Sunday, October 20, 2019

From Pepé Le Pew to progressive theologian

Today, however, I found myself contemplating another disturbing expression of violence in Looney Tunes, in this case, the sexually aggressive stalking behavior of everybody’s favorite amorous skunk, Pepe Le Pew.

According to Julia Lipmann, the stalking tropes in romantic comedies can serve to normalize abusive and threatening behavior as part of romance. It isn’t a stretch to suppose that the attitudes which may bloom in one’s teens and twenties might be seeded in one’s childhood.

Increasingly, Looney Tunes are facing a similar exile, first for the ubiquitous violence and gun violence, in particular. I would argue that the sexual violence and aggression of the Pepe cartoons has earned them a similar ignominious fate. 

i) Rauser's a progressive theologian with progressive politics to match. His hearing is attuned to progressive dog whistles inaudible to humans with normal hearing. He's on the prowl for examples of what he deems to be retrograde attitudes to demonstrate how society has improved thanks to progressive values. Of course, it's easy to come up with bad examples from the past. No intelligent social conservative thinks the past was a golden age. 

ii) But he's chosen an especially lame-brained example to illustrate his thesis. To begin with, Pepé Le Pew was never major character in the Looney Tunes canon. The major characters were the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote, and Buggs Bunny. In addition, a number of other characters were foils for Buggs Bunny. So that in itself limits any potential influence.

iii) Then there's Rauser's pansy progressive aversion to guns. Enough said. 

iv) A basic reason the cat finds Pepé's overtures repellent is…well…she's a cat and he's a skunk. Different species. So if you wish to posit a real-life parallel, a homosexual hitting on a heterosexual or a transgender whatever hitting on a normal man or women would be good analogues. Rauser's objection is ironically counterproductive to his progressive agenda.

v) But saving the best for last, the dumbest thing about Rauser's analysis is his failure to recognize the blindly obvious fact that Pepé is a satirical character designed to parody the French lover and Gallic debauchee (or Latin lover generally). Cue Maurice Chevalier. No normal boy watching Pepé Le Pew is going to think to himself, whether consciously or subconsciously, "Yeah, that's my role model! I want to be just like a lecherous skunk with a thick French accent when I grow up!" The whole point of the character is to make what it represents the object of mockery and derision. 

If you were going to criticize it on politically correct grounds, you'd object to the ethnic stereotyping. So Rauser has projected an artificial narrative onto the character that isn't remotely related to the character. 

But I do appreciate Rauser tipping his hand. He's admitted that as a boy he subliminally identified with Pepé Le Pew rather than Buggs Bunny or the Road Runner. Pepé was his childhood hero. That explains a lot about his political and theological odyssey. 


  1. Progressives are always on the prowl for a crusade to champion. They're the white knights in their own Quixotic fantasy. However I guess they're getting desperate if it's come down to attacking silly cartoons.

  2. For morbid amusement, type "is x racist?" or "is y sexist?" into google, where x or y are the most banal, inoffensive things you can think of. Prepare to be amazed.