1996 was a special time. Michael Jordan was acting. "I Believe I Can Fly" stayed stuck in my head for three years, before we knew what we know about R. Kelly. And Space Jam hit theaters, becoming an instant classic.
This month, we got a glimpse at the character design for the remake, Space Jam: A New Legacy, to be released in 2021. Each of the main characters looks basically the same as they have for 80 years, but Lola Bunny looks a little different: Now, instead of short-shorts and a cropped tank top, she wears an oversized uniform tank top and basketball shorts, with bike shorts underneath.
New Legacy director Malcolm Lee told Entertainment Weekly that when he first watched Space Jam in 2019 (what the fuck?) he was surprised by the original's "very sexualized" depiction of Lola Bunny. "This is 2021. It's important to reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters," Lee said.
Predictably, people are very upset that the new cartoon bunny is no longer what they consider sexy.
The outrage spread primarily in reaction to an image tweeted by @drakecereal, which showed a side-by-side of the "old Lola" and the new design:
But as others have noted, the "old" design that's going around is actually furry fan art that oomphs up her features just a little more than the original:
Similar to the absolute fit some people threw about Adora's look in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power for having the gall to draw a female character without a rack, they're losing their absolute shit about Lola's lack of T&A.
"Where her titties???? Where her ass????" one guy on Twitter said in response to the new look:
Thousands of tweets about Lola turned her into a Twitter trending topic yesterday, as people drew new fan art of her in the updated uniform, made jokes about Bugs' dick and balls, and, yes, screamed at the heavens for the loss of a cartoon's boobs.
All these tweets about Lola's body of course show us a lot about what people think about gender roles and objectification, but they also show that people are increasingly comfortable admitting what we've all known for a long time: people love to fantasize about having sex with cartoon characters. It's not just Hentai. Grown adults have been sexualizing Lola for years—she's a huge topic for NSFW fan art and compilations of that art, along with many, many adult cosplayers, all over sites like Pornhub and Xvideos. After the Lola debate exploded last night Jessica Rabbit was trending on Twitter as well. (Jessica Rabbit, who appears in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and is a popular subject of fan-created cartoon porn, is not a rabbit, but is married to one.) Hell, it's pretty much impossible to scroll any of the porn tube sites these days without seeing at least one character from The Simpsons or Frozen fucking.
In the context of the films, however, the problem with Lola's character was never her body shape, or the way she dressed, but the way the other characters regarded her. Lola's first appearance in Space Jam was as a sex object, set to sexy sax music and the (all-male) team ogling her as she walked in to try out for the team. She gets pissed when Bugs implies some "one on one" play and calls her "doll," and proceeds to own his ass on the court. She holds her own alongside Jordan.
Throughout the movie, Lola's main personality trait is being reactionary to males calling her diminutive names, and then proving she's more than that. It gives her a sassy character, but it's still centered on her perceived sexuality, and the male gaze.
As @InspectorNerd helpfully pointed on on Twitter, it's not whether a character has boobs or an ass that makes them objectified; their posture and stance projects a lot more about what's behind a body shape. And there's nothing wrong with any particular body shape, and how they hold themselves, for that matter. (For what it's worth, long basketball shorts are called "Just Done Its" when men wear them—makes you think.)
If the character has no depth beyond "don't call me doll," that's just not very interesting.
The New Legacy director seems to be projecting some of his own horniness onto the old Lola, since his issue wasn't with Daffy and Bugs trailing her in a pool of their own drool, but with her look. As usual, the girl has to change, so that the men aren't tempted into... the furry fandom? Hard to say.
I remember watching Space Jam during a third grade class library period, and as a kid who would rather wear baggy clothes from the boy's section than anything pink, short, or tight-fitting, Lola's effortless swagger and command over everyone's attention was completely foreign to me. I had a basketball shaped pencil pouch and pants with hammer loops, if that paints the picture. The implied sexuality of her scenes might as well have been another language to eight year old me. But as the only girl in the movie, I was well aware that this was the character I was meant to relate to most.
So, personally speaking, I'm glad there are more sporty, slouchy girl characters in kids' movies these days. But it would have been cool to see Warner Bros. add a new female character, if they really wanted to send some kind of message about how woke they are now, instead of erasing Lola's old look completely.
I've reached out to Warner Media for comment, and will update if I hear back.