Feels Good Man explores the history of the iconic internet meme. Pepe the Frog got his start from a comic book created by artist Matt Furie. The character found widespread popularity on the old social media site MySpace. Before long, the seemingly innocent frog became a symbol of the hate and the alt right. The film is currently screening at the Fantasia Film Festival.
The documentary does a great job of exploring Internet society. Pepe’s origins give an idea of the social messaging intended by Furie. The familiar frog seem to take off after a particular panel. Pepe is seen urinating with his pants around his ankles and remarks, “feels good man”. If Furie intended anything deep for the character, it was not found in those strips.
Once 4chan got a hold of Pepe, the meme took on a different meaning. There are elements of TFW No GF during these moments. An interviewed 4chan user talks about normies and shows off the messy basement he lives in. The difference is Feels Good Man shows an intentional attempt to create a symbol of hate. Nothing is coded and watching the relationship develop between 4channers and Donald Trump is quite a thing to see. What starts off as a joke (initially, many 4channers considered Trump a joke) turns into something scary and pitiful.
On the other end is Furie. At first, the creator is bemused to see his creation become more popular. He even turns down copyrighting Pepe because he does not want to sue other artists. When he first wants to be disassociated from Pepe, it is more about an artist not wanting to be tied to one work. Soon, Pepe is placed on a hate list database and Furie knows he has to reclaim his creation.
This is where Feels Good Man highlights the insanity of Pepe’s life. Not only does director Arthur Jones show the difficulty in Furie’s attempt, he also subtly turns the documentary into a cautionary tale. What was once the birth of a meme becomes a story about something much more sinister. The film does a great job of showing how ideas can become stolen and warped.
The internet can be a strange and wonderful place. It can also be like taking a journey through every circle of Hell. Feels Good Man shows creator Matt Furie’s trip to take back Pepe the Frog. It is a powerful story that highlights the dangers of letting creations run free in today’s world. It also is a story about the importance of legacy.