There’s been a lot of discussions recently on “Cancel Culture,” and for the most part, I’ve kept my opinions to myself. In some instances, I understand why. Dumbo’s murder of singing crows, for instance, is clearly racist and I understand why a company geared toward children would take it down. I think most headlines were inflammatory on the subject because if you read the article, they are only removing it from children’s profiles. You can still access it in the adult Disney programming and if you want you can watch it with your children, along with The Aristocats and Peter Pan, and make it not just a recreational moment but a teachable one and explain to them why the depictions are not okay.
Today we learned that Pepé Le Pew would be eliminated from the upcoming movie Space Jam 2, but Speedy Gonzales would not. In some aspects, I can see why Monsieur le Pew would be axed from the movie with is misogynistic ways, and merciless hounding of Penelope Pussycat. As a victim of sexual assault, and as a woman who has experienced this type of behaviour first-hand from aggressive men, I can see how his character would be seen as “normalizing rape culture.” However, according to Fatherly[i], “Le Pew’s scene, which was reportedly going to speak on the importance of consent in all romantic encounters, was cut from the movie long before,” these previous cancellations or before an article written on Monsieur le Pew’s bad behaviour was written in the New York Times. This still hasn’t stopped everyone from getting their knickers in a twist about this or voicing their opinion on the subject (like me).
The fact that Monsieur le Pew was axed and Señor Gonzales was not, does bring up some issues for me. I don’t think there is any difference between how Speedy Gonzales is portrayed, in comparison to, let’s say, the Siamese cat in the movie The Aristocats. Both are caricatured versions of ethnicity, which if you look at Speedy’s cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez (aka Tranquilino/Lento), there is a perpetuation of the idea that all Mexicans are slow and drunk and character uses a gun to help him be more effective where Speedy has his quickness. It seems there is abundant enough reason to eliminate him (not that I’m supporting this, only arguing this), as much as there is reason to eliminate Pepé. However- and I think this is important- why are we not making this a teachable moment for children? Why has it become so much easier to vanquish literature, or characters from this existence or hide it up on a shelf somewhere, where children can’t access it until they are adults? It feels like our children would get so much more out of this if adults/parents/grandparents/teachers, could take a time-out and explain why this may have been portrayed in the way it is, and why it is wrong and why we shouldn’t do that in the future?
I say this with a parents’ experience raising four girls to adulthood. We watched all the movies in question and my husband and I took the time to explain to them why each scenario was harmful and hurtful. I feel that if we raised our children with that “it takes a village,” kind of mentality, that there would be no need for “cancelling” anything. It seems like they are taking the choice from parents in some aspects, but with rampant disrespect of people and culture and women, there is a part of me that understands why. If we can’t unite and agree as a collective that racism is unacceptable, or that misogyny won’t be tolerated, and that no-means-no, then the problem becomes more about who we are, then about what we are cancelling.