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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Can Pepe the Frog Ever Be Redeemed?

Amongst all the talk of the 2020 election, it’s easy to forget everything that led up to Donald Trump winning the presidency in 2016. But if you keep your eyes shut and concentrate you might remember a few things: heated debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton, a chaotic Twitter landscape, and an otherwise cute frog that became the mascot of internet-savvy 4chan users who were trying to meme Trump into the presidency.

Back in 2016, Pepe the Frog was added to the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols. But before that, he was just a part of a layabout group of friends in Matt Furie’s comic series Boy’s Club. He was never intended for anything but a good time. But when the internet got ahold of him, he became a face of the NEET 4chan masses and ultimately a symbol of the so-called alt-right.

The documentary Feels Good Man, which is currently available on PBS and several streaming services, traces that journey. It also chronicles how Furie, a mild-mannered San Francisco artist, attempted to reclaim Pepe and turn him back into a symbol of love. It’s a formidable task, but perhaps not impossible. As filmmakers Arthur Jones and Giorgio Angelini show in their doc, Pepe actually became a symbol of resistance to authoritarian rule during the protests in Hong Kong just last year.

In this week’s episode of the Get WIRED podcast, senior editor Angela Watercutter talks to Jones and Angelini about the journey they went on with the creator of Pepe—and what the little green frog means now.

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