Pepe the Frog
Pepe the Frog is an anthropomorphic frog character from the comic series Boy’s Club by Matt Furie. On 4chan, various illustrations of the frog creature have been used as reaction faces, including Feels Good Man, Sad Frog, Angry Pepe, Smug Frog and Well Meme'd.
In 2005, artist Matt Furie created the comic series Boy's Club, which stars the teenage monster characters Pepe, Brett, Andy and Landwolf.
In early 2008, comic in which Pepe pulls his pants down to his ankles in order to urinate is rumored to have been popularized on 4chan's /b/, (random) board, along with the expression "Feels good man."
Throughout 2008, Pepe was mostly associated with the "Feels Good Man" reaction image. On February 4th, Something Awful contributor Jon Hendren (a.k.a. @fart) posted the "Feels Good Man" comic to the site. In 2009, an edited version featuring a distraught-looking Pepe with the caption "Feels bad man" began circulating as a reaction image on 4chan and the Body Building Forums. On January 25th, 2011, an interview with Furie was published on Know Your Meme, in which he discussed the origins of Pepe the Frog. On June 13th, 2014, the PepeTheFrogBlog Tumblr blog was launched. On July 23rd, the Pepe the Frog Instagram feed was created. On October 25th, the /r/pepethefrog subreddit was launched for content featuring the frog character. On December 7th, a Facebook page for "Pepe the Frog" was created. On December 18th, the PepeTheFrogNet Tumblr blog was launched.
Katy Perry's Tweet
On November 8th, 2014, Katy Perry tweeted a picture of Pepe crying with the caption "Australian jet lag got me like" (shown below). Over the next three years, the tweet received more than 17,000 likes and 10,500 retweets.
Nicki Minaj's Instagram Post
On December 18th, 2014, rapper Nicki Minaj posted an illustration of Pepe bent over and prominently displaying his buttocks with the caption "Me on Instagram for the next few weeks trying to get my followers back up" (shown below). Over the next two years, the post received more than 281,000 likes and 13,900 comments.
Donald Trump's Tweet
On October 13th, 2015, Donald Trump tweeted an illustration of Pepe as himself standing at a podium with the President of the United States Seal (shown below). Within 16 months, the post gathered upwards of 11,000 likes and 8,100 retweets.
On January 2nd, 2017, the Twitter account for the fast food chain restaurant Wendy’s responded to a user who asked “Got any memes?” with a picture of Pepe the Frog drawn in the likeness of the Wendy’s mascot. The tweet, shown below, drew criticism and was deleted, causing the account to tweet, “Our community manager was unaware of the recent evolution of the Pepe meme’s meaning and this tweet was promptly deleted.”
Russian Embassy UK's Tweet
On January 9th, 2016, the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom tweeted a picture of Smug Pepe in a tweet reaction to news about an upcoming meeting between British Prime Minister Theresa May and United States President-elect Donald Trump (shown below). Over the next 24 hours, the tweet gained over 9,000 likes and 6,200 retweets.
In the coming days, the news sites The Daily Dot, Vox and IBI Times published articles about the tweet, referring to the Smug Pepe illustration as a "racist meme" and "white supremacist symbol."
Sad Frog is an illustration of a depressed-looking Pepe, often accompanied by the text “Feels Bad Man." It is used to denote feelings of failure or disappointment, either by posting the image or using the phrase “feelsbadman.jpg.”
Smug Frog, also known as Smug Pepe, is a reaction image of a smug-looking version of Pepe (shown below).
Angry Pepe, also known as Angry Frog, is a reaction image featuring a hostile-looking variation of Pepe. The image is often accompanied by expressions of rage and intense frustration.
Poo Poo Pee Pee
Poo Poo Pee Pee is the name given to a series of images and comics that feature Smug Pepe committing various unethical acts, typically involving urine or feces. Most commonly found in 4chan's /r9k/ (robot9000) board, the comics were created as a reaction towards the usage of Pepe's likeness in various mainstream social media sites. The first instance of the comics can be found on a /r9k/ thread posted on November 16th, 2014, featuring an image of an obese Smug Pepe with the message "Poo poo. Pee pee. Now mommy has to change me." On November 28th, another comic was posted to r9k in which Pepe excretes over character Wojak. On December 24th, the Poo-Poo-Pee-Pee-Frog Tumblr blog was created.
Nu Pepe is an alternate depiction of Pepe in which the frog is drawn with crossed arms and wearing a blue long sleeve shirt. On December 9th, 2014, an image of Pepe resembling the character Javert from Les Misérables was highlighted on the Finnish imageboard Ylilauta (shown below, left). On January 24th, 2015, an edited version in which Pepe is wearing a Bane mask was posted on the Russian imageboard Два.ч (shown bellow, middle). On March 1st, an unedited version of the image was posted on 4chan's /qa/ (question and answer) board, referring to the reaction image as "nu pepe" and nominating it as "the official meme of /qa/" (shown bellow, right). The next day, the image was stickied on the [s4s] (shit 4chan says) board.
“Well Meme’d” is an ironic expression typically accompanied an exploitable image of a character laughing and saying “Hahaha, great post!” followed by “Well meme’d, my friend!," based on an original comic featuring Pepe wearing a sweater and tie (shown below).
Starting in October 2014, /r9k/ users began submitted posts to share "rare" images of Pepe as if they were trading cards. On March 28th, 2015, a thread was submitted to /r9k/ about collecting Rare Pepes in order to "flood the market" and depreciate their value. On March 31st, a /r9k/ user posted an imgur gallery with over 1,200 pictures of Pepe. In the first week, the gallery received more than 260,000 views. In early April, the collection of Pepe image were listed on eBay, which reached a price of $99,166 before being removed from the site.
On April 3rd, the Internet humor site Smosh published an article about the rare Pepe images, which subsequently began to appear on other sites like Reddit and Tumblr. By April 9th, there were over 230 "rare Pepe" listings on eBay.
Peep the Toad
On July 30th, 2016, Tumblr user pornstarwars submitted an illustration of an anthropomorphic toad with the caption "when u cant afford quality name brand memes so u have to settle for / peep the toad" (shown below). Over the next eight months, the post gained over 134,000 notes.
On September 29th, Redditor GT_memes reposted the illustration to /r/dankmemes, where it accumulated more than 6,500 votes (91% upvoted) within five months. On October 14th, Redditor c_dunbar submitted a screenshot of pornstarwars' post to /r/me_irl, where it garnered upwards of 5,700 votes (94% upvoted) within four months. On October 23rd, 2016, the Peep the Toad Facebook page was launched, which highlights various examples of the toad character (shown below).
On February 24th, 2017, Redditor ReallyNotARabbit submitted a post proclaiming that "Peep the Toad memes" were "on the rise" to /r/memeeconomy. On March 8th, Redditor MarioMann211 reposted the image to /r/memeeconomy, asking for an "estimate" on its value.
On July 22nd, 2015, Malaysian artist Maldraw posted an image on 4chan's /pol/ board of Smug Pepe as Donald Trump overlooking a fence at the U.S.-Mexican border holding back sad Mexicans drawn as the Feels Guy. As the association of Trump and Pepe continued to gain popularity on 4chan and Reddit, on October 13th, Donald Trump retweeted an illustration of Trump Pepe.
On May 26th, 2016, The Daily Beast published an article titled “How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol.“ The article included an interview with Twitter user @JaredTSwift, identified as an "anonymous white nationalist," who claimed there was a "campaign to reclaim Pepe from normies" by creating anti-Semitic illustrations of the frog character.
On September 9th, 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that half Donald Trump's supporters were in a "basket of deplorables" during a speech held at a private fundraiser. On September 10th, Donald Trump Jr. posted a photoshopped movie poster on Instagram of the 2010 action film The Expendables, which features various prominent conservatives and Pepe the Frog with the title "The Deplorables" (shown below).
The following day, NBC News published an article about the photoshop, which referred to Pepe the Frog as a "popular white nationalist symbol" based on a statement made by Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich. That day, several news sites published articles referring to Pepe as a "white supremacist meme" and "white national symbol," including The Hill, Vanity Fair, Talking Points Memo and CNN (shown below). On September 12th, a post mocking the NBC article reached the front page of /r/KotakuInAction.
The same day, the official Hillary Clinton presidential campaign blog published a post titled "Donald Trump, Pepe the frog, and white supremacists: an explainer," which labeled Pepe the Frog as "sinister" and a "symbol associated with white supremacy." Over the next 24 hours, posts about the Clinton campaign's reaction reached the front page of various subreddits, including /r/cringe, /r/politics, /r/OutOfTheLoop, /r/4chan and /r/The_Donald. In the comments sections, many Redditors mocked the Clinton campaign and the mainstream media for failing to understand the Pepe meme. Meanwhile, The Daily Dot published an article titled "Pepe the Frog is not a Nazi, no matter what the alt-right says," stating that "Pepe lacks political affiliation."
On September 29th, 2016, Matt Furie expressed his disappointment with the alt-right's use of the meme, along with the Anti-Defamation League's citation, in an interview with CBC Radio, during which he said that he was the character's creator but did not specify that he had no part in making "this weird racist version of it."
On October 7th, 2016, Fantagraphics, the publisher of Matt Furie's comic book collection Boy's Club, issued a statement on behalf of Matt Furie in which they refuted Pepe's association with the alt-right, while criticizing Donald Trump and his alt-right supporters for "myriad copyright violations" of the artist's character.
Fantagraphics Books wants to state for the record that the one, true Pepe the frog, as created by the human being and artist Matt Furie, is a peaceful cartoon amphibian who represents love, acceptance, and fun. (And getting stoned.) Both creator and creation reject the nihilism fueling Pepe’s alt-right appropriators, and all of us at Fantagraphics encourage you to help us reclaim Pepe as a symbol of positivity and togetherness.
On October 14th, the Anti-Defamation League announced that it would join forces with Matt Furie on the #SavePepe hashtag campaign in an effort to reclaim Pepe the Frog from racists by creating and sharing positive images of the frog.
On October 17th, The Nib, the political cartoon site that previously commissioned K.C. Green's response to the Republican National Committee's use of his "This Is Fine"webcomic, released an original drawing by Matt Furie that shows Pepe the Frog melting into a likeness of Donald Trump.
That same day, TIME Magazine published an op-ed article by Furie in which he further rebuked the alt-right's use of his art.
“As the creator of Pepe, I condemn the illegal and repulsive appropriations of the character by racist and fringe groups. The true nature of Pepe, as featured in my comic book, ‘Boys Club,’ celebrates peace, togetherness and fun. I aim to reclaim the rascally frog from the forces of hate and ask that you join me in making millions of new, joyful Pepe memes that share the light hearted spirit of the original chilled-out champion.”
Lawsuit Against Jessica Logsdon
In September 2017, Furie's law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr sent artist Jessica Logsdon a cease and desist order against selling Pepe the Frog paintings on eBay (shown below). Logsdon refused to comply, claiming she was within her rights to sell the paintings.
On September 17th, a poster claiming to be Logsdon submitted a thread titled "Matt Furie is Suing Me for Painting Pepe" to the /pol/ board on 4chan. In the post, Logsdon revealed, "I am planning on fighting this on many fronts, but most important among them is that I am exercising my religious freedom as a "Kekistani". On September 18th, Logsdon tweeted a picture of the notice to journalist Matthew Gault, adding "I am a painter, not the least alt-right" (shown below).
On October 3rd, Furie's lawyers sued Logsdon in US District Court for the Western District of Missouri. On October 5th, the 118-page document was posted by Motherboard in an article titled "This Is the First Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against a Pepe Meme Maker.".
French National Front Association
On November 10th, 2016, shortly after the election of Donald Trump in the United States, Redditor Chepamec started a thread titled "Welcome Veterans, Let's Start the Fire" on /r/Le_Pen, a subreddit for supporters of the French nationalist political party National Front (FN) and the 2017 presidential candidacy of its leader Marine Le Pen. Accompanied by a photoshopped WWI photograph featuring a French soldier with a Hapistes face alongside a Pepe-faced American soldier (shown below), Chepamec also offered a list of ideas for a social media campaign in support of FN, which included "Make photoshops with smug Marine, Marion or Philippot faces." That same day, Redditor Globalism_sux submitted the earliest known illustration of Pepe Le Pen, drawn in the style of Trump Pepe, garnering more than 240 points prior to its archival (shown below).
On January 27th, 2017, Imagebooru users launched a forum titled Pepe de France as a hub for memes and satirical commentaries in support of the French nationalist leader, leading to a slew of Pepe-themed images in the likeness of Marine Le Pen (shown below).
On February 5th, Marine Le Pen officially announced her presidential campaign in the 2017 election, which was met with polarizing reaction from the French news media and on the social media, while many political experts predicted that she would emerge as a frontrunner based on her polling figures. In the following days, BuzzFeed, Politico and many other news outlets reported on the launch of an international social media campaign centered around memes in support of the National Front.
Zara Skirt Controversy
In April 2017, the Spanish clothing and accessories retailer Zara began selling a denim skirt with several frog patches on it. However, after many people claimed that the patch resembled Pepe the Frog, the retailer pulled the skirt from their website.
Several media outlets covered controversy and outrage regarding the skirt, including Teen Vogue, Paper, Glamour, and New York Magazine. Twitter published moment to document the response. In previous years, Zara sold other controversial apparel, including a stripped shirt with a yellow star on it that many believed resembled what Nazis forced Jewish citizens to wear during the Holocaust. Meanwhile, other Twitter users began speculating that the frog was actually a depiction of the character Old Man Jenkins from Spongebob Squarepants (shown below).
On April 19th, The Guardian published a statement from a Zara spokesperson, who revealed that there was "absolutely no link" between the artwork and Pepe the Frog and that the artist Mario de Santiago (a.k.a. Yimeisgreat) took the design from a "wall painting" he drew with friends years before.
On May 6th, 2017, comic book publisher by Fantagraphics released an issue of Worlds Greatest Cartoonists featuring a comic by Matt Furie in which Pepe is shown laying in a casket at his funeral. That day, several news sites reported that Furie had "killed" the character by publishing the comic, including CBR, Mary Sue and Mashable.
Bluetooth AirDrop Incident
On June 14th, 2017, Twitter user @RBraceySherman posted several tweets claiming that a "white supremacist" named Jacob sent her an AirDrop request over Bluetooth at the airport, which contained an image attachment featuring the Smug Frog depiction of Pepe (shown below).
Shortly after, Sherman posted a tweet announcing she had discovered Jacob and posted several pictures of the alleged perpetrator (shown below). Additionally, she addressed those who know or work with Jacob, saying they should know he is a "white supremacist & digital terrorizer."
Many responded to Sherman's thread by praising her for confronting the man, while others accused her of overreacting to an innocuous prank. The following day, The Daily Dot published an article titled "Writer says she received racist, unsolicited Pepe meme via Bluetooth" and HeatStreet published an article titled "Feminist Stalks Random People at Airport Bar to Find Person Who Sent Her ‘Pepe the Frog’ Image".
"Save Pepe" Kickstarter
On June 26th, 2017, Matt Furie launched the "Save Pepe" crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, which aims to "resurrect" the character in a new comic book "as a universal symbol for peace, love, and acceptance." Within two weeks, the project received upwards of $20,000 of its $10,000 goal.
On June 28th, Vox published an article titled "Pepe the Frog's creator can't save him from the alt-right, but he keeps trying anyway." On July 2nd, YouTuber MundaneMatt uploaded a video about the crowdfunding campaign titled "Matt Furie wants to save Pepe the Frog from the Alt-Right," which criticized the campaign as a money-making scheme (shown below). The following day, a post about the Kickstarter reached the front page of /r/KotakuInAction.
On May 13th, 2017, Infowars founder Alex Jones tweeted a picture of a poster sold on the Infowars website, featuring depictions of himself, Pepe the Frog, Donald Trump, Roger Stone, Paul Joseph Watson, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Diamond and Silk (shown below).
On March 5th, 2018, Matt Furie filed a copyright lawsuit against Infowars for using Pepe the Frog without his permission, asking for an injunction against the media company. In the lawsuit document, Furie's representation referenced the use of Pepe by "fringe groups" and mentions the #SavePepe campaign. The following day, an article about the lawsuit was published by the entertainment news site The Hollywood Reporter.
"But beginning in 2015, various fringe groups connected with the alt-right attempted to co-opt Pepe by mixing images of Pepe with images of hate, including white supremacist language and symbols, Nazi symbols, and other offensive imagery. Furie has worked hard to counteract that negative image of Pepe, including collaborating with the Anti-Defamation League on the #SavePepe campaign to restore Pepe as a character representing peace, togetherness, and fun."
Overwatch League Ban
On January 10th, 2018, the video game news site Kotaku reported that two audience members at an Overwatch League esports event were approached by security who confiscated their sign featuring a Pepe the Frog illustration.
On March 18th, Overwatch competitor Jay Won from the team San Francisco Shock removed a Pepe tweet and subsequently posted a followup claiming that he "had to delete" the tweet (shown below).
On March 20th, the esports news blog Dot Esports published a statement from an Overwatch League spokesperson who confirmed that the Blizzard Entertainment was discouraging use of the meme at Overwatch competitions:
"The Overwatch League discourages the use of symbols and imagery which are associated with or used by hate groups, including Pepe the Frog. At Blizzard Arena, it's our policy that fans comply with this policy. We likewise ask the same of Overwatch League teams and players on their social-media accounts."
Archieve.4plebs – This is a thread dedicated to 4chan's newest new meme, nu-pepe.
Archieve.moe – Poo poo Pee pee Now Mommy has to come and change me.
Talking Points Memo – Trump Ally Son Share Meme Featuring Symbol Of White Nationalist Alt-Right
The Daily Beast – How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol
The Daily Dot – Russia tweets racist meme in reaction to Trump meeting
New York Magazine – Zara Pulled a Skirt Featuring an Alt-Right Symbol From Its Site
The Hollywood Reporter – Pepe the Frog Artist Suing InfoWars for Copyright Infringement