TNB Night Owl–Feels Good Man

Wheel of cheese cut and stacked in front of a stone wall. Photo by Alexander Maasch.

This week I’m doing something a little different for the Friday Movie. Usually I pick something available for free on YouTube. However, I just saw a new one. It’s not on YouTube but available to rent or purchase on various platforms (as well as a limited theatrical run). It’s worth the price and my vote for the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.

We’re all familiar with Pepe the Frog as a symbol for the alt-right. TNB has even talked about it a few times. How many of us know where he started? Part of FEELS GOOD MAN (2020) traces his origins. Comic book creator Matt Furie originally made him during the days of MySpace as part of a comic book called “Boy’s Club”. It was an apolitical fun bit about four anthropomorphic stoner animals chilling out, getting wasted, and playing video games. A particular panel about Pepe’s urination habits spawned his presence in a then-new creation–Memes. At first Furie was entertained at how his little frog became a pop culture symbol. As time went on, though, Pepe started being used by the darker sides of the internet until he became the symbol we’re most familiar with, the one that got him labeled a hate speech symbol.

This is where the documentary leads to an additional feature–the nature of the internet. When Pepe became a meme, Furie had no idea of how much control had been wrested from him. Almost immediately Pepe became a symbol for a burgeoning group, 4Chan. There he was adopted as the face of self-described Betas looking for a “Beta Uprising.” This group of proud parental basement dwellers adopted him and funneled their anger through the cartoon frog. As anger and hatred seeped into pop culture, so did Pepe as a representation of that.

Once Furie became aware of this he tried to rein it in. He killed off Pepe in the comic, he started a campaign to flood the web with positive representations of Pepe, back to his peace loving origins. That’s when Furie finally learned how big of a monster the internet and troll culture truly is.

Fear not–all is not doom and gloom. While the battle between a hippie artist against hate culture may sound unwinnable, this documentary takes a positive turn that leaves us with hope that, no, hate culture is not inevitable.

It cost me five dollars to rent FEELS GOOD MAN on Amazon and was worth every penny.

Question of the night–what’s your favorite David vs Goliath story?

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