Storyville: Pepe The Frog – Feels Good Man
- Brian Donaldson
- 26 October 2020
Latest Storyville documentary dives into the origins of the notorious cartoon frog and how it became a symbol of the far-right
Imagine you're just a humble cartoonist trying to make your pals laugh, and maybe make a buck out of it here and there. A few years later, one of your creations starts cropping up on the darker sections of the internet, portrayed in slightly less playful circumstances from your original intentions. Before you know it, the character has been fully co-opted by the far right and wielded as a symbol to spread race hate and declare an unfettered culture war against their enemies.
That's what happened to Matt Furie, the scribbler behind Pepe The Frog (and his catchphrase 'feels good man') who began as an anthropomorphic individual in his frat-party style comic, Boys Club, before becoming a top-rated meme on the likes of 4chan and taken up by neo-Nazis, gaining full traction when the Trump campaign adopted Pepe in 2016. In the face of overwhelming odds, the mild-mannered Furie started to hit back as much as he could, with a mix of legal action allied with his own attempts to at first kill off Pepe and then resurrect him as a new symbol for peace and love.
This 90-minute Storyville tells an ultimately sad tale with well-handled pacing, offering up glimpses of the full horror of Pepe's bastardisation before hitting us with the stark reality of how it affected Furie and his young family. Despite the carnage and hurt caused by this ruthless misappropriation, the story closes with a sliver of hope, as democracy protestors in Hong Kong adopt Pepe as a logo of liberty. The ending, at least, feels good man.
BBC Four, Monday 26 October, 10pm.