had fallen into a barrel of rain water that so bedraggled her fur, she looked positively anorexic!

    It also gave her an instant nose cold. Doubly insuring no BO could waft up her nostrils! Et, voila, she wound up “bouncing” after him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • vulpesffb Says:

      Proving, I guess, that love will find a way… 🦊

      Liked by 1 person

      • carycomic Says:

        Yeah! To get even. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • vulpesffb Says:

          Ironically, it’s my understanding that Pepe’s deleted scenes in the “Space Jam” sequel would have shown him coming on to a female, and then getting his clock cleaned by her! We’ve been denied seeing Pepe get his comeuppance…

          Liked by 1 person

          • vulpesffb Says:

            I shall, how you say, miss zee “Locksmith of Love,” this swinging French love god! I mean, this skunk was Hugh Hefner in fur! I never really saw Pepe as a sexual predator, he was too incompetent for that. Rather, he was a parody of the mythos of the irresistibly suave French lover popular at the time, a kind of furry Maurice Chevalier… ooh la la, mon bebe, and all that.

            Pepe Le Pew was like a dog chasing a car. Annoying, but he wouldn’t know what to do with a “womans ” if he actually caught one… 😸

            Liked by 1 person

            • carycomic Says:

              Sad, but true. As for ironic deletion? The studio’s lawyers were probably also worried about fostering a new generation of bed-burners and Lorena Bob-it’s.

              Liked by 1 person

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