Western Animation: Pepe Le Pew
"You know, it is possible to be too attractive!"Pepe Le Pew
is one of the more famous Looney Tunes
ever created, although he's not quite as big as some of the other 'core' cast members of the Looney Tunes
skits. He first appeared in the 1945
short "Odor-Able Kitty", although it wasn't until the 1949 short 'For Scent-imental Reasons' that the standard formula for his skits were set in stone.
Standard formula consists of the following: A female black cat (whose official name is Penelope Pussycat, although she was often called by other names until Penelope was officially decided on) somehow gets a white stripe down her back either by accident, her own means, or by someone else. Pepe, being the hopeless romantic he is, would always mistake Penelope as a female skunk and try to "woo" her, despite being unaware of how much he stinks horribly. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues
While it didn't have as much slapstick
as the standard Looney Tunes shorts (it had its fair share, as seen in 1951's "Scent-imental Romeo" and 1953's "Wild Over You," but mostly, it was a Romantic Comedy
turned on its head), it often made up with witty, often suggestive (both for its time and now) dialog. Not to say this guy doesn't have a fan following (Penelope sure does
- Odor-Able Kitty (1945):
- Scent-imental Over You (1947)
- Odor of the Day (1948, the only cartoon in which Pepé is not a "lovebird" nor does he have a French accent; directed by Arthur Davis)
- For Scent-imental Reasons (1949), Academy Award
- Scentimental Romeo (1951)
- Little Beau Pepé (1952)
- Wild Over You (1953)
- The Cat's Bah (1954)
- Past Perfumance (1955)
- Two Scent's Worth (1955)
- Heaven Scent (1956)
- Touché and Go (1957)
- Really Scent (1959): Directed by Abe Levitow with Jones' animators. The only time in which Pepé is not chasing Penelope, as she's into him from the start.
- Who Scent You? (1960)
- A Scent of the Matterhorn (1961)
- Louvre Come Back to Me! (1962)
These shorts provide examples of the following tropes:
- Abhorrent Admirer: One of the few rare male examples, and possibly the most popular when one wants to prove that not all abhorrent admirers are women who are ugly, fat, or driven crazy by love. Penelope the cat, however, is a straight example (on the occasions where Pepe gets what he deserves).
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Will a 21st century viewer be familiar with the hoary old stereotype that French people are smelly and horny?
- Not unless they look it up online or know someone who is familiar with the stereotype.
- Artistic License: Pepe is French, but striped skunks are only native to North America.
- Of course, his first appearance, assuming you count it as canon, reveals that he's actually faking the accent, and he and his wife have American accents.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: There have been several hints in recent revivals that Penelope actually does have feelings for Pepe, and most recent material to come out (such as the Bah Humduck Christmas special and the Valentine's Day commerical) seems to suggest that officially they are in fact a couple.
- Anything That Moves: So long as it's black and white striped (and even when it's not), such is the case in a lot of the modern revival Looney Tunes media, such as the DC Comics and The Looney Tunes Show (in which Pepe goes after human women). "Past Perfumance" (from 1956) is probably the only Golden Age Pepe cartoon that showed that he will still go after a cat, even after learning that she was never a skunk to start with.
- And in "Scent-imental Over You" for no real reason he actually is willing to disguise himself as a dog to return a Chihuahua's affections. "I am stupid, no?"
- Black Comedy Rape: By today's standards, thanks to Values Dissonance and Dave Chappelle's comedy piece from "Killing 'Em Softly" about how the cartoons and children's shows enjoyed when one was younger carry an unintentional dirty side when viewed through adult eyes. Otherwise, it's just a Romantic Comedy that's been turned on its head and, despite the trope name, the comedy rape is a bit more light-hearted (though still dubious thanks in part to Values Dissonance) than what's seen in other examples.
- Captive Date and Chained Heat: The end of "The Cat's Bah" where Pepe somehow caught Penelope and chained her to his ankle..
- Penelope wastes no time breaking out a file.
- Casanova Wannabe: Moreso than being a Stalker with a Crush. In fact, those two tropes go hand in hand for him. Subverted in that there are times where Pepe does get the girl, whether it's implied (as seen in the endings to "Scentimental Over You," "Heaven Scent," "Wild Over You," and "Louvre Comes Back to Me") or directly stated/shown (cf. "The Cat's Bah")
- Chivalrous Pervert: Pepe's always saving (what he thinks are) female skunks from peril just so he can smother them with affection (cf. "For Scentimental Reasons," "Two Scents Worth," "Past Perfumance," and "A Scent of the Matterhorn").
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome / Early Installment Weirdness: In Pepe's first cartoon, "Odorable Kitty," it's revealed in the end that Pepe is actually named Henry, has a wife and kids, and doesn't speak in a French accent. Pepe's wife and kids were never seen again after that.
- Depraved Bisexual: At best, Pepe fits this trope (at worst, he's a Stalker with a Crush who goes after Anything That Moves as long as it's black and white striped. The D.C. Comics have him as either/or, depending on writer). In 1951's "Scentimental Romeo" had Pepe make out with a human man inside a Tunnel of Love ride. The man is so traumatized that he signs up for the French Foreign Legion and passes out. It Makes Sense in Context... sort of.
- Being fair to Pepe, the tunnel was dark and he thought the man was Penelope. As soon as he realizes his mistake, he angrily berates the man accusing him of indecency while the poor man limps away.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Believe it or not, there was a Pepe cartoon were Penelope runs off and Pepe doesn't continue the chase. That cartoon was 1951's "Scentimental Romeo" and the chase is interrupted when the zookeeper takes Pepe back to the zoo and Pepe bids a tearful farewell to Penelope.
- The ending to "Odor-Able Kitty" also counts, though rather loosely for two reasons: (a) the "female skunk" he was chasing was actually a male cat who painted himslef up as a skunk so he can get back at the butcher, housewife, and pitbull who keep beating him up, and (b) the ending revealed that Pepe wasn't French and was married with two kids.
- Driven to Suicide: In one of the more infamous gags these shorts have pulled off, "For Scent-imental Reasons" has Penelope locking herself into a glass display case, with Pepé unable to continue chasing her. Penelope denies his requests to come out, outright telling him through miming that he stinks. Depressed, Pepé pulls out a gun, points it to his head, walks off screen, and shoots it. It turns out he faked it after Penelope comes running after him to make sure he's alright. It's jarring enough to modern viewers that this scene has often been Bowdlerised out of modern airings.
- In "Really Scent," the Penelope cat is so depressed over her failed romance with Pepe that she nearly drowns herself. The narrator convinces her to try a different tack, since "if you can't beat them, join them."
- Escaped Animal Rampage: In "Wild Over You" a wildcat escapes from the Paris zoo, catching his attention.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Even if said French is broken and full of bad Puns.
- Fauxreigner: Pepe was this in his original appearance.
- French Jerk: He goes after a female cat (whom he thinks is a skunk) and smothers her with affection without any regard for her feelings.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: While all the cartoons by today's standards can be seen as risque to some extent (the premise is, after all, a Stealth Pun on chasing pussycats), it's truly amazing that the Hays Office didn't go after Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese for "Wild Over You" due to the implications that Pepe enjoys being clawed up by the wildcat trying to escape him (though the fact that Jones and Maltese deliberately did this is more of a Refuge in Audacity).
- The Glomp
- The Golden Age of Animation
- Gone Horribly Right: Some of the "female skunks" Pepe chases are cats that had intentionally painted their white stripes to trick others into mistaking them for skunks.
- Handsome Lech: "Lech" being the operative word. Probably the only other animated French character who's more of a lech than Pepe Le Pew is France from Axis Powers Hetalia.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Pepe would occasionally use the term "making love" in the old sense of "making out".
- Hypocritical Humor: Pepe begging Penelope to control herself when she goes after him on "For Scentimental Reasons" and "Little Beau Pepe."
- Manipulative Bastard: The glass case scene in "For Scentimental Reasons" ended with Pepe putting a gun to his head and supposedly killing himself after Penelope says that she's not coming out because he stinks. Penelope is so distraught that she unlocks the case and runs out — into his still-alive arms. Turns out the whole thing was a trick to get her out and he missed.
- Maurice Chevalier Accent: Not directly based on Maurice Chevalier, but his typical accent and honh honh honh laugh are frequently in play when Pepe speaks.
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: If you consider smelling like a skunk minor, it's been implied that the only thing holding Penelope back from him is his odor.
- No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Pepe will pursue his victims anywhere for love but panics when the tables are turned on him.
- Rejection Affection: No matter how many times Penelope flees from him, or even attacks him, Pepe always thinks she's just playing hard to get.
- Scenery Porn, Art Evolution, and Animation Bump: Starting with "For Scentimental Reasons," the backgrounds of the cartoons got a lot prettier, lusher, detailed, and more evocative of romance than the ones from the first three Pepe cartoons (two, if you don't count the Arthur Davis cartoon that had Pepe in it). Peter Alvarado did background work on the Pepe cartoons up until 1956's "Heaven Scent." From "Heaven Scent" to the final cartoon in 1962 ("Louvre Come Back to Me"), Maurice Noble did background work on the cartoons.
- Smells Sexy: At the end of "Little Beau Pepe", Pepe concocts a super cologne that makes him irresistible to Penelope.
- Smelly Skunk: Naturally. On a very rare occasion, Penelope (called "Fabrette" in that short) became one of these when she got her own odor on the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" premise.
- Something Completely Different: "Odor of the Day" is the only Pepe cartoon that isn't a Romantic Comedy (it's your typical Looney Tunes screwball comedy) and one of two Pepe shorts that isn't directed by Chuck Jones (three if you count the random cameo at the end of the Sylvester and Tweety cartoon, "Dog Pounded"). "Odor of the Day" was directed by Arthur Davis. It's also the only Pepe cartoon in which Pepe is The Voiceless (until the end, in which he says "Gesundheit" to the sneezing dog).
- Spiritual Successor and Distaff Counterpart: On Tiny Toon Adventures, there's Fifi La Fume, who acts just like Pepe (except that she likes it when men go after her), right down to mistaking black and white striped animals for male skunks (though it was revealed that she has a crush on Pepe Le Pew on an episode where Elmyra thinks Fifi is a kitty).
- However, she is much different than Pepe in other aspects, most notably that she interacts with the other Tiny Toons much more often (While Pepe rarely interacted with any of the other Looney Tunes — at least in the Golden Age shorts. Modern revivals either don't have Pepe at all or do have him interacting with the other characters), and actually uses her stink as a weapon.
- Stalker with a Crush: So very much (and Played for Laughs).
- Strictly Formula: Zigzagged. A lot of the cartoons do follow a formula of the cat gets painted and Pepe spends the rest of the cartoon chasing her, but the outcome is almost always different.
- "Odor Of The Day" is completely detached from the usual formula in favor of Pepe having a rivalry with a dog over shelter in the cold. See Something Completely Different above.
- Too Kinky to Torture: A lot of the Pepe cartoons have Pepe brushing off the cat's violent attempts at deterring him as "flirting." 1953's "Wild Over You" is the definitive cartoon for proof of this trope.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Sort of. In one short, Pepe actually had himself de-scented to make himself desirable to Penelope. Unfortunately, Penelope had herself treated with Limburger cheese at the same time, so she could tolerate Pepe's stink. The result? The tables are turned on Pepe as Penelope chases after him.
- Another one ends with the object of his affections no longer able to smell his stink and coming after him. Unfortunately, she this is because she get soaked and left out in the cold, ending up looking like a twice-drowned rat put through the ringer and so sick she can't go two seconds without sniffing, sneezing or coughing. Pepe was less than enthusiastic that she now wanted the suave skunk.
- What Could Have Been: Pepe Le Pew was supposed to be a one-cartoon wonder (which explains why "Odor-Able Kitty" ended with Pepe revealed to be an adulterous husband whose French accent was faked). Had it not been for Eddie Selzer claiming that the Pepe cartoons weren't funny, Chuck wouldn't have continued them.
- Write Who You Know: In one of Chuck Jones's autobiographies, he states that animation writer Tedd Pierce was this Casanova Wannabe type guy who would always hit on women and chalk up their rejection of him as "She's flirting" or "She's playing hard to get." This, coupled with exaggerating the stereotype of "zee great French lovair" and Chuck Jones's own insecurities about picking up women, is the basis of Pepe's persona.