Pepe the Frog gets unceremoniously thrown into the US sociopolitical mixer in this insightful documentary about the pervasiveness of memes, perils of Internet culture and one man’s—creator Matt Furie—angst toward all that is wrong with American society.
Dir. Arthur Jones
2020 | USA | Documentary | 92 mins | English
NC16 (passed clean) for some coarse language and mature themes
Plot: Artist Matt Furie, creator of the comic character Pepe the Frog, begins an uphill battle to take back his iconic cartoon image from those who used it for their own purposes.
Awards: Won US Documentary Special Jury Award (Sundance)
International Sales: Visit Films
Subject Matter: Moderate – Internet Culture, Society, Politics
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: Screener – Perspectives Film Festival 2020
Pepe the Frog was quite the thing during my undergraduate days in the early 2010s, but I admit that I wasn’t really into it, and for a time, mistook it for—gasp!—Kermit the Frog.
Seeing the new documentary, Feels Good Man, fresh from Sundance 2020 and winning a Special Jury Award, reminds me of that embarrassing period of identity faux pas. But more than that, it reminds me of what I had really missed—that Pepe became so much more than just a meme.
In his directorial debut, Arthur Jones dissects (sorry animal rights activists for using this term here) the Frog in an insightful documentary that chronicles how it was unceremoniously thrown into the US sociopolitical mixer and became a symbol of the Alt-Right movement in the country.
Through its creator, Matt Furie, we also get a sense of how he feels about his intellectual property being abused by the masses, particularly his angst towards all that is wrong with American society.
Viewers with an interest in popular culture will find Feels Good Man enjoyable as it explores how the pervasiveness of memes came to light; others may find its take on the perils of Internet culture sobering, including how online hate can translate into real-life consequences, including violence and death.
The cycle of toxicity can be overwhelming in the web-o-sphere, but Feels Good Man captures everything with a light touch. There’s optimism in Furie’s continuing story, but whether Pepe’s legacy can be viewed in a positive light, the jury is still out on this one.