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The Rise And Fall of Pepe The Frog

Frogs have been trending for quite some time, sparking countless frog-inspired fashion pieces, artworks, and even some of the funniest memes to have ever graced the internet. Pepe the Frog has been a common theme throughout many iconic pop culture additions, but there is far more to Pepe’s history than one might imagine. 

Pepe the Frog was originally a cartoon character, created in 2005 by Matt Furie as a part of his comic strip named Boys Club. The character is peaceful but has been misused within the realm of hate speech over the years. Furie and the ADL have started #SavePepe to reclaim Pepe’s former legacy. 

Most people have seen Pepe’s smug face at some point, as he has been thrown under a global spotlight numerous times over the past few years thanks to viral internet culture. We have gathered some of the most notable facts about this cartoon internet star, whether you are an original Pepe the Frog fan or just want to know more about this infamous character.

Who Is Pepe The Frog?

Pepe the Frog is an anthropomorphic frog cartoon character with a humanoid body. His most distinguishable characteristics are his large bulbous eyes, green skin, and plump lips. The character was originally a black and white line drawing, and his iconic green color was added over time. 

“The true nature of Pepe celebrates peace, togetherness, and fun,” according to the creator. The original cartoon character was optimistic, living with an overall feel-good mentality and philosophy.

Pepe The Frog Origins

Pepe the Frog was created by an American cartoonist named Matt Furie in 2005 as a part of the comic named Boy’s Club. Pepe was created in Microsoft Paint, as part of a zine named Playtime. The comic was published in a series of MySpace blog posts. “Feels good man” was the original catchphrase of the character, and comics focused on harmless humor (CTNF).

The Rise and Fall of Pepe The Frog

After the initial release of Pepe the Frog comic pieces, onlookers flocked to the character for a fresh take on relatable humor. However, Pepe’s positive legacy would later be overpowered by numerous real-world controversies.

Feels Good Man Trailer #1 (2020) | Movieclips Indie

The Rise of Pepe The Frog: Pepe The Fun Meme

Fans would use Pepe’s face and catchphrase, placing it into various relatable scenarios with numerous emotions. It did not take long before Pepe the Frog became one of the most commonly used internet memes worldwide, with the most common phrases being “feels good man” and “ree,” depending on the meme’s context. 

Pepe’s popularity steadily grew on MySpace, Gaia Online, and 4chan from 2005 to 2008. Many people believed that the trend would not last long, but Pepe the Frog continued to grow in popularity for the next few years. Pepe memes were shared on social media by celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry in 2014, which led to even more use.

By the time 2015 came around, Pepe the Frog was one of the most popular internet memes and comedic topics of the decade, with widespread use being prominent on 4chan and Tumblr. Pepe was even listed as the most retweeted meme on Daily News and Analysis and was #6 on their list of the most important memes on Twitter overall. 

The most notable Pepe the Frog memes include real-life moments or relatable humor on a broad scale. By this time, most had at least seen Pepe’s face, even if they were not aware of his name or origins. Fans and content-creators also began making artwork, selling them to fellow Pepe enthusiasts on Craigslist and eBay. 

The Fall of Pepe The Frog: A Symbol of Hate and Controversy

The use of Pepe the Frog attracted masses of comedic audiences to countless social media pages, groups, and channels. However, various individuals soon began pushing the boundaries of humor surrounding numerous sensitive topics, using Pepe’s iconic face and established fame as a platform for their own messages. 

In 2010, overlapping with Pepe the Frog’s rise to global fame, the character’s face was reportedly used as a part of the Alt-Right movement and white supremacists. Pepe’s image was misused for racist or hateful memes on social media as well as in public demonstrations, sparking worldwide outrage and anger.

Pepe the Frog was used in a reportedly homophobic, islamophobic, and racist children’s book named The Adventures of Pepe and Pede in 2017. This was followed by a video game named Jesus Strikes Back: Judgement Day, which encouraged players to murder minorities, liberals, and feminists using Pepe as an available character (CTNF).

Pepe the Frog’s face was most recently used by protestors in Hong Kong from 2019 to 2020. However, the use was not indicative of a link to Alt-Right ideology. As a result, Furie had no issue with this kind of usage and openly welcomed Hong Kong protestors to use Pepe as their symbol during the protests.  

The #SavePepe Campaign

Matt Furie reached out to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2016 for assistance. He has begun developing positive Pepe the Frog memes and messages, promoted with the hashtag #SavePepe. 

In speaking out against hate and removing Pepe’s image from the world of hate speech, Furie hopes to regain the optimistic persona that Pepe originally had. The ADL has joined forces with Furie, hoping to bring back the original use of Pepe. ADL CEO, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, has stated the following: 

“Pepe was never intended to be used as a symbol of hate. The sad Frog was meant to be just that, a sad frog. We are going to work with Matt and his community of artists to reclaim Pepe so that he might be used as a force for good, or at the very least to help educate people about the dangers of prejudice and bigotry.”

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO

Matt Furie showed extreme dismay, and he sued numerous organizations for the related misuses. Furie has been successful in many cases to date and has stated that he will continue to “enforce his copyrights aggressively to make sure nobody else is profiting off associating Pepe the Frog with hateful imagery.”

More About Frogs And Frog Memes

Although Pepe the Frog was widely misused by individuals with questionable motives, his motto and philosophy remain positive irrespective of social grouping. He is still loved and recognized on social media platforms such as 4Chan, Twitch, Discord, and Reddit, provided that the related text and humor are in good taste. You can directly support the original artist’s work here.

Check out these other articles on our blog for more fun frog content:


ADL.org, Pepe The Frog

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.