If you’re a 90’s kid like myself, chances are you’ve watched Space Jam at least a couple of times. It was a cornerstone for a lot of people’s childhoods, so why would they change a pivotal character’s design? I can understand the need for nixing Pepe Le Pew as his shtick did not age well. However, when it comes to Lola’s design change, it feels unnecessary.
Lola Bunny was one of the very first strong female characters I saw growing up. Not only was she strong, but she was also pretty. People argue that her figure and outfit were too “sexual”, but they’re only taking the character at face value which was the point of her first scene in the original movie. Lola Bunny raises her hand when a question is called out as to if anyone in their world has actually played basketball. The camera pans to her, and we see the response of her fellow characters who have heart eyes and stare at her. Even the beloved Bugs Bunny proceeds to put on a macho act puffing out his chest and asking her the question, “You wanna play a little one on one doll?”. Her eyes turn into literal flames at the indignation of being disregarded for just her looks. Lola then proceeds to cross up the beloved Bugs’ ankles and finishes with a dunk.
Throughout the film, her athletic prowess is evident. When she enters the court the day of the big game, the crowd goes wild. Yes, Lola Bunny is sexy, but she has the skills to match, as shown by her impressive dribbling following her entrance. During the game, she is the only character who is legitimately guarding, dribbling, and manages to score. A Monstar calls her doll, and her response is to jump the creature three times her height and dunks on him. She is second only to Jordan on the team in terms of skill.
Despite having the looks and the skills, it would be irresponsible to overlook the obvious issues. Certain scenes are suggestive, like when she’s picking up her fallen shirt strap whilst walking up to Bugs sultrily. These are scenes that understandably had to go, especially in a movie intended for children. She is in the film for less than five minutes collectively and has few lines. They dropped the ball in this regard, but the design still could have stayed.
My issue with her design change is the message being sent; you can’t be a sexy female; otherwise, it undermines your skills. We are in the age of telling girls that they can do and be anything they want to be, but being pretty is left off as if it is taboo. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be pretty. “This is 2021. It’s important to reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters” said director Malcolm Lee in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. What determines strong female authenticity, and why does a man get to dictate that? He compares Lola to other characters such as Jessica Rabbit or Betty Boop in regards to how sexual they are, but it makes me wonder if he has honestly even looked at the characters. Betty and Jessica have form-fitting backless dresses with Jessica’s chest hanging out and both of them showing plenty of legs. Meanwhile, Lola is in a crop top, for crying out loud. It is the continuing and glaring issue of how female bodies are viewed. If she is wearing a crop top, then she might as well be wearing nothing at all.
If you’re still not convinced about the change and are adamant that this is a win for young girls, I’m happy to tell you: you’re still wrong. Lola introduced herself as a strong and capable character who also happened to be good-looking. It isn’t her fault that she was cat-called, forced into the love interest role, or treated like a damsel in distress. She came to play ball, and it was the filmmakers who did the rest. Once again, the blame is placed on the female for how she looks and how it makes those around her react, rather than calling out her male counterparts’ behavior. The director has drawn a line that once again categorizes women, only this time it’s justified as somehow championing for the younger eyes who are watching. Instead, it ingrains a sinister message: if you look a certain way, have skills on par with a man, or are cat-called, you are not to be taken seriously and will require some form of change to be.
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