Pepe the Frog is an Internet meme originating from a comic drawing. Its popularity steadily grew across Myspace, Gaia Online and 4chan in 2008. Pepe became one of the most popular memes used on Tumblr in 2015. The Clinton campaign targeted Pepe in 2016 during the presidential campaign as connoting white supremacy, and former Clinton employee George Stephanopoulos went along with his former employers saying the frog connotes White supremacy. The Anti-Defamation League league first labeled the poor frog a hate symbol in 2016 before walking back their biased stereotype and condemning only inappropriate usage of the frog.
Pepe is often portrayed as a green anthropomorphic frog, having a frog-like face and a humanoid body. The meme's original use has evolved over time and has many variants, which include Sad frog, Smug frog, Feels frog, and "You will never..." frog.
Pepe the Frog was created by American artist Matt Furie. He posted his comic, Boy's Club #1, in a series of blog post on Myspace in 2005 where Pepe first appeared. In the comic, Pepe was found urinating with his pants pulled down to his ankles and the catchphrase, "Feels good man" was his rationale. He took those posts down when the printed edition was published in 2006.
Pepe was viral in blog posts on Myspace and became an in-joke on Gaia Online. In 2008, the page containing Pepe and the catchphrase was scanned and uploaded to 4chan’s /b/ board, which was described by Motherboard as his "permanent home". It took off among 4chan users, who adapted Pepe's face and the catchphrase to fit different scenarios and emotions, such as melancholy, anger, and surprise. Color was also added, originally a black and white line drawing, Pepe became green with brown lips, sometimes in a blue shirt. "Feels Guy", or "Wojak", an unrelated character typically used to express melancholy, was often paired with Pepe in memes.
Around 2015, as Pepe's usage was increasing, a phenomenon began on 4chan where users would declare certain variants as rare, known as a "rare Pepe". These images, sometimes as physical paintings were put up for sale and auction on eBay and posted in listings on Craigslist. 4chan users referred to those who used the meme out of the website as "normies" or "normalfags" (a portmanteau of "normal" and "faggot") in response to the meme's increase in usage. That year Pepe was #6 on Daily News and Analysis' list of the most important memes and was the most used meme on Tumblr.
Efforts to save Pepe include a group of popular Youtubers who united under the hashtag #notallpepes to protest generalized, blanket attacks on the defenseless cartoon frog.
- Katy Perry tweeted a Pepe image to illustrate her jet lag.
- Nicki Minaj posted a twerking Pepe representing her on Instagram.
- The New Zealand government was accepting proposals for a new national flag and a design with Pepe was submitted.
- Donald Trump retweeted a Pepe representation of himself that was associated with a video, "You Can’t Stump the Trump (Volume 4)".