The 2020 film “Feels Good Man” documents the creation of what has now become a meme and hate symbol, Pepe the Frog, through to its descent into becoming an image associated with the far-right.
Initially made in the comic Boys Club, the film’s director, Arthur Jones, tells this enthralling story in his directorial debut.
It starts with the creator of the comic, Matt Furie, talking about art and his work. Pepe in Boys Club is a typical slacker yet endearing adult-sized frog, that encompasses much of college-aged and mid 20’s culture.
The image of Pepe peeing with his pants pulled down saying: “Feels Good Man,” later became an internet meme. This led to just the image of the frog becoming popular on the message board 4Chan, and then the wider internet.
Unfortunately, this angered the subculture of 4Chan which saw it as an affront that “normies”, as they call it, enjoyed something they did. The response was to put Pepe in with brutally offensive, shocking imagery, such as in memes supporting Nazism.
It then became hard to differentiate what was shock humour, or what was actually support for fascism. This all ended in Pepe’s supposed support for Donald Trump in the 2016 US election.
This deeply hurt Furie, who only then had a problem with his image being used freely by others online. The episode eventually led to Pepe being considered an official hate symbol in the United States.
Essentially, the film provides a great view of our culture four years ago when Trump surprised the world in beating Hillary Clinton.
The various online cultures around it, also brilliantly described in Angela Nagle’s “Kill All Normies”, are an insight into how young people online interacted with the world then.
More importantly for the film though, is Furie’s efforts to change the perception of the character he created.
He hopes that through this film and by taking legal action against far-right groups using the image of Pepe, he can take back Pepe for what he is. A pretty chill, 20-something, good-natured slacker, cartoon frog.
The film’s beautiful illustrations at the end give you hope that one day Furie can claim the character of Pepe back from being a hate symbol, and for what he intended him to be.
Image Credit: Know Your Meme