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“Feels Good Man” Showcases The Danger And Power Of Internet Culture Run Amok

When you think about Pepe the Frog, what comes to mind? In all likelihood, it’s either something tied to an internet meme, or more recently, the alt-right political movement. For many, that’s the only thing that they’ve been exposed to, in regards to the cartoon frog. However, the drawing began far more harmlessly, which is detailed in the new documentary Feels Good Man. A look not just at how Pepe was co-opted, but how his creator is fighting to reclaim his creation and give it back a purer identity, this is really interesting stuff. An unusual topic for a doc, it winds up being a reasonably thorough dive into both the danger and power of internet culture.

The documentary follows underground cartoonist Matt Furie, who created Pepe the Frog, both as we learn about how the cartoon character came to be, as well as how he became an internet meme. Initially, seeing Pepe become a meme and the catchphrase “feels good man” from his little comic book catch on in pop culture was delightful, if a little overwhelming for him. Furie and his partner had even planned to market Pepe a bit, with shirts and such. Then, 2016 happened, in particular with the Presidential Election cycle, where the alt-right movement on 4chan co-opts Pepe as an agent of chaos and hate. Thus begins a quest by Furie to fight back and take Pepe back, allowing the frog to no longer be a hate monger. Arthur Jones directs, with the doc’s screenplay being penned by Giorgio Angelini and Aaron Wickenden, alongside him. Ari Balouzian and Ryan Hope compose the score, with the cinematography being from Angelini, Kurt Keppeler, Guy Mossman, and David Usui.

This film is not what you’d expect. In fact, the doc may well be able to move Pepe the Frog away from the darkness and towards the light. By focusing on the image’s creation, as well as its evolution as a meme, there’s an understanding of its purer intentions being corrupted that’s really essential. For many, Pepe probably was thought to be a creation of the Alt-Right, not a symbol that they’ve usurped for their own means. Filmmaker Arthur Jones makes sure that you quickly learn that this was never the case. That alone helps to make this a success, as opposed to a misguided look at Pepe.

Feels Good Man manages to entertain more than you might expect, too. Jones uses a bunch of animation throughout the movie to bring Pepe to life, almost bonding you with the more innocent and sillier aspects of the character. Plus, there’s a relatability to underground cartoonist Matt Furie and his quest to save Pepe from the dark forces seeking to co-opt him. Watching Furie ultimately go up against forces like Alex Jones is pretty engaging, especially when you see how that part ends. Jones’ direction keeps things loose, even though the emergence of Donald Trump into the narrative certainly curdles your stomach a bit. Along with co-writers Giorgio Angelini and Aaron Wickenden, Jones makes sure that the doc mixes in the aforementioned animation with talking heads, alongside following Furie around, all in a solid attempt to prevent any sense of boredom from setting in.

This Friday, an interesting documentary on an unusual subject opens in Feels Good Man. The flick runs a little long and arguably could have dug a little deeper, but it tackles things in an unexpected way, which it deserves credit for. Pepe the Frog’s story is far from over, but this is a good starting point for anyone curious about his evolution. Give it a shot and see what you think.

Be sure to check out Feels Good Man, available to watch on September 4th!

(Photos courtesy of Ready Fictions)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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