'Looney Tunes' strips Elmer Fudd of trademark guns to acclaim — and controversy

Elmer Fudd is finding new ways to shoot himself in the foot — now only figuratively speaking — in HBO Max's new Looney Tunes Cartoons series.

The longtime gun-toting Bugs Bunny antagonist, just as famous for his double-barrel shotgun as he is his "wascally wabbitty" speech impediment, is no longer bearing arms on the new streamer's reboot of the Warner Bros. animated staple.

<em>Looney Tunes Cartoons</em> (Photo: HBO Max)
Looney Tunes Cartoons (Photo: HBO Max)

"We're not doing guns, but we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in," executive producer Peter Browngardt told the New York Times. While Fudd's disarming is drawing the bulk of media attention, his fellow legacy gunslinger Yosemite Sam has also lost his trusty firearms since the new series launched late last month.

Unsurprisingly, the decision has been met with equal parts accolades and scorn in a country still fiercely divided on gun issues.

"You can't take away his gun!" Joe Piscopo, the Saturday Night Live comedian-turned-radio host said on Fox News. "Drop an anvil on his head, it'll be fine. Explode some dynamite, that'll be fine.

"Give Elmer Fudd back his rifle. It's Looney Tunes, it's the best in the world. And they can't start being politically correct with cartoons, please."

Even Star Trek alum William Shatner appears upset, coyly referencing the show's "presentism."

As absurd as it might seem for a cultural battle over the gun rights of a hand-drawn cartoon character, Piscopo does make a pair of valid points. One, if you're going to still feature a hunter as an antagonist, why wouldn't he have a rifle, as hunters do? And two, Fudd isn't any less violent when using explosive devices.

But as gun-control advocates would argue, the specific portrayal of gun violence — an exponentially more prevalent problem in the United States — could help desensitize young viewers to it.

And as one social media user pointed out on Twitter, Fudd has long wielded other weapons besides a shotgun, which has been less and less prevalent in more recent iterations of the cartoon.

Looney Tunes writer Michael Ruocco responded to the dust-up on Twitter Sunday: "Do you guys SERIOUSLY care whether or not Elmer Fudd has a gun in our shorts? You know how many gags we can do with guns? Fairly few. And the best were already done by the old guys. It's limiting. It was never about the gun, it was about Elmer's flawed, challenged masculinity," he wrote. "Also, think about context about what's going on in the world, and how long ago our show started production. Late 2017, early 2018. Right on the heels of a record number of mass shootings, particularly the horrific one in Las Vegas. NOBODY wanted to touch guns working in media."

Regardless of the rising gun controversy, Looney Tunes Cartoons is already proving to hit the target for HBO Max. It's been one of the fledgling streaming service's most popular shows since launching May 27.

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