Today we added Pepe le Pew to our cultural icons. As it happens, Pepe, the amorous French skunk of Saturday morning cartoons past, shares a homophonic name with an ancient Egyptian ruler, Pepi. But that may be where the similarities end (I really don’t know enough about the ancient Egyptian ruler yet to say definitively). But I do know that Pepe is a scoundrel! He’s obnoxious, aggressive, manipulative, and French! I didn’t remember much about Pepe except his irrepressible nature. Yet, somehow, even as I was reintroduce to his more toxic personality traits today, I still found him plain funny. My daughter was not as easily amused.
Now, that you’ve seen all that is Pepe from one of his classic cartoons, were you shocked to see his aggressive antics? I was. Were you amazed that he would try to manipulate Kitty by pretending to kill himself? I was. Were you wondering, “When are they going to speak English?” My daughter was.
It’s funny that I don’t remember being irritated or confused that they spoke French. I didn’t remember that he acted violently toward Kitty, or that he pretended to kill himself to gain her sympathy. I only remembered that he was all over Kitty when he thought she was a skunk and then wanted nothing to do with her when she looked like a drowned rat. I also remember that he enjoyed his own company very much: “You know – it’s possible to be too attractive.”
Although many sensibilities about what is good for children have changed, I’m not sure that’s such a good thing.