Memes have played a key role in modern times. As they have been used by anyone to make fun or a point about everything. One of the most popular ones ever is Pepe The Frog. As the awkward green big-eyed humanoid was used for most of us to talk about daily life. From the simple pleasures of life to the things that make us feel sad or anxious. Always with a touch of humor, sometimes darker than others. Now his creator, Matt Furie, has decided to kill Pepe since his purpose and identity have been tergiversated.
The silly internet meme frog has always been perceived as a funny harmless potato couch. That graced us through different social media platforms. But due to the freedom, the internet has some have turned the lovely meme into a hate symbol. Using it to support racism, extreme nationalism, antisemite, and other extreme-right wing groups, probably the less accurate representation of the chill frog created by Furie.
The relaxed stoner frog was born out of American artist and children’s book author, Matt Furie. Who created the anthropomorphous frog as part of his comic book series “Boy’s Club,” in 2005. The comic was posted on MySpace, Gaia, and 4Chan, gaining popularity and turning into an online sensation and meme on 2008. From then on Pepe was the incarnation “Meme” definition being used to describe popular subjects that mutated over time, representing many people, cultures, and ideas.
Originally representing mundane events (like peeing with your pants down), relaxed captions (like ” … feels good, man”) and talking about daily life (what we love and hate about it). Pepe was a total success gracing 9GAG, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. Where it was reposted by everyone, from the average users to bloggers, influencers and more. Gaining some of its peaks when he got shared by celebrities. As even the creator, Matt Furie has said. “Users online started cut-and-pasting Pepe’s heavy-eyed, froggy face and the phrase “feels good, man” and shared it on Internet message boards as a quick visual description of how they were feeling after an event. I just finished my exam!… [“feels good, man”]. That was the beginning of the meme, circa 2008.
Pepe The Frog before it all went down
Before this election, Pepe the Frog spent years mutating online into the many-faced Mickey Mouse God of the Internet. The frog face has gone through thousands of user-made Internet incarnations, expressing rage, smugness, violence, happiness, coolness and, most notably, sadness. To zillions of people, mostly kids, teens and college-dwellers, it meant many things, but mostly it was a big joke. ¨I have a stack of Pepe fan art sent to me by school children. Moms write me to say how much their kid loves Pepe. Kids write me to ask how his name is pronounced (Peep? Pee-pee? Pep-pay?). As the copyright owner, I was licensing a bunch of things like indie video games, card games; making official clothes, a plush toy; and I was excited by my plans for the future. I was thinking, Memes rule!”.
He even got some big shots. “I even got a couple offers from Hollywood to turn the book into a cartoon. I flaked out on them because I just wanted it to be from my pen to my paper and have total control. (Whoops!)”. But in the presidential election of 2016 everything went down. As it was firstly used by the then candidate Donald Trump and his supporters, along with other white nationalist groups. LEaging to the anti-Defamation League (ADL) added him to their database of hate symbols. As Pepe was transformed from a relax frog who enjoyed snacks and soda to be depicted as Adolf Hitler and as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. To the point that in September of 2016, even Hillary Clinton identified Pepe the Frog as a racist hate symbol.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
Trying to love again
Obviously, this was a nightmare for Matt. As he tried to save his beloved cartoon. As he launched the “Save Pepe,” campaign. That consisted on flooding the internet with “peaceful or nice” depictions of the character. Trying to shake away the negative and racist portraits of his creation. Sadly, it failed and he decided to kill his creation, at least metaphorically. He had lost control over it, and couldn’t bare to keep drawing him knowing that it will be turned into a hateful cartoon. So he decided to kill Pepe on Monday, on the comic and posted it on Tumblr. Where his memorial service, along with all his pals from “Boys Club” where surrounding him on his casket. Giving him a true homie’s goodbye, as they even poured some liquor out over his body.
Matt Furie, Pepe creator, touch our hearts with a Times emotional letter
Matt wrote to Times a very emotional letter of how the whole thing got off control. Regretting his outcome and how the elections of 2016 are to blame for the death of his character.
“But that was before 2016, a time when our culture evolved to include Internet culture in this election (mostly to seek out the Millennial vote). A smug Trump-Pepe was shared by Trump himself on Twitter in the beginning of the election race, a move I assumed was a nod to young voters. Or perhaps it was a more sinister nod to some fringe, racist groups that used Pepe as a mascot for their agenda. Or just another famous person sharing a Pepe meme because it’s cool (like Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj did in the past).”
” I have no idea. But I know this: It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate, and that racists and anti-Semites are using a once peaceful frog-dude from my comic book as an icon of hate. It’s a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate.”
¨The problem with Pepe is that he’s been stamped a hate symbol by politicians, hate groups, institutions, the media and, because of them, your mom. Before he got wrapped up in politics, Pepe was an inside-joke and a symbol for feeling sad or feeling good and many things in between. I understand that it’s out of my control, but in the end, Pepe is whatever you say he is, and I, the creator, say that Pepe is love”.
But despite the metaphorical death of Pepe The Frog and the negative uses he might have. For many, it will still be one of the best and funniest memes around. Portraying our love for simple yet odd things, and our anxiety and dislike towards life. Since the internet is free, many of us can still keep him alive in the way he is supposed to. With him being shown as a funny laid back frog.
— May 21🙌🙌 (@atakpa__) May 7, 2017