Pepe the Frog: The End of an Era
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Pepe the Frog has sent internet-goers on an emotional roller-coaster over the years. We’ve seen him, we’ve loved him, we’ve hated him, and now, we may have lost him. Whether you’ve seen him on Tumblr and believed yourself a pioneer in vintage memeage or you’re just a very confused Instagram-goer, you’ve probably seen the green amphibian with lips red enough to rival Kylie Jenner’s. Millennials have suffered through mothers’ frequent exclamations of, “Johnathan, look at this funny sad frog on Facebook!” and spat-back responses of, “GOD MOM I SAW THAT LIKE FIVE MONTHS AGO.” From humble origins, Pepe has evolved to an unimaginable state. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Pepe the frog is officially a symbol of hate.
Pepe the Frog is originally from a comic series called Boy’s Club by Matt Furie. The comic remained pretty much undiscovered until one fateful panel: Pepe saying, “Feels good man” in response to, shall we say, “relieving himself”. Almost instantly, the image went viral and was being photoshopped and applied to any situation possible, primarily in “tfw” and reaction memes. Pepe’s personalization may have just been what dictated both his rise and fall.
As Pepe evolved to an unrecognizable state, celebrities from Katy Perry to even Donald Trump were using his likeness in various contexts. However, as he reached the darker corners of the internet, Pepe’s transformations took an unexpected turn. His image became most commonly known for being edited to resemble Hitler, Klu Klux Klan members, and other racist or generally offensive icons. Because of this, The ADL, an organization whose purpose is to fight anit-Semitism, added Pepe to their “Hate Symbols Database” this past September.
The Anti-Defamation League, ADL, clarifies this decision, stating, “The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted. However, it was inevitable that, as the meme proliferated in on-line venues such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, which have many users who delight in creating racist memes and imagery, a subset of Pepe memes would come into existence that centered on racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted themes.”
In response to this development, the internet has erupted with even more Pepe memes in an attempt to clear his name. Arguments of his innocence and importance to internet culture have risen but, what is done may just be done. Pepe may never return from the green ashes of his defeat.
R.I.P. Pepe the Frog.