Who is this Pepe the Frog any way? A presidential candidate has in all sincerity declared war on a cartoon character. Let's investigate.

smug pepe

You spent hours perfecting that article praising Lena Dunham for posting shots of her asshole (it’s progressive), and it happened again. The fucking green frog thing is back and now he’s tarnishing the good name of your wife life partner. How dare he?

Or maybe this is the reason.
Or maybe this is the inciting event.

You know what to do. You’ll use your marginalized voice to inform the world about this neo-nazi conspiracy to harass and silence victimized $150k/year journolisters.

But before you send your piece off to the editor, here are five fast facts you need to know.

The green frog’s name is Pepe the Frog and he’s a meme.

A happy childhood

Though Pepe was conceived in Matt Furie’s 2005 “Boy’s Club” comic, he was not known to the internet at large until 2008.

His first big break came on the anonymous imageboard 4chan, specifically the sub board called “/b/ – Random.” A no-holds barred board where only content breaking US law was deleted, “the butt of the internet” was the incubator for the majority of the internet’s early post-millennium memes.

His first appearances on 4chan accompanied posts discussing teenage obsessions like sex or marijuana. He smiled contentedly next to his “Feels good, man” signature line and all was truly well. Many edits were made of Pepe in this carefree phase of his life, but the idea mostly remained the same.

And that’s probably where it would have ended had Pepe been any other meme (“lifespan of about the gestation period of a rat“).

The troubled teen


Somewhere around 2009, someone turned Pepe’s blissful smile upside down and changed the catchphrase to “Feels bad, man.” A user on Body Building Forums further refined the cartoon character’s despair and thus Sad Frog was born. Pepe was now pathetic and utterly aware of it.

This new spin would prove dynamite for 4chan’s userbase of malcontents, but especially on “/r9k/ – Robot 9000,” a hangout for the site’s unemployed, virginal, and depressed.

Scorched earth policy

normies repurposing memes
Note the complete lack of anything funny.

By 2010, pillaged 4chan memes had become staple content for content aggregators like Reddit and 9gag, especially Advice Animals and rage face characters like Trollface. Clothing, games, and animations cashed in big time on the popularity and enthusiastic redditors quickly beat to death any meme they could get their hands on through sheer unfunny repetition.

It was 4chan’s reaction to this unwanted adoption that set the stage for Pepe’s notoriety today.

4channers started retaliating by posting intentionally offensive Pepes, and the more outrageous they could make them the better. These edits featured depictions of shit, piss, gore, nazism, and anything else thought to upset the normies.

And it worked. Advanced evolutions of Pepe remained a chan culture exclusive with minimal outside corruption.

Smug Pepe

In 2011, another version of Pepe appeared, this time with a big, bold smile. “Smug Pepe” was originally made to denigrate the television series The Big Bang Theory but turned out to work for pretty much anything. Smug Pepe could convey approval or mockery equally well.

Another important development around this time was the concept of the Rare Pepe. Posters uploaded ever more imaginative edits of Smug Pepe with the intentionally ridiculous idea being that they were rare and tradable commodities like baseball cards. This spawned a galaxy of new Pepes, involving many fictional and real world influences. Anime characters, animals, political and historical figures — even ISIS terrorists were Pepefied.

And the minute Trump announced his presidential campaign: him, too. Hundreds of Trump Pepes, and not just because he had become relevant to popular culture. Trump personifies the twinkle in the eye smugness that makes Smug Pepe so appealing.

So is Pepe the Frog a ‘white nationalist symbol’?

No. Pepe the Frog isn’t a symbol of white nationalism, communism, Katy Perry, or anyone or anything else using him. Anti-smoking isn’t nazism just because Hitler was the movement’s first major champion.

Nicki Minaj posting Pepe on her instagram.
Nicki Minaj posting Pepe on her instagram.

Memes are used by people of every description and political persuasion under the sun and it’s dishonest to claim a popular and generic meme is about any one of them.

Parting thoughts

What began as a comic drawn in Microsoft Paint turned into something much more. From happiness to depression, to jovial confidence, Pepe reflected the optimism and discontent of imageboard users. And, as we enter these final two months in the election cycle, it’s obvious that Pepe’s influence is no small thing. He’s just got one question for you…

where did everything go so right

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