Today in news that we would have discarded as fake last Friday, Deadline reports that Warner Bros.—having apparently never visited the “concern about stereotypes” section of the character’s Wikipedia page—is considering making a Speedy Gonzales movie. Gonzales, the so-called “fastest mouse in Mexico,” was conspicuously absent from Looney Tunes reruns in the U.S. beginning in the late ’90s, due to Warner Bros. subsidiary Cartoon Network’s fear that the character represents an offensive ethnic stereotype. (And because of all the smoking mice.)
He’s been reintroduced into the canon since then, partially thanks to feedback from Hispanic viewers who basically argued, “Eh, he always makes the cat look like an idiot, so whatever.” But opinion among Mexican-Americans—or the American public at large, for that matter—is obviously not monolithic, and Speedy remains enough of a lightning rod that his appearances on Looney Tunes boxed sets are preceded with a disclaimer similar to the racism warning now tacked onto Tom And Jerry cartoons on Amazon.
Meanwhile, the Spanish-dubbed version of the character never left Latin American TV screens, where Speedy and friends presumably don’t have the cringe-inducing “funny” accents that appear in the English-language cartoons. And Warner Bros. has brought in a prominent Mexican actor and filmmaker, Eugenio Derbez, to help sort out this mess. Derbez, who will voice Speedy, is an expert in these things: Aside from being a successful comedian in his own right, he played the role of Donkey in the Latin American version of Shrek. During dubbing, Derbez added local pop-culture references and colloquialisms to his dialogue, to profitable results. According to Deadline, should this Speedy Gonzales movie be made, the plan is to take a similar approach with Spanish and English versions of the film.
“In Mexico we grew up watching Speedy Gonzalez,” Derbez says. “He was like a superhero to us, or maybe more like a revolutionario like Simon Bolivar or Pacho Villa. He watched out for the little people but with a lot of bravado and a weakness for the ladies.”
It all seems to come down to a matter of interpretation, cultural and personal. (This writer doesn’t get why Warner Bros. would open this particular Pandora’s Box when Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner are right there, but, again, that’s a personal bias.) According to producer Dylan Sellers, “In a time when Donald Trump is gaining momentum, the world needs Speedy more than ever,” which…sure. And then there’s the guy who wrote a passionately worded e-mail to Fox News arguing whether Pepe Le Pew is a sexual predator back in 2002, but that’s a whole other thing.
Oh, and it’ll be an origin story, because everything has to be an origin story now. Hopefully we can all unite in our disdain for that.