Pepe the Frog is dead, killed off by his creator in an attempt to save the character from being co-opted by the alt-right.
The cartoon frog, which first came to life 12 years ago on the pages of Matt Furie’s Boy’s Club comic, became the unlikely mascot of white supremacist groups in recent years and was popular with supporters of Donald Trump. This dismayed Furie, who spoke out in defense of his creation over the course of the last year but could not wrestle control of the character back from these groups.
Furie informed the world of Pepe’s death through his Tumblr page, which showed a comic of Pepe in a casket with a portrait nearby and his other cartoon friends paying their respects. Furie also shared an obituary published in Comic Book Resources.
“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,” CBR author Shaun Manning wrote.
— Brandon Kelly (@therealphaTT) May 6, 2017
Those following Matt Furie might not be too surprised to see him kill off Pepe the Frog. He had become increasingly vocal with his dismay over the cartoon frog becoming a symbol of the alt-right.
“It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate,” he wrote in Time magazine. “It’s a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate.”
“Before Pepe the Frog was a meme designated a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, he began his life as a blissfully stoned frog in my comic book Boy’s Club, where he enjoyed a simple life of snacks, soda and pulling his pants all the way down to go pee,” Furie added.
The character became popular largely through the image-sharing site 4chan, which first co-opted his image. The cartoon frog’s stature exploded this year when supporters of Donald Trump decided to make him their own.
Trump himself even shared a picture of Pepe imitating Trump for the viral “Can’t Stump The Trump” music video that fueled many of Reddit’s memes and spawned the terms “Centipedes” and “Nimble Navigators” to describe Trump’s supporters.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
Others had hoped that Matt Furie might be more forceful in reclaiming the character he created. Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told the New York Times that he appreciated all Furie had done to reclaim the character. Segal said he had mixed feelings about the decision to kill Pepe the Frog, knowing that the character would still be co-opted by hate groups.
“This meme is almost like Elvis,” he said. “Elvis lives on, and Pepe is going to live on regardless of whether we put him in a casket in a cartoon.”
Though Furie killed off Pepe the Frog, the cartoon continues to have life on the internet. The Reddit site The_Donald, which supports Trump with memes and embraces the alt-right, plastered their pages with images of the cartoon frog after his death.
And within hours, many groups had claimed that Pepe had risen from the dead. It was in many ways reminiscent of other recent internet memes, which have generated some odd and fierce loyalty from those circulating them. There are still memorials to Harambe, the slain gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo, and internet voters fought fiercely to name a British research vessel “Boaty McBoatface,” and still revive the name for other online naming contests.
So seeing Pepe the Frog continue to have life after death is not a surprise to many.
— ????RARE PEPES???? (@rarepepesonly) May 9, 2017
The cause of death for Pepe the Frog was not reported.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]