You know, I’ve been eagerly awaiting new leadership in the United States. For the past four years, we’ve had a bonafide sex offender in the White House, embarrassing and humiliating Americans around the globe. Donald Trump is, without a doubt, someone who truly ought to be canceled. This is a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. In his first divorce trial, his first wife Ivana described a disturbing incident in which he forced himself on her sexually. And there are COUNTLESS accusations from women over decades accusing Trump of molesting them. One disclosure famously came from a woman named Katie who claims that she was raped by Trump as a teenager at Jeffrey Epstein’s house of horrors. Just today, in my Facebook memories, there was an article from 2017 about some of the horrible “rapey” things Donald Trump has said.
Thank God Trump didn’t win a second term in the White House. I know a lot of people are upset about it. I’m sure many of those people don’t believe the dozens of women who have accused Trump of assault. Even though Trump has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself, these folks are doggedly still supporting him. And he’s still in the news as he does what he can to run decent Republicans out of office so he can hijack the party and turn it into Trumpism.
We should probably be focusing on getting rid of Trump. We should be focusing on getting rid of COVID-19. But what are a surprising number of people upset about right now? Pepe Le Pew. They say he needs to be canceled because he’s “rapey”.
When I was growing up, I used to watch the French skunk on Saturday morning cartoons. The running gag was that the amorous skunk wanted to make sweet love to a cat (a pussy)? He’d grab her and snuggle with her, kissing her without consent, not taking “no” for an answer, and being relentless in his pursuit of her.
I’m not saying this is behavior anyone should be modeling. As a kid, Pepe’s cartoons weren’t my favorites. I didn’t like the Road Runner either, or Speedy Gonzales. I was more of a fan of The Flintstones, Tom & Jerry, and Bugs Bunny. But I never thought of Pepe Le Pew as “rapey”. I always figured the pussy cat didn’t want to get with him because he stank. As I got older, I forgot all about him. But now Pepe’s in the news, mainly because The New York Times ran an op-ed by columnist Charles M. Blow entitled “Six Seuss Books Bore a Bias”.
Blow’s column was in response to the recent decision by the company that publishes Dr. Seuss’s books that six titles would no longer be made available because they include “racist and insensitive imagery”. In a statement, a spokesperson said that the six offending books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Blow was cheering on the decision, and in his piece, had referenced cartoons that a lot of us had grown up with, saying they had promoted ideas that were wrong. From Blow’s op-ed:
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.
A lot of people are upset that six of Dr. Seuss’s books are going to go out of print. Many people bemoaned “cancel culture”. To be honest, I am personally not a fan of cancel culture myself. I am uncomfortable with whitewashing history, burying language, and political correctness run amok. However, I think it’s absolutely fine to recognize that some relics of the past are hurtful and stop highlighting them in popular culture, and I don’t think the decision made by the publishers of Dr. Seuss’s books is necessarily “cancellation”, per se. I think it was more likely a business decision.
However… I do think it’s absolutely crazy that people are calling for Pepe Le Pew, a cartoon character from decades ago, to be canceled. I really do. Because we’re talking about a fucking cartoon character, not a real person. Less than three months ago, a legitimate sex offender was running the country and influencing the free world. Many people are still cheering him on. He almost won a second term in office. Why the fuck are we up in arms over a cartoon skunk from the 1940s?
It reminds me of a classic George Carlin rant from the late 1980s, in which he went off about all of the ludicrous inconsistencies in American culture. In the above clip, he reminds us that gun shop owners have a list of stolen credit cards, but not a list of criminals and maniacs. And he adds, “now they’re thinking of banning toy guns… but they’re gonna keep the fuckin’ real ones!”
That rant was from 1988, and I can remember watching 90s and 00s era shows like 7th Heaven, in which the characters Ruthie and Simon aren’t allowed to play a game called “Baboom” or play with toy guns, and yet look at all of the shootings we’ve had since the late 1990s! To be sure, having grown up in a relatively innocent time, never having had to confront a security guard at school and seeing my classmates bringing their hunting rifles on school grounds, we didn’t worry about random acts of violence like we do now. And yet in those days, people weren’t trying to cancel things because they were politically incorrect. Or, at least a lot fewer people were trying to do it.
Does cancel culture really work? I don’t know that it does. I think it makes some things “forbidden fruit”. I’ll bet the six Dr. Seuss books that are no longer going to available are in high demand on eBay and Amazon now. In fact, last night as I was looking for something to watch, I noticed one of the trending shows on iTunes was a show that highlighted Pepe LePew’s cartoons! I haven’t thought or cared about Pepe LePew in probably 40 years. But suddenly, he’s relevant again, because people are calling for him to be “canceled”.
I honestly think a lot of the reason why so many conservatives are resistant to liberal ideas is because a lot of liberals come across as heavy handed, all knowing, and insulting. Which is not to say that the conservatives aren’t guilty of the same thing. Read any article about abortion, women’s rights, or the rights of LGBTQ people and you’ll read a lot of insulting, heavy handed, and just plain offensive conservative opinions. But liberals do the same thing, shaming conservatives for liking things like Pepe Le Pew, or The Dukes of Hazzard, or certain books by Dr. Seuss. At the same time, they tout themselves as being better people and look down on those who don’t agree with them. They show no willingness to understand why some people agree with conservative views. Instead, they simply mock them, and the conservatives respond in kind, and we have an “us versus them” situation. No understanding is ever reached; therefore, we can’t be open-minded and come together to accomplish things that will make the country better for EVERYONE. To me, it makes no fucking sense.
I’ll be honest, too. I’m a lot less concerned about certain offensive words and symbols than I am the dangerous and influential people behind those words and symbols. I grew up watching racist cartoons on a Christian television station. I was once a dedicated fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. I grew up in a place where people proudly displayed the Confederate flag. I even went to graduate school in a place where that flag flew over the Statehouse and I could see it from my window… at least until it was finally removed from the dome in 2000 and removed from the Statehouse grounds fifteen years later. I’m not saying it wasn’t time for the flag to come down. I’m not even saying that it’s wrong for the Confederate statues to come down. But I think the outrage some people have over those symbols is way out of sync with the real causes of the problem– that is, dealing with the negative attitudes and stereotypes that promote them. It’s a lot easier to cancel inanimate objects, though, than it is to deal with real people who make those items relevant.
In my view, someone like Donald Trump should have NEVER been allowed to run for president, for the very fact that he bragged about molesting women, was sued for racial discrimination, and has a long history of being a fucking creep. Put it this way. If he were going for a regular government position, he wouldn’t pass muster. He wouldn’t be able to get a security clearance. And after the attacks on the Capitol in January, we can see why he wouldn’t. But instead of STOPPING Trump and his cronies, we’re spending precious time and energy talking about Pepe Le Pew and Dr. Seuss. It’s ridiculous!
Look… at this point, I simply want things to get to a point at which we can have some semblance of peace and normalcy. I want to be able to go downtown and not worry about getting deathly ill. I want my husband to be home with me. I want my president to be a normal person who cares about the people he’s (or she’s) serving. I want to be able to go to a concert or a mall sans face mask, and without worry that someone will randomly shoot me. I want to be able to seek healthcare without worrying about going bankrupt. It would be nice if I could find a job with a living wage, if I needed to. I want all of those things for everybody else, as well.
ALL of those things are a hell of a lot more important to me, personally, than Pepe Le Pew’s rapey tendencies circa 1945. I don’t remember reading a lot of Dr. Seuss’s books when I was a child, although I do distinctly remember reading “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”, which was included in a book of stories I inherited from my older sisters. I was influenced by all kinds of questionable things in the media that many people worry will warp kids and ruin them. I’ll be honest. Having been around for going on 49 years, I don’t think this practice of canceling words, symbols, books, movies, tv shows, music, and cartoon characters has done anything to keep kids from being more fucked up than they were in my adolescence. If anything, I think things have gotten markedly worse than they were back then. Maybe we should rethink trying to change people’s beliefs and thoughts and do more to make life better and more fair for everyone… and keep narcissistic rapey assholes out of the White House, rather than banning fictional French cartoon skunks who sexually harass cartoon cats… Hey, at least Pepe wasn’t biased against different species, right? He has that going for him.