We are in the middle of a culture war. Cartoons are being attacked by people who are re-framing them in ways that suggest that they are the baddest of the bad. That they should be banished from our culture. One of these cartoon characters is Pepe Le Pew.
I’d like to deconstruct Pepe Le Pew in a different way. A Mythic Way.
Who is Pepe Le Pew?
If you come at Pepe Le Pew as a character in a story, with that story as a mythic story, you might find that what we’re seeing is a character with layers and hidden meanings.
Pepe is Unconscious
Pepe is someone who doesn’t see reality. He doesn’t see that his perceived love is a cat. He doesn’t see that she doesn’t want him. He doesn’t see that he’s a major annoyance to her, that he’s overstepping his bounds.
Everything that happens is put through a filter that lets him see what he wants to see. “She’s so coy!” And then he doubles down on his pursuit.
Pepe doesn’t live in reality.
Pepe is Delusional
Pepe believes that he is the World’s Greatest Lover. That he can have anything he wants. That all he needs to do is keep trying and he will achieve his goal. That actually, he’s achieved it already.
He doesn’t see himself for what he is.
Even his name is a clue. “Le Pew” or “The Stinker”.
Pepe Wants What He Shouldn’t Want
He’s going after a cat! He’s so unconscious and deluded that he’s going after a cat! What skunk, in their right mind, would go after a cat? All he sees is that white stripe and he goes into action. He doesn’t even see her.
Pepe is a Dumbass
He is so unconscious and deluded that he goes after something he should never get, the love of a cat.
When he finally wins, by wearing that poor cat down, he finally sees he shouldn’t have gone after her in the first place and now he has to deal with the fallout, getting away from the cat he so desperately chased in the first place.
Why We Laugh
We don’t laugh at his chasing the cat. We don’t laugh at her angst over being chased by a stinky skunk. We don’t laugh at his aggressiveness.
We laugh because we all know that person. We all know Pepe Le Pew.
We all know that person who is so self-delusional and unconscious that they go after the wrong person, the wrong job, that drug, fame, or power.
We all know the person who always has a crazy idea for a business or product.
We all know people who are certain that this time they’re going to be the winner at the casino. And we shake our heads when they lose their home.
We all know the kid who wears down the parents asking for something they shouldn’t have and getting it.
We all know of that actor who wants to be a leading man or woman, but who will never be because they look like a cross between Steve Buscemi and Betty White.
We all have watched those train wrecks waiting to happen.
Pepe is a French character, but if you’ve ever been to Europe, especially the Mediterranean countries, you know that just by looking at a guy, they can become encouraged to pursue you with the fervor of a chocoholic denied their drug of choice for over a week.
It seems to be human nature.
We’re told to never quit trying. That the only real failure is to give up.
If you fail to get that job, you ask them, “What do I need to do to be in the running for this job?” Heck, if you’re really smart you found this out in an informational interview long before you applied!
Dating is often the same way.
I know that my first response to a guy asking me out is probably not the real response. I like to get to know him first before I decide. I appreciate it if they tell me, well in advance, “I’m thinking of asking you out.” That gives me time to think about it first.
That’s true for a lot of women and men. Is it any wonder that many people don’t believe that “no means no”? That the “no” of today might change to the “yes” of tomorrow?
You keep trying. That’s what us humans do.
Sometimes people are so unconscious and deluded that they don’t know when to stop. They go after the wrong things. They go too far.
And that’s Pepe Le Pew.
Pepe Le Pew is a dumbass, and we get to feel superior because we see that.
And that’s why we laugh.
Story and Myth
Story, especially Myth, is often a way to communicate things that are sometimes hard to understand. Or are used to communicate ideas and teach in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re being taught.
There’s always an underlying meaning or message, if it’s a good story.
Little Red Riding Hood teaches us to be careful when we are alone, especially in the woods, and to be aware of our surroundings so we’re not taken in by the Big Bad Wolf. Or that Salesperson.
Hansel and Gretel teach us that taking something being offered that we really want doesn’t always lead us to the good life. It can destroy you.
The Emperor’s New Clothes teaches us to not believe the brownnosers. They will lead you astray. You must use your brain.
I watched an old Loony Toon’s cartoon yesterday. I don’t remember the name. It was about a cat that was so spoiled that it didn’t know it was a cat. After being left alone by a fed-up butler, it found out it was a cat but didn’t know how to be a cat. When the mice found out, they took advantage of the situation by telling the cat that the dog was actually a mouse, and that it’s the cats natural food. Well, you can imagine how that went over.
What’s the message? Know thyself. If you don’t, you will be taken advantage of by your enemies.
Loony Toons is filled with these types of messages. Loony Toons is a great life teacher.
Pepe Le Pew teaches us to be more conscious, more aware of reality, and to be less of a dumbass.
I find myself discouraged by the movement to “fix” all of these historical cartoons, these historical stories, these historical myths. How far is this going to go?
I fear the loss of the teachings of these stories. Many children are so protected, they’ll never learn these lessons. At least until they’re in the real world. I’ve met many shocked young Millennials.
History has already happened. It can’t be fixed. It can’t be changed. And it certainly can’t be denied. To do so is to invite it to repeat more than it already repeats.
History is to be learned from. Story, in all of its forms and times, is to be learned from. Myth, in all of it’s forms is to be learned from, and cherished.
I implore everyone to please, please, stop it! Instead, find something to accomplish that can have real value.
Pepe Le Pew, I miss you!