What on earth could Looney Toons possibly have to do with Human Trafficking? Pepe Standards.

Miss Maserati
11 min readMay 31, 2021

Recently conservatives have found themselves losing nostalgic icons like Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Suess and now Pepe Le Pew and it has them raging mad. So defiant Kevin McCarthy feels the need to read Green Eggs and Ham despite the prior week’s printed explanation of hurtful imagery and racist implications. There was no second thought about how it’s affecting children to hear these words or the damage that was already done.

How children internalize messages about the world is a fumbling skill at first that doesn’t get honed until the brain develops into the 20s. It’s the reason federal organizations excise power over toy advertisers and why Joe Camel isn’t a thing anymore. Those regulators didn’t have as much creative control when Warner Bros wrote the role of Pepe Le Pew, quite possibly the most infamous skunk in history and one that would field calls for resignation over countless sexual harassment complaints in a modern age if skunks could hold public office.

Warner Bros

Nothing strange about a cartoon depicting stalking as courtship.

Or at least nothing seemed to be all through the show’s initial years and well into a new century from the non-reaction to the character as it remained a staple through the series. Certainly was a part of my childhood and among my least favorite characters, not because I didn’t like skunks, quite the opposite, I think they’re quite adorable. Just not Mr Le Pew. Studied through Yale’s Baby Lab that children as young as infancy can recognize unhelpful actors through a series of experiments involving a puppet show with two rabbits, one is portrayed as a helpful coordinator and the other an antagonistic selfish character. This challenged our notions that babies are born as “blank slates” but rather are born with an innate sense of morality when 80% of them preferred the “good” bunny to the “bad”. It perhaps explains the sense of justice felt for the cat who just wanted to be left alone even when I was a kid.

The sense is still limited and shaped by time, bias passed on by parents or other influences infects the system. This would include what’s seen widely on tv and accepted as cute humor appropriate for children. This dreaded segment wasn’t just awkwardly uncomfortable but followed the same boring format episode after episode in which we would see Penelope extend all four paws trying to pry from Pepe’s death grasp. Totally doesn’t resemble violence and entitlement to sex acts from women or anything, does it?

Because my trafficker used to wrap his arms around me as if he was just a loving concerned boyfriend who wanted to save my life and then “make loooooooove”, when all I wanted to do was get away even if it meant the rash decision of leaving with no place to live. He wasn’t as smelly as a skunk but his arrogance still wreaked. Does anyone remember the scene in “Heaven’s Scent” where Penelope is standing on a precipice about to leap to death to escape Pepe? Living on the streets might have meant death, but it was a fate perhaps more kind than another day with Eric La…errr, I mean Pepe Le Pew. Maybe he watched too much Looney Toons as well.

He was persistent in everything: his initial love bombing affection, constant conversations fantasizing about living together, residual requests to flee from my already bad situation into the fiery hell of Silicon Valley to be with him and his hand on my thigh 15 minutes into our first dinner.

Wonder how many other boys have felt empowered by Le Pew’s approach? On a playground this would look far more disturbing to some, but others are still forcing their children to hug family or strangers out of social tradition with no regard for autonomy. This conditioning breaks down boundaries and gives the impression that the boundary isn’t allowed even if desired. Women usually have a sexual coercion story or two, almost all do, whether the attempts were successful or not. Men have also been the victims of sexual coercion though it’s often perceived as being wanted, but equally it can cause the same boundary breakdown for men if they’ve been conditioned to think that sex is obligatory, especially when threatened with a loss of the relationship. Studies that follow the trend of coercive sex tend to report numbers around 30–40% of men have engaged in coercive sexual activity as perpetrators. It’s been suggested this is from men being prone to misperceiving queues to gauge sexual interest, it’s being projected from their own views and less aware women may not feel the same way.

There’s an episode where Penelope clubs Pepe over the head and stars spring out like fireworks. Couldn’t take “no” or a cracked skull for an answer. This skunk’s a rapist. I feel like this is deja vu, oh that’s right, Dave Chapelle covered this in a comedy skit ages ago, but only now is Pepe getting cancelled. (Link) Because I’m about to get to the part in the skit when he talks about the pimp, The Count.


“Where’s my money?”

Which is all my trafficker could talk about.

Is it just slightly ironic that Eric would use suicide as another form of coercion in hopes of controlling whatever I did. Reference back to a scene where Penelope confines herself to a small windowed box, gesturing to Pepe that she will not come out to be with him. At that point the cartoon skunk pulls a gun and holds it to his temple in an attempt to control her behavior.

Warner Bros

Warner Bros. has an odd way of glorifying domestic violent relationships to children, wrapped up and delivered in a cutesy box so that it will seem more harmless, but this cycle in which many women were murdered by their partners is far from the cartoon world. The real life statistic is that you’re more likely to be killed by your significant other than anyone else if you’re a woman.

There’s more examples I could go through. Every episode could be analyzed for a problem that wouldn’t pass today’s filters. Is it any surprise that the political party that fights to keep the status quo would fight to keep Pepe? Not particularly, it really just states they prefer life where they can stalk and harass someone feeling innocent about doing so. But then, the attitude isn’t limited to one side of the aisle because many liberal men argue that they won’t feel comfortable pursuing romantic relationships with these new requirements on filters. Perhaps those individuals should consider that entitlement to comfort is an undesirable trait. It won’t kill them to get out of their “comfort zone” to have a conversation about consent or what’s appropriate. Since that’s too awkward they can’t be expected to do it.

Low emotional intelligence just isn’t attractive.

Neither is desperation, however, Pepe sells it like it’s going out of style. The skunk’s persistence rivals that of a car salesman. It was the perfect job for Eric despite his hatred for the reputation that came attached with the job of being pushy, manipulative and greedy. You may not be able to un-see the correlation now, next time you visit a car lot the static cling behavior could start echoing queues with a French accent. Pushy was his most refined qualification. My first experience with him was repeatedly asking for my address so that he could send me a package and you know what they say? “If you give a mouse a cookie…” The pestering little rodent will try to get something else. Him wanting to know when I could make time for him if he hopped a flight to Washington for vacation. Calls kept coming like rings from a dealership and eventually sold on what I thought was a developing friendship.

The only thing I ever wanted was a companion these conversations got started but this human version of the stalker skunk used a casual friendship to push his romantic agenda in much the same way as the stinker. The psychology term for this is “Love Bombing”. This seems to be a common problem for women when it comes to men resentful of this notion of a “friendzone”, some seem to think if they just persist they will break down the woman’s defenses so she will want to sleep with them rather than just wait to see what manifests from being best buds. Offenders start to offer or push romantic gestures that suggest they’re interested in more than friends rather than be direct. In their minds this is what being suave is all about.

Salesman of the Year

“Putting people together,” that’s the phrase that’s used by car salesmen in the bay area, it defines the act of triangulating or manipulating a situation in a way which the target is successfully deceived. This tactic is commonly used on customers, it’s a part of every deal but it can also apply to co-workers stealing commissions out from under each other. With no self awareness Eric projected it through constant accusations which residually gave away a pattern of how he sees people’s theory of mind, wracked with misconception and paranoia that those around him will betray him.

Got put together, I did. Because upon my arrival I would start to uncover the lies that constructed Eric’s fantasy life. There was nothing but a cold, hard tile floor in an empty apartment and only a meal worth of leftovers in the fridge. Where was the skunk? Off galivanting in southern California with his family on vacation dining at the finest restaurants and staying in the utmost luxurious accommodations. Though he had badgered for the boyfriend position, I was not to be known about in any capacity that might resemble any serious relationship such as meeting the strict and “traditional Asian family” Eric lamented to have.

When he told me by phone call, “There’s no more money to help you,” was a moment that caused a rewind in my brain of so many things I was told that didn’t add up.

Memory landed on conversation in which he revealed making up a series of white lies to backtrack cover for one after another until it spiraled into eroding one of his relationships with a girl when he was younger. The explanation Eric gave was feeling his life was inadequate, lacked excitement or elements he believed should be there but he never did say what it was all about.

Years later I would find out. But by then it was far too late. I had taken a leap getting in my car to drive nearly a thousand miles with all it could carry based on a fabrication of an existence that wasn’t as advertised. Bait and switched out for the plans he had for me instead. It didn’t matter that I was challenged with physical disabilities significant enough to warrant federal protected status, there was only a few dollars left in my account and nowhere to go.

Already wanting to run like Penelope Pussycat but in classic episode fashion, the trap had been set and no matter what turns made or obstacles scales, Pepe was lurking around every corner to thwart the getaway. Eric played his relationships like the real time strategy games he adored so much, it wasn’t about companionship but conquering. And highly calculated to keep track of just how much money I had so that he would know just how much could be drained when responsibilities came due. This is how he controlled the ability to leave by holding me in a debt bondage for what he leveraged as being my fault for accepting his invitation to move to Silicon Valley. As if living with him were something worthy of paying a monthly subscription for the worst customer service imaginable. Nothing was negotiable about this car salesman sense of entitlement, he was firm on absolute compliance or there was no deal. He saw it his ways and the deal was no good to him. So he disappeared one day leaving the crimes he committed. Sparing the audience descriptors of what it’s like to be forced into sexual acts with someone who thinks of you as a “wounded animal” incapable of independent thought or what it’s like to tolerate the mental illness that arises from male entitlement of those who see women as in need of their control. Those are the stories been told and told and told but American culture keeps churning out Pepe culture. It surely says something for whom the skunk is a childhood favorite.

Warner Bros

Pepe personalities expect nothing short of the same. The Egoism in their moral structure only recognizes their own rendition of fairness but not one from a shared social contract. There is no logic which can consistently be configured to what they want. They are the selfish martyr who can find righteousness in anything worth rationalizing. Remorse isn’t in the vocabulary. This isn’t just the sale that he’s a “nice guy”, he’s also a “helping” someone that he’s torturing. I’m sure Pepe thinks she likes it, he wouldn’t care if she actually did since autonomy isn’t a concept these dense fellows can understand.

“We can say that there is a strong impact of Cartoon Network on school going kids which can be seen on their lifestyle, dressing, aggressive and violent behavior and their language.” — — it says in conclusion to a study in the International Journal of Management, Economics on school aged children. 78 percent of the children are attracted by the style of cartoon characters in how they dress. Also observed that the majority of the children (63%) prefer comedy while a very low number like to watch action in cartoon programs, but “Violence is also an integral part of cartoons which are comedic in their genre,” says researchers. “Even in comedic cartoons, characters fight with each other.”

82.6 percent of participants had liked fight scenes between two characters (e.g. Tom and Jerry.) Many children (57.8%) percent initiate fights with their classmates and other children after watching these cartoons. Was there any surprise Looney Toons ranked second in popularity among the viewers in this study at 23% of the crowd? So while it seems harmless that Jerry club’s Tom repeatedly or that Pepe restrains Penelope but it probably isn’t according to these numbers. There’s countless more studies including how television changes the structure of the brain and thus the output it’s capable of from cognitive processing to behavior patterns. Don’t assume the skunk isn’t influencing your son’s future romantic gestures right into being rape.

If characters and influence like Pepe aren’t a problem, then why are men in American struggling so much with putting out these vibes like wafting stink off Pepe’s tail? If “entitlement” isn’t the word, then what would you call scenes like those depicted in screenshots from the show? If it’s the notion of being entitled to compliance that drives the behavior of abusers, then how is Pepe not a depiction of those who would enslave by emotional reasoning?

Suggested Citation: Hassan, Ali; Daniyal, Muhammad (2013) : Cartoon Network and its impact on behavior of school going children: A case of Bahwalpur, Pakistan, International Journal of Management, Economics and Social Sciences (IJMESS), ISSN 2304–1366, IJMESS Int’l Publishers, Houston, TX, Vol. 2, Iss. 1, pp. 6–11



Miss Maserati

Gamer and automotive enthusiast that is totally into behavioral economics.