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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

‘Feels Good Man’ is slicing through hateful internet culture

Feels+Good+Man+was+screened+at+Sundance+2020+and+released+Aug.+28.
Photo by via IMDB.com

“Feels Good Man” was screened at Sundance 2020 and released Aug. 28.

“Feels Good Man,” a documentary by Arthur Jones which screened at Sundance 2020, isn’t so much about a cartoon frog who became synonymous with the alt-right as it is slicing through the seemingly endless barrage of negativity that has captured the public consciousness.
This is an absolutely fascinating documentary about the creator of Pepe the Frog, Matt Furie, and his crusade to reclaim Pepe as the friendly stoner frog he was meant to be. In fact, the first result that comes up when you search “Pepe the Frog” is his profile on the Anti-Defamation League website, in which a slew of anti-Semitic derivatives of the meme are shown front and center. This unfortunate association with Pepe is just as ridiculous and compelling as it seems, especially when one learns more about Furie and his refreshing childlike sensibilities and apoliticism.
He may seem a little naive, and that’s because he is. The film nonetheless does a great job at contrasting Furie’s idyllic naiveté with the awful culture of hate that has completely polluted the forums of 4chan, making Furie a kind of unlikely dissenter in a modern cultural landscape, which has no room for sincerity or positivity unfettered from some kind of agenda.
To Furie and fans of his work, Pepe isn’t a symbol for anything except enjoying the simple pleasures of life and the company of one’s friends. In a world where everything has to mean something, where everything is a copy of a copy, this kind of distilled contentment may seem like a true revelation. One could write their graduate thesis on Pepe and how this happy frog was corrupted.
“Feels Good Man” is an excellent example of how to naturalistically build a narrative from real world events. The interviews never felt overly edited in a way that feels manipulative and there is a clear three act structure to the documentary.
You could go as far as to say that both Furie and his amphibian counterpart have obvious character arcs. Early on in the documentary, Furie’s friends are interviewed and the physical and temperamental similarities between him and Pepe are noted. They share the same tired eyes, the same youthful wistfulness, the same Zen-like unaffectedness. Furie’s fight to recover Pepe from the Anti-Defamation League is an act of self-preservation. His “Save Pepe” campaign was an attempt to fight the forces of bigotry with acceptance and love. Unfortunately, the hate was louder and was met with even more radical memes advocating for domestic terrorism, racism, nihilism and pure chaos.
That’s when the third act kicks in; it’s Pepe’s “Dark Night of the Soul.” The failure of Furie’s campaign to reclaim the happy frog is the moment where Luke witnesses Ben Kenobi’s death in “Star Wars,” or the moment when Aragorn accepts his role as leader in “The Lord of the Rings” by accepting the reforged sword from Elrond. While this may seem hyperbolic, it’s a testament to the successful and focused storytelling of “Feels Good Man.” Despite the somewhat dramatic comparison, nowadays few things are scarier or more dramatic than the increasing rise of social polarization and factions. There is a stunning lack of kindness in modern discourse, whether on Facebook or on the presidential debate stage. We just don’t agree on what used to constitute basic human dignity anymore. But maybe we just all need to be a little more like Pepe — or rather, Matt Furie.

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