1996’s Space Jam was a cultural phenomenon for a number of reasons back when it came out. It spoke to almost 70 years of Looney Tunes cartoons come to life in Warner Bros’ first theatrical feature starring Bugs, Daffy and the gang, it gave basketball pro Michael Jordan his first and only starring role in a feature film, and it gave many an early crush in the form of Lola Bunny. Those are some big sneakers to fill, and Space Jam 2, a.k.a. Space Jam: A New Legacy, is already leading to discourse between fans for its modern updates.
In the footsteps of Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s Jessica Rabbit, who famously said “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way” in her busty red corset dress, Lola Bunny’s character design was rather sexualized, complete with a crop top, short shorts and that whole moment where Tweety Bird comments about how “hot” she is. Lola Bunny will return for Space Jam 2, which you can see on the right in this picture from EW:
Lola Bunny has traded her crop top of the ‘90s with a basketball uniform that is equivalent to Bugs, Daffy and Porky's. Plus, she’s wearing tight shorts underneath her baggy basketball shorts and a sleeve on her right arm. Check out one reaction to the design change:
Just to clarify, that picture on the left with the original drawing of Lola Bunny is not from the movie itself (and is even more sexualized than the movie version). But you get the point; some people are angered to see Lola... yes, the cartoon character, without prominent breasts. As another fan reacted:
Along with Space Jam 2’s first look, director Malcolm D. Lee said that he believed the original version of Lola to be sexualized and felt it to be “unnecessary” to the film – comparing the character to other cartoon characters drawn with the male gaze, like Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit. He said Space Jam: A New Legacy is a kids movie and won’t have Lola in a crop top. The discourse continues with a bit of dry comedy:
There were a lot of different thoughts about Lola Bunny’s new look, including one that slammed the change not because of specific childhood attraction to the character, but because of the idea of removing her sexuality in order to be taken more seriously:
Another commenter spoke out against Lola Bunny’s new design being characterized as a stronger version of the cartoon basketball player because she has been desexualized. It was a rebuttal to Lee’s comments about redesigning the character to look to “reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters.” Her reaction:
Oddly enough, the Lola Bunny redesign has turned into quite the layered issue about what female empowerment can and should look like in movies that doesn’t have one answer. At the time of the original Space Jam, undoubtedly the character was drawn to be “hot” and was a product of the male gaze, but desexualizing a female character doesn’t inherently give her more value or power.
I’m all out of ink on debating about a cartoon bunny’s rack any further, but drop your take in the poll below! Space Jam: A New Legacy is coming to theaters and HBO Max on July 16.