The Daily Heller: Pepe the Frog Wronged By Alt-Right, Made Whole Again
Feels Good Man is an extraordinary documentary directed by Arthur Jones, following how artist Matt Furie, creator of an anthropomorphic benign comic character named Pepe the Frog, fought a legal battle to prevent his creation from being co-opted by the alt-right, who turned it into a symbol of hate and white supremacy.
Think of Mickey and Minnie Mouse awaking one metamorphic morning as Adolf and Eva. That was the Kafkaesque shock that Furie experienced when his character entered the vortex of the dark web.
The documentary (which will stream on Independent Lens on PBS stations on Oct. 19 and is also available through Amazon), traces Pepe through his transformations, and follows the frog's creator-cartoonist and his at-times futile attempts to try to control something inherently uncontrollable: memes. The movie attempts to set the record straight and make clear who Pepe is, but functions more as a case study in how we communicate now and the collateral damage that online pirate communication leaves behind.
I was interviewed for the film two years ago, and although I had not followed Pepe in his early, unspoiled days or his later political kidnapping, I could discuss the parallels with Hitler's transformation of the Swastika and Runic symbols. The film is of cautionary importance and functions very well without my contribution, still I'm nonetheless appreciative to the creators for this reference in the PBS interview:
Feels Good Man is a film for our dangerously fluid media moment, and especially for all artists, designers and students who are not entirely aware, as was Furie, the unintended consequences of their creation.