How Did Pepe the Frog Meme Originate?

by Rudra Mehta


How Did Pepe the Frog Meme Originate?

February 4, 2021

We all love memes, even the ones who say they don't. And despite our tastes in humour, there is one meme that universally stands out - Pepe the Frog.

That green humanoid frog is a beacon for every Anon out there (another meme, but that’s for another day). Netizens use Pepe the Frog to relate to all kinds of scenarios on the internet, and the meme is arguably the most prominent meme ever created. 

So, let’s delve a little more into the origins of Pepe.

Pepe's life has taken a depressing turn. IMAGE: AMBAR DEL MORAL

Wojak, The First Pepe the Frog

Before Pepe came into existence, there existed another meme that served a similar purpose. The original Pepe the Frog 1.0 was none other than Wojak. Wojak is a viral entity, and if you know your memes, you would have heard of something called “The Feels Guy”. That meme is officially called Wojak.

Wojak has Polish roots, and the word means “soldier” or “warrior” and was initially used as the nickname of an imageboard user named Sebastian Grodecki. His nickname on the German imageboard “Krautchan” (kind of like 4chan) was accompanied by a cartoon stencil of a middle-aged, bald, sad-looking man.

Soon enough, for some reason, the picture itself was being called Wojak and was often used for satirical or sad humour with captions like “That feel when….“. This gained a lot of traction and “The Feels Guy” was born.

Not just that, Wojak also gave birth to the acronym TFW which stands for That Face When. Not enough, Wojak also got his variants with 2 Wojaks hugging, the sentient NPC character, the slightly offensive Brainlet or Slowjak used to insult someone’s intelligence amongst many more.

Wojak (centre) and his variants have been an internet staple since inception.

Enter Pepe, The Green Frog

If Wojak wasn’t meme-y enough, we received its re-incarnation in the form of an amphibian that “can human”; Pepe the Frog. Pepe the Frog was not a random creation but rather an actual fleshed-out character. Created in 2005 for the comic Boy’s Club and first featured in Boy’s Club #1. Matt Furie, the comic’s creator, has a close affection to Pepe the Frog and has often related the phrase “Feels good man” to the character.

Pepe has often been depicted in weird, and uncomfortably hilarious scenarios, including urinating with his pants pulled down, enraged at something and going ‘Reeeeeeeeeee’ (we all love using that phrase, don’t lie). The meme started gathering attention on MySpace with numerous users using Pepe and his visuals as an alternative form of Wojak.

My philosophy on Pepe is simple: 'Feels good man.' It is based on the meaning of Pepe: 'To go Pepe'. I find absolute joy physically, emotionally, and spiritually serving Pepe and his friends through my comics. Each comic is something sacred, and my readers' compassion transcends any differences, the pain, and fear of 'feeling good'.

–Matt Furie, Creator of Pepe the Frog

It is interesting to note that Pepe the Frog originated around the same time as Wojak, but Wojak gained popularity sooner. This may be partly due to the emergence of ‘Troll Faces’ as the new meme collection, similar to Wojak.

Another reason was that Pepe the Frog was almost entirely exclusive to 4chan, the “permanent home” for the meme. However, it is universal now, and everyone loves Pepe, in all his forms.

Pepe the Frog has innumerable iterations strewn across the internet.

How To Use Pepe in Memes?

Now that you know how Pepe the Frog came about and how it is related to Wojak (even though it isn’t related), it’s time to learn how to use Pepe. In a general sense, Pepe is mostly used for personifying your own emotions (ironic, right?) into that of Pepe’s and create a visual depiction. Pepe is most commonly used to show sorrow, anger, glee, joy and bemusement.

The funeral of Pepe the frog, as depicted by his creator, cartoonist Matt Furie. Graphic: Matt Furie / Tumblr

For starters, Pepe has been involved in political conflicts which should have never happened. Trump started using Pepe after his supporters created a Trump version of Pepe. Trump openly embraced the meme and turned it into a campaigning tool against Biden, but Matt Furie immediately banned Trump from using it.

Pepe had also been the subject of abuse by white supremacists and alt-right, alt-left hoohaa when, in reality, Pepe the Frog is a proper symbol of peace and love. It is JUST a meme, folks, and it should be that way only.

Luckily for you, Pepe has tons of templates and ready-made formats on the internet to directly use in your conversations. Sometimes, you will even find Pepe alongside Wojak for some epic crossover memes! You may also find Pepe stickers, and honestly, Pepe has something for every mood and situation. So, go on and make Pepe the Frog your spirit animal right away!

Pepe is popping up all over Hong Kong—in graffiti, on anonymous forums, in sticker packs for WhatsApp and Telegram. If you’re familiar with white supremacist Pepe memes, it’s clear that Hong Kong’s Pepe is a different animal: He wears the yellow construction helmets that have become a symbol of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, and he is often depicted as an emergency responder, or even more surprisingly, as a journalist. 

The internet memes culture much owes its foundation to Wojak and Pepe and imagining memes without these two is like imagining North Korea without Kim Jong-Un. Now that you know all about Pepe, it’s time to embrace his persona. Feels good, doesn’t it?

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