An Open Commentary About Pepe the Frog

His skin is a bright grass green and is depicted wearing a blue short sleeved t-shirt. His lips are extremely huge and have a brown-orange tint. His eyes are strangely human-like, considering that he is a part of a different scientific class than humans. This creature is a frog, and he is known by the name of Pepe.

Pepe the Frog was a character constructed by Matt Furie in 2005 for his online comic series Boy’s Club. Pepe was created using Microsoft Paint and was first exposed in 2008 to Myspace and 4chan. By 2015, Pepe the Frog was one of the most used memes on Tumblr. The original design of Pepe is composed so his appearance exhibits a depressed frog. There is a plain background behind him; his eyes are looking down and appear shiny – as if tears are welling up. This image is probably the most well-known of all the Pepe memes and is commonly referred to as “Sad Pepe.”

Pepe the Frog reached his prime during his time on Twitter in 2014. “Sad Pepe” was used mainly until 2015. After that, other “memesters” began altering Pepe to fit into different scenarios that could be referenced for different areas of social commentary or even very common feelings and situations. There was then “Happy Pepe,” “Crying Pepe,” “Smug Pepe,” “Angry Pepe,” and so many more different memes and interpretations of Pepe. Eventually, the different alterations of Pepe led to the term “rare Pepe,” which is a specific Pepe meme that is not widely dispersed among different websites and internet users. Pepe the Frog was originally, most-commonly used as a reaction picture. For example, if one were to text their significant other and hint at physical intimacy, and the responding party wanted to reply in consent, the responding party could send back a text message including a picture of “Smug Pepe.” This Pepe is depicted at a closer range with a very mischievous smile and a green hand which is raised to his chin. Once the use of Pepe as a reaction meme became bland, people took to the streets of Twitter. They created personalized captions to fit with each emotion Pepe the Frog could offer. Such captions included relateable events like, “when you’re eating an Oreo and dunk it in milk, but it breaks off and sinks to the bottom” and users would then include a picture of the most appropriate Pepe to fit the scenario. “Sad Pepe” would be an example of a Pepe meme that would fit well with the caption.

In a video produced by Idea Channel on YouTube, Mike Rugnetta emphasizes how the newest Marvel super heroin, Ms. Marvel, is representing the underrepresented group of people by explaining that the media “catches flak for poor representation.” Ms. Marvel, a.k.a. Kamala Khan, is the first Muslim Pakistani hero; she not only represents the Muslim community, but also any person anywhere who might feel like they need to look a certain way to achieve stereotypical beauty standards. Through the use of Kamala Khan, Marvel is contributing to the underrepresented. Like Marvel, the “memesters” of the internet created the multiple emotions of Pepe to – in a way – represent the underrepresented emotions that the original Pepe the Frog meme did not cover, emotions like anger or happiness.

Elena Passarello – actress, screamer, and author of the essay collection Let Me Clear My Throat – discusses in her essay, Down in the Holler, that a screaming meme is only considered a meme if it exhibits the following four factors: “It is physically impressive. It sounds out of place. It is somehow clownish. It has the power to manipulate.” (7-8) Passarello’s criteria for declaring a screaming meme as a meme can also be altered, like Pepe the Frog, to be used for other memes. Pepe follows Passarello’s criteria because it is physically impressive that he is altered so many times to fit different areas of social commentary. Though Pepe is not a sound, he can be viewed as out of place, due to his appearance. His physical qualities like his eyes and lips appear very human-like; because Pepe is an animal, these attributes make him stand out. Everything about Pepe is clownish, from the way he looks to the way he is used. Pepe the Frog is a meme, and a meme is a joke; a joke is supposed to be clownish. To contradict Passarello’s final criteria, Pepe, more so, has the power to be manipulated rather than manipulate. This is proven with his tens of thousands of alterations of his original form of “Sad Pepe.” Using Elena Passarello’s criteria for confirming a screaming meme as a meme, it is clear that Pepe the Frog is confirmed as a meme.

Due to heavy controversy, Pepe the Frog has been confirmed as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL explains that “it is important to examine use of the meme only in context… if the meme itself…appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes.” (par. 5). Due to this extremely unfortunate event, Pepe the Frog is no longer used as often as he once was. He is a retired meme, but still in use on occasion. Pepe is still very relatable and continues to be altered today in order to be used or applied for different conversations.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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