Pepe The Frog, meme for the ages and white supremacist hate symbol, is dead at age twelve, The Guardian reports.
Matt Furie, a children's book author and the creator of Pepe, symbolically killed off the frog in an effort to put an official end to Pepe's life as a symbol of white supremacy and antisemitism. Furie originally created Pepe as part of his "Boy's Club" series on Myspace way back in 2005. Pepe enjoyed several years online as a regular meme before being co-opted as the hate symbol he is unfortunately known as today.
In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, Pepe reached the height of his fame when he was adopted by "alt-right," neo-Nazi 4Chan types as a hate symbol adjacent to a swastika or burning cross. The cartoon frog became such a large part of the national conversation that Hillary Clinton publicly categorized Pepe as a racist image last September, and the Anti-Defamation League added him to its database of hate symbols.
Furie, who at one point launched an ill-fated "Save Pepe" campaign to bring back pleasant depictions of his amphibian friend, said having his creation co-opted by the alt-right was a "nightmare." After six months of trying to take his "peaceful frog-dude" back from the neo-Nazis' grip, Furie finally decided to honor-kill him in a one-page strip for independent publisher Fantagraphics' Free Comic Book Day. The strip shows Pepe's lifeless green body being mourned by his fellow Boy's Club characters. Notably, Pepe is shown in an open casket to lay rest to any rumors that he might not really be dead.
Will this actually stop trolls from using Pepe's image to spread hate? It's highly unlikely, but at least Furie was able to separate himself from the dark legacy his innocent cartoon ultimately took on.
"Having your creation appropriated without consent is never something an artist wants to suffer, but having it done in the service of such repellent hatred — and thereby dragging your name into the conversation, as well — makes it considerably more troubling," Fantagraphics said in a statement on behalf of Furie.
Comic Shaun Manning wrote in Comic Book Resources, "the rehabilitation of Pepe was always going to be a struggle, and it's hard to imagine Furie taking much joy in creating new Pepe strips knowing that, whatever his own intentions, the character would be read through tinted lenses."
He added, "While it's unlikely Pepe's official death will stop extremists from co-opting his image, this was, perhaps, the most effective way for Furie to reclaim his character; Pepe's soul has returned to his creator. Rest in Peace."
[h/t The Guardian]
Images via Matt Furie