Feels Good Man: When Cartoons Get Hijacked

Matt Furie draws Pepe. Photo credit: Feels Good Man.

Feels Good Man is another documentary that focuses on what happens when a cartoonist’s creation gets hijacked by racists and anti-Semites.

Political elections can bring out the worst among us.  When a candidate does nothing but flaunt conspiracy theories, it can really bring out the worst.  Now what happens when you’re a cartoonist and you suddenly discover your creation hijacked by right-wing bigots?  Welcome to Matt Furie’s life.  You see, Matt is the creator of a cartoon known as Pepe the Frog.

Here’s the thing when it comes to hate symbols–organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have a way of tracking activities.  The ADL just happens to have a page on Pepe the Frog.  It comes as no surprise since bigots have hijacked Furie’s creation.

Pepe and his “feels good, man” catchphrase date back to 2005 with the first appearance in an online cartoon, Boy’s Club.  This is a cartoon character with no racist origins.  In fact, people have created memes where Pepe pops up much in the same way that we saw Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appear in memes shortly after the stay-at-home orders were issued in March.  Even though most instances feature Pepe in a positive light, there are those racists that decided to take Pepe and utilize the character in a racist or anti-Semitic manner.  As such, this documentary lets us in on how Matt Furie feels about the cartoon being used in such manner.  Furie actually teamed with the ADL in 2016 for a #SavePepe campaign.

Any creator wouldn’t want to see their work being used for a racist or bigoted purpose.  However, Matt Furie didn’t give up.  He fought to reclaim his work.  And he should.  People like Alex Jones and Richard Spencer should not be allowed to win.  Fellow cartoonists were tasked with flooding the internet with positive images of Pepe.  But hey, something must be going right when protesters are using Pepe for good.

What makes Arthur Jones the right filmmaker for the project is that he also came up in the same indie comic scene as a cartoonist.  Over time, the two became friends so from a filmmaking perspective,  you don’t need to build up trust.  You just need to worry about being on the same page as far as vision is concerned.  It goes on from there.

This could be a film solely on Matt Furie but it isn’t.  The film manages to weave TV clips and computer images.  Also, the animation makes for a nice touch.  More importantly, the film also brings in people to comment on the internet culture.  These commentators have a knowledge of the internet’s dark side that proves beneficial for the film.  Not all of us are as familiar so it helps in order to provide more context.

Feels Good Man is one of those documentaries that truly represents the current era.

DIRECTOR:  Arthur Jones
SCREENWRITERS:  Giorgio Angelini, Arthur Jones, Aaron Wickenden
FEATURING:  Matt Furie

Ready Fictions releases Feels Good Man on September 4, 2020 on Digital. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.