How a Certain Frog Received an Undeserved Reputation as a Symbol of Hate

Owen Teague, Writer

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You might recognize this image: a humanoid frog with brown lips, green skin, a blue shirt, and yellow shorts. You might love him, or you might absolutely hate him. He is known as Pepe the Frog. A face that has become synonymous with racial intolerance, religious intolerance, Donald Trump, the alt-right, Neo-nazism, and generally being against certain things. But how exactly did this frog come to be? How did a seemingly innocent image become so synonymous with hatred and bigotry? To discover his origin we’ll have to look back to 2005.

A man named Matt Furie first introduced the infamous Pepe in his comic called Boy’s Club, which was first posted on MySpace. The face of Pepe caught the eye of the internet. The frog became widespread across websites such as MySpace, Gaia Online, and an infamous website that shall not be mentioned here, as it was mostly a meme and an in-joke at the time. In 2008, the frog and his catchphrase “feels good man” was uploaded to a popular message board, which is now described as the frog’s permanent home. The meme spread like wildfire, taking the internet by storm. The catchphrase and the frog’s expression being changed to match the situation. Pepe got even more traction when stars like Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry shared him. People then started selling creative and unique variants of the frog through mediums like eBay, which are known as rare Pepes. Those who used the frog outside of the image board received ridicule from other users, often being called normies, which is slang for normal people. In 2015, the frog placed 6th place in Daily News and Analysis’ most retweeted meme of the year.

Then the presidential election of 2016 happened and things started going downhill for poor Pepe.

During his campaign, Donald Trump retweeted a more humanoid representation of Pepe with Trump’s hair running for president. At some point later, Roger Stone posted a false movie poster called ‘The Deplorables,” Pepe was among the faces on the poster. During the election process, news outlets started portraying Pepe as a white nationalist symbol and a vector of the alt-right. In May of 2016, a writer for The Daily Beast stated that there was a campaign to reclaim Pepe from the alt-right and turning Pepe into a symbol of hate was one of the alt-right’s goals. Needless to say, if this was true, the alt-right got their wish. The Anti-Defamation League, an American organization opposed to antisemitism, put the frog in its hate symbol database, but noted that most of the frog’s uses weren’t actually for hate. Furie attempted to stop the hate by killing Pepe off in his comic, but later stated that he had plans of reviving him, but not as a hate symbol. Furie stated in response to Pepe being used as a hate symbol both online and offline, “It sucks, but I can’t control it more than anyone can control frogs on the Internet.” Regardless, the internet, the alt-right, and the media continued to have their way with Pepe; warping his image to fit their often skewed, bigoted, and opinionated viewpoints.

And that’s the story of Pepe the Frog and where he is today.

Feels bad man.