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Western Animation / Pepé Le Pew

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"You know, it is possible to be too attractive!"
"Pepé Le Pew is a caricature of an egotistical guy who thinks he's a ladies' man, like Johnny Bravo. The cartoons don't condone his behavior, and he frequently gets his comeuppance. If there's any moral to the cartoons, it's that if you act like Pepé, you stink."

Pepé Le Pew is one of the more famous Looney Tunes characters, although he's not quite as big as some of the other "core" cast members of the series. 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. Pepé, being the hopeless romantic he is, would always mistake Penelope as a female skunk and try to "woo" her, despite being unaware of how strong his stench is. 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, often bordering on Black Comedy, given how ridiculously luckless the female cat is in trying to escape Pepé's amorous advancesnote ), it often made up with witty, often sexually suggestive (both for its time and now) dialogue. Not to say this guy doesn't have a fan following (Penelope sure does).

His deep French accent was inspired by Hollywood icon Charles Boyer, with some shades of Maurice Chevaliernote .


Pepé's 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 examples are women who are ugly, fat, or driven crazy by love. Penelope the cat, however, is a straight example (on the occasions where Pepé gets what he deserves).
  • Adapted Out: The only major Looney Tunes character who does not appear in Space Jam: A New Legacy (though he does appear in a deleted scene that was partly shot).
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: One of Pepé's shorts included an establishment called the Yellow Dogge Inn.
  • All There in the Script: The female cat Pepé chased went through a string of names in the shorts, but official media and merchandise almost always refer to her as Penelope (which was her name in 1954's The Cat's Bah).
  • Artistic License: Pepé is French, but striped skunks are only native to North America. Of course, his first appearance (assuming you'd count it as canon) reveals that he's actually faking the accent, and he and his wife have American accents. And even then, a number of episodes have him escape from a zoo, so he might just have picked up the accent from the locals.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: In Scent-imental Romeo, a zookeeper is shown throwing a raw steak into Pepé's zoo pen for food. In reality, skunks are omnivorous but prefer smaller creatures they can easily overpower like insects, spiders, and mice. Raw steak would not be suitable for a skunk.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: None of the French is real. More often than not, it's just English with a prefix of "le."
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Over the years, there have been hints that Penelope does reciprocate Pepé's feelings—she just finds his scent overbearing (along with his overaggressive way of flirting).
    • In at least two of the original shorts, Penelope becomes infatuated with Pepé when his scent is neutralized. One where she gets stuffed up by a cold after falling into a rain barrel, and another when Pepé dowses himself in a mix of perfume that not only overpowers his odor but also serves as an aphrodisiac to Penelope.
    • Some of the most recent material to come out (such as the Bah Humduck Christmas special and the Valentine's Day commercial) indicate that Pepé and Penelope are in fact an Official Couple.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: In the 2006 Looney Tunes Christmas special, Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, Pepé corners Penelope with mistletoe. She grabs him and smooches him. When she grabs him, Pepé doesn't look prepared for his affections to be requited.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Presumably not the intention of the character in his original incarnation, which was to parody romantic comedies, but this trope is a common interpretation of Pepé's cartoonishly extreme womanizing, albeit a light example. Although according to some sources, Jones apparently claimed that Pepé was a Stealth Insult to a particularly creepy Warner Exec in the 50's whose secretaries kept quitting because he was way too handsy, meaning that this was completely intentional.
  • 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 Pepé 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)
  • Chained Heat: The end of The Cat's Bah where Pepé somehow caught Penelope and chained her to his ankle. Penelope wastes no time breaking out a file.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Pepé'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: Some of the cats Pepé chased who weren't Penelope haven't been brought up again in any media he's been in for well over decades now. Some of them include; the orange male cat he chased in his first short, the wildcat that broke out from the zoo, or Fabrette, a cat with a natural white stripe down her back who actually did have a thing for him from the start. There's also the Chihuahua he once chased after, too.
  • Clothespin Nose Plug: In "Louvre Come Back", Penelope's boyfriend confronts Pepe, but first he fills his lungs with air and closes his nose with a clothespin. Unfortunately, Pepe acts out a hypothetical duel between the two, making the cat wait until he can't hold his breath any longer.
  • Depraved Bisexual:
    • At best, Pepé 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 Scent-imental Romeo had Pepé 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 Pepé, 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.
    • In another episode, he tried to make love with Sylvester, apparently thinking that Sylvester was a female skunk!
  • Did Not Get the Girl:
    • Believe it or not, there was a Pepé cartoon were Penelope runs off and Pepé doesn't continue the chase. That cartoon was 1951's Scent-imental Romeo and the chase is interrupted when the zookeeper takes Pepé back to the zoo and Pepé bids a tearful farewell to Penelope.
    • The ending to Odor-Able Kitty, though rather loosely for two reasons: (a) the "female skunk" he was chasing was actually a male cat who painted himself 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 Pepé wasn't French and was married with two kids.
  • Dreary Half-Lidded Eyes: Pepé's default expression, to show his lasciviousness.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In Really Scent, Penelope is so depressed over her failed romance with Pepé that she nearly drowns herself. The narrator convinces her to try a different tack, since "if you can't beat them, join them."
    • Subverted in For Scent-imental Reasons, when Pepé pretends to shoot himself so he can get Penelope's attention and tells her "I missed".
  • Dub Species Change: Brazilian dubs change Pepé into an opossum (justified, as the word gambá is used for both skunks and opossums).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In Pepé's first cartoon, Odorable Kitty, it's revealed in the end that Pepé is actually named Henry, has a wife and kids, and is faking his French accent. Pepé's wife and kids were never seen again after that. Also, the first cat he chased after was a male cat.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Played With in Scent-imental Romeo. After failing to get meat from a zookeeper feeding zoo animals, Penelope disguises herself as a skunk and sneaks into the skunk's pen. She gets to eat the raw steak the zookeeper throws inside but doesn't get to finish it as Pepé wakes up and instantly grabs her at first sight.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: In Wild Over You a wildcat escapes from the Paris zoo, catching his attention.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Pepe is willing to drop the flirtatious act if he thinks his supposed lover's life is in danger.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Even if said French is broken and full of bad Puns.
  • Fauxreigner: Pepé was this in his original appearance.
  • Fluffy Dry Cat: In Who Scent You?, after Pepé falls off the boat into the water, he goes to dry himself off with a hairdresser heatlamp covering him entirely. When it lifts up, his body fur has puffed outwards to make him look like a plump cottonball. He good-humoredly remarks: "Hey, I am a creamy puff, no?"
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Odor of the Day is the only Pepé cartoon that isn't a Romantic Comedy (it's your typical Looney Tunes screwball comedy) and one of two Pepé 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 Art Davis. It's also the only Pepé cartoon in which Pepé is The Voiceless (until the end, in which he and the dog character say "Gesundheit!" to each other after both sneeze, and it should be noted that Pepé lacks his French accent for that line).
  • Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: Like most animal Looney Tunes characters, both Pepé and Penelope continuously switched how they stood and walked.
  • 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.
  • Funny Foreigner: He is quite the comedic character, and has a French accent.
  • Gainax Ending: The first short has this. See Early-Installment Weirdness above.
  • The Glomp: Is always getting all close to his love interests, hugging them.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Some of the "female skunks" Pepé 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 Pepé Le Pew is France from Hetalia: Axis Powers.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Pepé would occasionally use the term "making love" in the old sense of "making out".
  • Hidden Depths: According to Louvre Come Back to Me!, Pepé wishes to become a travelling salesman when (and if) he settles down.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Pepé begging Penelope to control herself when she goes after him on For Scent-imental Reasons and Little Beau Pepé.
  • Interspecies Romance: Only twice does Pepé find out his love interest is not a skunk, but it doesn't deter his interest at all.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While he is guilty of narcissism and stalker-ish behavior, when interacting with those who are not the objects of his affection, he's often shown to be a polite and friendly guy, such as when he happily greeted a frog in A Scent of the Matterhorn.
  • Maurice Chevalier Accent: Not directly based on Maurice Chevalier, but his typical accent and honh honh honh laugh are frequently in play when Pepé 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: Pepé will pursue his victims anywhere for love but panics when the tables are turned on him. He lampshades this at the end of Little Beau Pepé:
    "Why is it that whenever a man is captured by a woman, all he wish to do is get away?"
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Toward his love interests.
  • Oddball in the Series:
    • Odor of the Day is the only Pepé short that doesn't follow the basic formula for his shorts, instead acting more like a Bugs Bunny-Esque screwball comedy.
    • Really Scent is a downplayed example. While it has the same overall premise of the shorts, at points it almost acts as an Internal Deconstruction of Pepé's formula.note 
  • Poor Communication Kills: In the majority of his cartoons, he is unaware that the reason that Penelope (and everyone else) runs away from him is his stink. In Really Scent, he finally looks up the word "Pew"note  in the dictionary and is shocked to see what it means.
  • Punny Name: His name (p-ew) literally states that he's a stinky creature.
  • Rejection Affection: No matter how many times Penelope flees from him, or even attacks him, Pepé always thinks she's just playing hard to get.
  • Smells Sexy: At the end of Little Beau Pepé, Pepé concocts a super cologne that makes him irresistible to Penelope. Unfortunately for him, it works a little too well.
    "I have overstoked the furnace, yes?"
  • 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.
  • 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 getting painted and Pepé spending the rest of the cartoon chasing her, but the actual outcome is almost always different.
    • Odor of the Day is completely detached from the usual formula in favor of Pepé having a rivalry with a dog over shelter in the cold.
    • Incidentally, the Pepé formula was made to avert this, since they were among the few series in the Looney Tunes series not to utilise the "Karmic Trickster vs Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain" dynamic. Pepé, in Jones' own words, was unique in being "a character who just wanted to get laid".
  • Swapped Roles: Several shorts switch Pepé and Penelope's roles and have her fall in love with him. Incidents occur when Penelope is stuffed up from a cold, when Pepé has his white skunk stripe covered by black paint instead of Penelope getting a white stripe, or when Pepé masks or even removes his scent. Soon Penelope is the one chasing a horrified Pepé.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Pepé can be seen chasing the object of his affections, showering her with kisses and gifts, in spite of her objections, which are portrayed as him being a hopeless romantic.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: A lot of the Pepé cartoons have Pepé 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.
  • Tuxedo and Martini: New Looney Tunes changes Pepé into this type of character.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Sort of on a couple of occasions.
    • In one short, Pepé 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 Pepé's stink. The result? The tables are turned on Pepé as Penelope chases after him.
    • In another, Pepé falls into a can of blue paint, which both hides his scent and the fact that he's a skunk, while Penelope falls into a barrel of rainwater, catching a cold and coming out looking completely wretched in the process. Table-turning inevitably ensues and it's from this that we get the above page quote, courtesy of Pepé as he flees.
  • Victory by Endurance: Pepé had a very iconic hopping gait (and a very specific sound effect to accompany it), which he used to catch up to Penelope (or just about anyone he's chasing), who would tire herself out faster the more she tried to run.
  • The Voiceless: Penelope almost never spoke besides grunts or meow noises. The exception being the revival short Carrotblanca, which inexplicably gives her a proper speaking role with a British accent.
  • Weaponized Stench: In Odor of the Day, Pepé uses his smell against a dog who takes over his home. He grabs his tail like a rifle and shoots the smell out like a machine gun.
  • Wilting Odor: As Le Pew strolls down the street, flowers wilt, birds fall from the trees, and people all around head for the hills, while Pepé remains oblivious to it all. One cartoon takes place in the Louvre, where even the artwork isn't immune to his stench (although The Mona Lisa manages to maintain her smile, acknowledging that it's not easy).


Video Example(s):


Pinkie Le Pew

Pinkie Pie's tradition of moving from place to place by hopping is based off of a recurring gag with Looney Tunes star Pepe Le Pew, wherein he chases Penelope Pussycat around by hopping. This is especially made noticeable in "Griffon the Brush Off", where Pinkie chases Rainbow Dash around Ponyville with her bounces set to a waltz, as Pepe's cartoons had him do.

How well does it match the trope?

4.36 (14 votes)

Example of:

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