January 6, 2015

Nostalgia Time: 6 January 2015

Last year I highlighted a bunch of anniversaries for pop culture-related characters, films and TV programmes. I figured it was worth continuing it this year, only in a more standardised column - so please enjoy Nostalgia Time, your semi-regular guide to the geek-related anniversaries of 2015.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Warner Bros cartoon character Pepé Le Pew, who made his film debut on this day back in 1945. In Odor-able Kitty, a ginger cat attempts to turn the tables on his tormentors by disguising himself as a skunk and thus frighten away all of the bullies who make his life a living hell. Unfortunately his disguise attracts the attention of a French-accented amorous skunk named  Pepé Le Pew, who spends the six-minute short making unwanted romantic overtures towards the panicked cat.

It's an odd cartoon in the context of  Pepé's canon of animated shorts, because it's the only time that his attentions are directed towards a male character instead of a female. The remainder of his career, another fifteen shorts between 1947 and 1962, was spent harassing female cats (and one female dog).

Oh the harassment. Oh the cultural stereotypes. At the time I'm sure Pepé was seen as an entirely harmless comedic character, but 70 years of cultural development has left him somewhat on the outer. He is a walking sexual harassment lawsuit: never taking no for an answer, never leaving women alone, refusing to stop courting them no matter how worked up or terrified they become. It's still possible to enjoy the Pepé Le Pew shorts in historical context, but it is increasingly difficult to find them very funny. And that's before you tackle his ridiculously stereotypical French accent and personality. Goodness knows what the French actually think of him - they probably show the same gentle disdain towards him that the Swedish show towards The Muppet Show's Swedish Chef.

 Pepé still makes the odd appearance in television animations and advertisements, and certainly still has some cache in Warner Bros merchandise. One of his shorts, For Scent-imental Reasons, even won an Academy Award (Chuck Jones' first). Oh, but how he's dated - that's no surprise, though. If I was 70 years old I'd be pretty dated too.

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