Feels Good Man details how Pepe the Frog went from harmless internet meme to alt-right mascot

click to enlarge Feels Good Man
Feels Good Man

There's a longstanding axiom that once an artist releases their work out into the world, it no longer belongs to them. In the case of cartoonist Matt Furie, his most famous creation was Pepe the Frog, who first appeared in the underground comic Boy's Club and eventually became one of the internet's most common — and divisive — memes.

Feels Good Man, its title taken from one of Pepe's hang-loose catchphrases, exhaustively details the character's progression from cult object to alt-right surrogate, whose character was twisted and contorted into an avatar of Donald Trump himself. All of this was beyond Furie's control, and the film follows his attempts to reclaim his creation as the harmless stoned frog that it once was, particularly after the Anti-Defamation League put Pepe on its list of hate symbols.

Director Arthur Jones doesn't limit the narrative to Furie's side of things. He also talks to professors who are experts in meme culture (yes, that's a thing now), a basement-dwelling internet troll who saw the rise of Pepe as an incel rallying cry, and other indie artists who reflect on the notion that the whims of readers determine the trajectory of your creation just as effectively as the authors.

But what's perhaps most interesting and complex about Feels Good Man is how it interrogates the unassuming, childlike vibe of Pepe the Frog as a shield of irony, allowing toxic people online to use it as a Trojan horse for hate. This is really a slow-motion horror story about the sheer omniscience of the internet, and how it's impossible to stop the boulder of virality once it's rolling down the hill. For rent on Amazon and iTunes.

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About The Author

Nathan Weinbender

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.