What do you do when your most well-known creation gets transformed into a hate symbol through bigoted memes? For Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe the Frog, you fight back with memes of your own. Furie announced last week that he's teaming up with the Anti-Defamation League, which labeled Pepe as a hate symbol last month, to promote positive messages of the frog under the #SavePepe hashtag.
"As the creator of Pepe, I condemn the illegal and repulsive appropriations of the character by racist and fringe groups," Furie wrote in a statement. "The true nature of Pepe, as featured in my comic book, 'Boys Club,' celebrates peace, togetherness and fun. I aim to reclaim the rascally frog from the forces of hate and ask that you join me in making millions of new, joyful Pepe memes that share the light hearted spirit of the original chilled-out champion."
To kick things off, Furie depicted Pepe's "alt-right election nightmare" for the comic site The Nib, which I'd wager is pretty close to his own experience of seeing the character co-opted by hate groups. Even though Pepe was originally held up as a slacker icon, it become a symbol of anti-Semitic and racist imagery for the alt-right movement online. Pepe even popped up in images shared by Donald Trump and his son, which prompted Hillary Clinton's campaign to point out how it's being used as a symbol of racism.
While there's still a long way to go to reclaim the character, it's intriguing to see Furie essential fight meme fire with meme fire. And hopefully the new messaging will actually take off with the kinder side of the web.