October 27, 2016
#SavePepe: Matt Furie, fellow artists, and the Anti-Defamation League team up to cover the internet with posi Pepes
by Chad Felix
To quote a colleague, “This fucking election.” Earlier this month, we reported on the alt-right’s hijacking of the Internet’s favorite cartoon amphibian, Pepe the Frog. Yes, somewhere over the course of the nightmare known as American Politics 2016, Pepe, the fun- and pot-loving frog creation of artist and illustrator Matt Furie, was transformed into a symbol of hate, ultimately finding himself standing as a proud deplorable alongside the likes of Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Alex Jones, Mike Pence, Ben Carson, and some other bad people who have no chill.
The torrent of mis-appropriated Pepes by various hate groups led the Anti-Defamation League to include Pepe in “Hate on Display,” their hate symbol database. Hillary Clinton published a primer on the bad Pepe. And the world suddenly knew Matt Furie’s name. Furie and his publisher, Fantagraphics, were left to do their best to reclaim Furie’s creation, that “blissfully stoned frog” who “enjoyed a simple life of snacks, soda and pulling his pants all the way down to go pee,” to use Furie’s own words, now sadder than ever.
To that end, Furie has teamed up with the Anti-Defamation League to create and promote positive Pepe images, created by Furie and other artists. In a press release, the ADL describes the #SavePepe campaign as “an effort to take back the popular internet meme from racists and use the frog’s likeness as a force for good.” Furie adds:
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.
Furie has since started sharing numerous friendly Pepes on his own Instagram, many of which come from professional artists (Lizz Hickey, Matt Leines, Jesse Fillingham, Jack Moore, Louie Cordero, Imogen Scoppie, and Patrick Kyle, for example), and plenty more have been making the rounds of Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. As a fan of peace, togetherness, fun, and Matt Furie’s work, it brings me great pleasure to share some of these contributions, culled from Furie’s Instagram, below. Should you wish to contribute a Pepe Against Fascism, Furie applauds and welcomes you:
Dear friends, I need your help making positive pepe the frog memes to battle against evil trolls: Please make a kid-friendly pepe in your style and send it to me at: [email protected]
I’m creating a positive Pepe artist database, so include your name. also, please share nice Pepes with the hashtag: #savepepe
#SavePepe. Yes, please.
Pepe by Matt Leines
Pepe by Jesse Fillingham
Pepe by Lizz Hickey
Pepes by Patrick Kyle
Pepe by Louie Cordero
Pepe by Imogen Scoppie
Pepe by Jack Moore
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.