Pepe The Frog is Officially Dead
In 2005, cartoonist Matt Furie published a comic on his Myspace that involved an anthropomorphic frog taking a pee with his pants around his ankles. When his friend asks why he urinates with his pants pulled all the way down, the frog answers: “Feels good man.” In 2017, the same frog lays dead in a casket, surrounded by his friends. Pepe the Frog is dead. Vale Pepe the Frog.
The decade between Pepe’s birth and death is complicated, to say the least. The panel of Pepe saying “Feels good man” became a reaction image on Gaia Online forums before being picked up by 4chan. From there, it evolved into various remixes of the original joke: Sad Frog, Smug Frog, Angry Pepe. It started as an in-joke, before bleeding into the mainstream, with pop-stars Nicky Minaj and Katy Perry posting Pepe memes on Instagram and Twitter.
At some point during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, something went very wrong according to the left. Pepe was apparently co-opted by members of the alt-right movement and white supremacists after Trump retweeted a smug Trump-Pepe. The frog that likes to pee with his pants at his ankles became a hate symbol.
As stupid as it may sound, the left is extremely concerned and triggered by a cartoon frog. Enough so that the Anti-Defamation League defines it as a hate symbol.
In an op-ed piece published in “Time,” Furie attempted to reclaim the character. “I understand that it’s out of my control,” he acknowledged, “but in the end, Pepe is whatever you say he is, and I, the creator, say that Pepe is love.”
Fantagraphics, the publisher that released Furie’s collected “Boy’s Club” comics, issued a statement regarding Pepe’s hate symbol status that sums it up pretty well.
Having your creation appropriated without consent is never something an artist wants to suffer, but having it done in the service of such repellent hatred — and thereby dragging your name into the conversation, as well — makes it considerably more troubling.
By killing Pepe, Furie has essentially washed his hands of his creation. Pepe is dead and buried, and that’s that apparently.