“Pepe the Frog” first appeared in 2005 in the comic “Boy’s Life” by artist and illustrator Matt Furie. The comics depict Pepe and his anthropomorphized animal friends behaving like stereotypical post-college bros: playing video games, eating pizza, smoking pot and being harmlessly gross.
By 2016, Pepe had gone mainstream: He’s been tweeted by Katy Perry, who said she has a “Pepe file” on her computer.
Pepe has also made multiple appearances on Nicki Minaj’s Instagram.
So what happened that Pepe had to be murdered?
Furie posted an image on his Tumblr showing the frog in the casket, linking to an article on Comic Book Resources announcing the character’s demise.
Things started going badly for Pepe in May 2016, Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast wrote how there was “an actual campaign to reclaim Pepe from normies” and that “turning Pepe into a white nationalist icon” was an explicit goal of some on the alt-right.
In September 2016, an article published on Hillary Clinton’s campaign website described Pepe as “a symbol associated with white supremacy” and denounced Donald Trump’s campaign for its supposed promotion of the meme.
In some instances, Pepe wears a Hitler mustache, and his signature message is replaced with “Kill Jews Man.” In others, Pepe poses in front of a burning World Trade Center, dressed as an Orthodox Jewish person with a yarmulke and payot. He’s also been spotted wearing a Nazi soldier’s uniform and in a KKK hood and robe.
The Anti-defamation League said that while cartoon’s origins were inoffensive, it had been increasingly appropriated for “bigoted themes” in “a tendency exacerbated by the controversial and contentious 2016 presidential election.”
“While it’s unlikely Pepe’s official death will stop extremists from co-opting his image, this was, perhaps, the most effective way for Furie to reclaim his character; Pepe’s soul has returned to his creator. Rest in Peace,” Comic Book Resources author Shaun Manning said in the post.