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Pepe Le Pew, and Many Others

The other day, I wrote a post about the Potato Head controversy. I don’t plan to write too many like this, but these stories are a mix of entertaining and infuriating, and there are more serious points underlying them.

Charles Blow is a columnist for the New York Times, who ordinarily writes about political issues, from what I’ve seen, though I don’t read the NYT, partly because of their paywall, and mostly because of their terrible coverage of Hillary Clinton for decades, culminating in the headline, “New emails jolt Clinton campaign in final days.” There were no new emails, they were duplicates; and the NYT and every other outlet which jumped on this, was played by the Giuliani faction of the SDNY. And then there was Maggie Haberman writing, “Looky here! I just received my advance copy of ‘Clinton Cash’!” That was a book full of lies, as many have pointed out. And then of course Maureen Dowd, the veritably insane person who has pursued Hillary like one of the Eumenides. That is more than enough to disqualify them, though they may have some good journalists in there somewhere

So Charles Blow said a day or two ago that he thinks that Pepe Le Pew cartoons have contributed to “rape culture,” because “they teach little boys that ‘no’ does not mean ‘no.'” For those who do not know Pepe Le Pew, he was a cartoon skunk, a minor character in the Warner Brothers cartoons which featured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck (my favorite), Elmer Fudd, and many others.

I think that Pepe Le Pew, who spoke with a French accent, and was amorous and effusive, might have been a little parody of Charles Boyer in some of his early movies, but I don’t know for sure. Anyway, his one cartoon attribute was that he would pursue various cartoon animals, saying things like, “Oh, mon cheri, I will cover you with kisses!” And he would try to kiss or embrace them. This was so fanciful and unserious, on a line with Wile E Coyote trying to blow up the Roadrunner, among other destructive plots, that no one could have taken it seriously, or thought that somehow this was modeling behavior.

Most significantly, the target audience of the cartoons, children, ordinarily had no interest whatsoever in the opposite sex, much less kissing any of them I never liked Pepe Le Pew in the cartoons, because he was a one-track character, and not funny or clever. But of course I knew that he was a parody, just like Yosemite Sam was a parody of a prospector, and Elmer Fudd a parody of something or other. And he never had an iota of the popularity of Bugs or Daffy or Foghorn Leghorn or Tweety Bird. Gosh.

But Blow saw fit to write this. One might think that he was mocking the various recent cultural controversies, but he was serious. He even wrote that some have reacted negatively to his earlier comments, so he expanded on them, with a picture of Pepe Le Pew trying to kiss a cartoon cat. Some laughed at this, some agreed with Blow. noting that Pepe made it impossible for the cat to get out of the room. We may have further entries from him, as he fights to…get these cartoons banned? He can’t punish the skunk, because he is a cartoon skunk. He can’t punish the people who made the cartoons, because they are not around. All he can do is either try to ban the cartoons, or just extol himself as a champion who is fighting against bad things in the culture, and calling them out wherever he sees them.

He could go after Yosemite Sam, for modeling reckless use of firearms. Yogi Bear for modeling stealing of people’s property. He could criticize Warner Brothers for having two characters with apparent speech impediments, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. Come to think of it, Sylvester the Cat didn’t speak eloquently, either. Tennessee Tuxedo kept trying to escape from his zoo. Mr. Magoo was nearsighted. The various cartoon characters sometimes blew up or stole things, set traps, and would lie to avoid being blamed. For better or worse, many of those entries in the “golden age of cartoons” were irreverent and edgy.

I really liked Warner Brothers cartoons as a young boy, and I liked some of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons. I even watched Popeye cartoons with my younger brother, where every one was the same: Bluto would knock Popeye about 80 feet in the air, and Popeye would somehow manage to pull out his can of spinach, and then be strong, and pick Bluto up and throw him a few miles, and then puff on his pipe and sing his little ditty. Maybe that modeled love of violence in young children? Possibly, but very doubtful. And there is violence of all sorts in the superhero cartoons, maybe Blow should look at them, too.

I suppose that anything could influence perceptions and behavior. I suppose that we could carefully examine all of them, all the books, all the movies and shows, to see if there is something in there which we do not like. Of course, that begs the question as to who are the ‘we”? Who is going to be the arbiter of what is acceptable and what is not? The Church? The Catholic Decency League? The Hays Code? Joseph Breen? Charles Blow? What books and shows and paintings will be banned?

Could Blow have any legitimate point? I know that cartoons have been charged with being overly violent, and inuring people to it. But I do not think that cartoons aimed at 5-8 year olds contributed to what Blow describes as rape culture. Someone did mention to him about rap music, what kind of attitudes has that engendered? People are apt to have blind spots when it comes to condemning any form of art, or maybe it’s not that, it is just not convenient to be consistent.

It is not as that I am saying that we can’t look at these kinds of things, but I guarantee that if one had that mindset, he or she could find questionable content in virtually anything. Questionable to them, at least, or the era that they live in. It is a version of witch-hunting. If carried to its logical extension, it would result in the censoring or banning of 90% or so of artistic content, and its replacement with pabulum, or something resembling the 17th Century English Morality Plays, where characters were named Gluttony or Sloth, Grace or Faith; and the audience knew exactly how they would act, and the same religious morality message was repeated over and over.

There really aren’t that many choices with regard to artistic freedom vs. censorship, we can go along one path, or the other. Charles Blow apparently chose his preferred path–unless he just wanted the attention. If not that, then we can anticipate the next cartoon or book or movie or song or painting which he wants removed because he thinks that it models bad or criminal behavior, or indoctrinates people into it.

The day after the Biden stimulus package passed…

… Judean People’s Front plan another insurrection…

Apart from pulling us out of the Great Depression, giving us social security, Medicare, the voting rights act, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Medicaid, etc, etc, etc, what have the DEMOCRATS ever done for US?