In an age when children of single-digit age can easily access porn and are groomed in school for early sex via "sex education" programs, we are suddenly worried about the "rape culture" "promoted" by Pepe le Pew, a cartoon character that generations of kids have watched without growing up to become rapists.
It makes sense that the New Puritans, out to scrub our culture of anything that is human and worthwhile and that keeps us in touch with our patrimony, should target cartoons. It is in no small part owing to cartoons -- especially Looney Tunes cartoons -- that generations of kids have been kept in contact with touchstones of Western civilization: history, literature, classic cinema, classical music and even opera.
Back in the '70s and '80s, the days of my far-off youth, Looney Tunes cartoons from the '30s through the '60s were a staple. Television stations broadcast them uncut and unexpurgated. Even the cartoons where characters shot themselves in the head, took poison, or -- gasp! -- smoked and drank; even the old World War II propaganda cartoons; even the cartoons with racial caricatures and stereotypes; even Pepe le Pew and his romantic misadventures: all of these I watched regularly. It never occurred to me, from watching these cartoons, that I should play with guns and explosives. It never occurred to me that persons of other ethnicities were inferior to myself. Somehow, to this day, I have never smoked; I seldom drink; and the "N" word has never become a part of my working vocabulary. In my eyes, so little resemblance did the caricatures of black people in cartoons bear to real black people, that it was years before I finally realized that they were supposed to depict black people. The last thing on earth I got out of Pepe le Pew was that rape is okay. What I got out of Pepe le Pew's encounters with the ladies was that he was totally clueless and his methods were highly ineffective.
The real takeaway that I got from cartoons was my cultural heritage. Cartoons, even more than school, gave me my first tastes of great books, great films, great music, and history. In some cartoons, the characters from books on a shelf came alive at night and did zany things together. There were books I read primarily because I had seen the titles on these cartoons. Cartoons introduced me to classic movie stars like Bogey and Bacall, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and Erroll Flynn. There were bits of classical music that became familiar to me because I heard them in cartoons. Who doesn't remember the Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny takeoff on Wagner? A lot of themes and characters in cartoons didn't make sense unless you knew some history. Cartoons had a lot to do with sparking my interest in World War II.
In short, the cartoons from the salad days of Looney Tunes represented the interaction of Christendom and the playful part of the popular imagination. They were the great things of Western civilization applied to daily life. Not everything about them was good or perfect, by any stretch, and there is no question that they contained themes that were -- and should be -- over the heads of us average kids. But they were not sterile or banal. They dealt with difficult subjects, mostly in a lighthearted way, without being preachy. They came from a world where there was room for fun and laughter and parody and satire, instead of the bestial seriousness sought to be cultivated by today's cultural commissars.
These days, nobody is allowed to laugh at anything, especially our Elders and Betters who profess to be Servants of the People but who actually rule over us with an iron rod. The campaign to re-shape our ethical system into one where pornography and the slaughter of the unborn are moral, but beloved cartoon characters are not, went too far the day it started. If we hope to reverse the tide, or at least preserve anything worthwhile for our posterity, now is the time to push back.