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Feels Good Man, a film that truly gets how things are passed
发表时间:2021-01-21 12:06     阅读次数:
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There’s no shortage of documentaries about our current political climate or the fact that the Internet might be bad, but Feels Good Man focuses on the craziest intersection of these two modern realities: Pepe, the cartoon frog.

If you’re aware of Pepe already, chances are it’s because the character has become synonymous with the alt-right, that extreme online demographic tied to modern white supremacists and Nazi movements. Or perhaps you heard of Pepe before that, during the time this frog had become the meme du jour of 4chan, the anonymous message board associated with all sorts of nefarious real-world behavior. Though Pepe's most high-profile 15 minutes of fame were inarguably a cameo on then-candidate Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, leading to the character’s adoption by some of his most extreme supporters, like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Feels Good Man will get to all that, of course, but this documentary starts with the now-toxic toad’s tadpole days. By doing so, the film will likely show viewers something they didn’t know or hadn’t previously considered regardless of prior familiarity with Pepe and the insanity swirling around him. And through tracing Pepe’s evolution, Feels Good Man manages to remind everyone of a fundamental truth of communication, particularly in the Internet age. Once you click send on something, things like original intent and context might become as ephemeral as a single tweet.

A film that truly understands Internet

While ostensibly marketed on the festival circuit as “the Pepe doc,” Feels Good Man actually has another central figure: Matt Furie, a Bay Area comics artist. Back in the days where MySpace existed, he created a Gen X-ish group of animal friends existing in perpetual post-college slackerdom for a series called Boy's Club. Furie’s lifelong frog fandom led to an amphibian named Pepe becoming one of the comic’s lead foursome. “Feels Good Man,” the phrase, has been literally lifted from Pepe’s mundane adventures, particularly the one where he discovered how nice it felt to pee standing up with your pants removed entirely.

The documentary thoroughly and exhaustively documents things chronologically from here. You’ll see early Boy's Club comics Furie drew in the back of a San Francisco thrift store, posts documenting how Pepe became the preferred badge of self-deprecating irony on 4chan, or a mountain of Pepe merch Furie once had produced but can’t in good conscience give away or sell these days. While walking viewers through all of that, Feels Good Man seems remarkably smart about identifying turning points for the cartoonist and the character he once controlled. It's quite evident Director Arthur Jones deeply understands how culture can snowball in between disparate Internet communities until it becomes too big for society at large to ignore. Maybe Trump retweeting a Pepe meme is an obvious touchstone in retrospect, but this film gives equal weight to moments such as weightlifters displaying a fondness for the frog or eventual shares from celebs like Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj.

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“When 4chan wanted to defend its memes, they’d make them as offensive as possible so they couldn’t be co-opted, see Pepe with 9/11 or Nazi messaging for instance,” Dale Beran, an author who studied 4chan, says in the film. “Back then, it was just the most offensive thing you could do. But it now reads as a weird prologue to when the irony melted away.”

Feels Good Man stays riveting because of the variety of interviews Jones conducted. Furie participates to the fullest, as does his partner and close friends (one of whom got a Pepe tattoo back in the early days

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