Independent Lens: Feels Good Man

Independent Lens: Feels Good Man

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 10:00pm - 11:30pm

Artist and Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie draws Pepe

Credit: Courtesy of Kurt Keppeler

Amid the tumult of the 2016 presidential election season, a popular cartoon frog meme emerged as the unifying symbol of hate for the alt-right.

Feels Good Man recounts the harrowing journey of Pepe the Frog, the creation of artist Matt Furie, and his transformation from light-hearted comic book character to registered hate symbol. A film by collaborators Arthur Jones (directorial debut) and Giorgio Angelini, Feels Good Man will kick off the new season of Independent Lens on Monday, October 19, 2020 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

The film premiered as part of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker. Garnering praise from festival audiences and critics alike, it has been described as “absorbing” by Variety and “a well-executed emotional journey that will take viewers from amused to bemused to horrified to miserable and probably to a point of genuine anger” by The Hollywood Reporter.

Created by artist Matt Furie as a character in his comic Boy’s Club, Pepe was originally an embodiment of the laid-back lifestyles of young male college graduates finding their footing in the real world. After popping up in meme form on various fitness blogs, Pepe eventually started appearing on the anonymous online message board 4chan, where his image was quickly copied again and again and adopted as a symbol of misfits everywhere.

Feels Good Man follows his surreal journey of being co-opted and twisted into an image of hate by extreme online communities through the eyes of his horrified creator, who finds himself increasingly powerless to stop this co-optation as it spirals out of his control. As the alt-right’s images of Pepe infiltrate the mainstream media in more insidious ways leading up to the 2016 presidential election, the film asks the questions: Does anyone truly own anything on the internet? Can an image that has been transformed into one of hate be transformed once again into one of hope?