“What do you assume folks get incorrect about Pepe?” asks director Arthur Jones, because the digicam watches artist Matt Furie draw a happy-looking frog cartoon.
“In all probability after they put Pepe on the web saying issues like, ‘Kill Jews,’” Furie responds.
Pepe is a chill, fun-loving frog character in a nostalgic caricature. Pepe is a communal image of unhappiness and on-line loneliness. Pepe is a joke that may be handed round with pals. Pepe is a reactionary software used to dispel hate speech underneath the guise of irony. All of those truths exist collectively, as they signify Pepe — a cartoon frog character — by way of the evolutionary levels of its web life. The absurd method this easy picture turned so distorted from its unique function over time that it will definitely turned an express image of neo-Nazis is explored in “Feels Good Man,” the debut undertaking of director Jones and producer Giorgio Angelini, introduced in digital format by the Virginia Movie Pageant final week.
On the heart of this story is Furie — a laid-back cartoonist who originated the picture of Pepe the frog as a personality for his 90s-style slacker comedy caricature “Boy’s Membership” in 2005. The character’s relationship with the web started innocently, when Furie posted a comic book strip to MySpace. Within the comedian, Pepe defends the follow of pulling his pants all the way in which right down to pee as a result of it “feels good, man.” This picture and catchphrase turned co-opted by completely different area of interest sub-groups for years and was moved additional and farther from its unique context, till it will definitely landed within the fingers of assorted reactionary, neo-Nazi political teams.
Via the eyes of Furie, the viewers can see how disorienting and deeply upsetting it may be to have a creative work snowball to date out of 1’s management. Early within the movie, Furie’s accomplice Aiyana Udesen says that Pepe has been his “go-to factor to attract” for so long as she has identified him. One among his pals even says that the frog “kinda seems like Matt.” The journey of getting one thing that’s so primarily linked to your identification perverted into one thing unrecognizable is the tragedy of Furie’s story, and it anchors the documentary in a transferring method.
One distinctive element of the movie is the way in which it electrifies basic documentary codecs with vibrant, nearly psychedelic animated sequences. These scenes are clearly visually beautiful, however in addition they get on the core of the movie’s themes in an interesting visible method. The gorgeous sequences of Furie’s Boy’s Membership characters hanging out and happening adventures breathes new life into the artwork that was ripped away from him. These enjoyable items which might be seen all through the movie exist in stark distinction to the unusual visuals that showcase Pepe’s existence on the web, that are glitchy and even akin to a sort of cyber-horror. Putting Furie’s Pepe in juxtaposition to the unusual drive he has turn out to be on-line is how the documentary presents Furie’s work as corrupted by the alien and sometimes menacing drive of the Web.
One thing that can’t be ignored on this movie is its political immediacy. The symbolism surrounding Pepe and different reactionary in-jokes have seen a variety of public consideration recently, however they’ll appear complicated upon first look. Why ought to somebody fear about President Trump posting an image of himself as a wierd frog meme? As a result of these pictures are so layered in “ironic” crypticism, most onlookers don’t perceive the implications of them. This creates an in-group language amongst the self-described “alt-right” that enforces their connections to at least one one other, whereas additionally shielding their violent intentions underneath the guise of all the things being “only a joke.”
Most of the speaking heads of the movie are political commentators and journalists who cowl the white supremacist teams, they usually emphasize the ways in which these teams make the most of memes and goofy-sounding phrasing to cowl up the severity of what they’re making an attempt to do. The way in which Pepe was hijacked is a big a part of what fashionable political radicalization seems like. It begins as an “edgy” solution to make enjoyable of the “mainstream” and shortly diverges into disturbing territory. As a documentary, “Feels Good Man” brings a
helpful degree of accessibility to those political discussions, explaining web phenomena like “memes” and “4chan” in methods which might be partaking for older viewers members and youthful web natives alike.
The extent of humor on this movie is in some methods to be anticipated — it’s a couple of cartoon frog. The absurdity of its idea principally goes with out saying. However amongst all the darker components of Furie’s story, this levity is a refreshing element of the movie. Among the funniest moments come when Furie fits as much as tackle infamous right-wing conspirator Alex Jones in court docket for utilizing Pepe the frog on merchandise. Furie is proven being questioned by investigators in a moderately aggressive method, however he maintains a humorousness by way of all of it — corresponding to when he’s requested to elucidate the origins of the title Pepe and has to reply that he favored the way it “seemed like Pee-Pee” underneath oath. In a film that so terrifyingly exhibits the way in which so-called humor is used as a masquerade for messages of hate, seeing somebody like Furie — whose work has been so misconstrued by the “alt-right” — reminds the viewers how genuinely uplifting humor may be when used for good.
The screening of “Feels Good Man” on the Virginia Movie Pageant was adopted by a panel dialogue with Arthur Jones and Giorgio Angelini, moderated by College media research professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, whose analysis considerations the varied impacts of social media on our democracy. Essentially the most telling message of the brief panel dialog got here in Angelini’s closing remarks.
“This movie is basically about love and empathy, and that folks don’t must really feel just like the Web is controlling or shaming them out of their capability for empathy and understanding,” Angelini mentioned.
The hope of this message materializes within the movie’s ending, which brings a surprisingly celebratory conclusion to this story — assured to depart anybody who sees it awe-struck.