Pepe the Frog: the internet’s most infamous meme explained
Pepe the Frog is one of the most well-known and widespread memes around, and over the decade and a half he’s existed, it’s also one of the most interesting stories the internet has to offer.
Created back in the long-long ago of 2005 by cartoonist Matt Furie, Pepe first appeared in a comic called and wasn’t much more than a recurring character there for the first bit of his life.
It took a few years, but in 2008 memes featuring the amphibian started getting popular on MySpace and 4chan, with just a few variations in these early days like “sad” “smug” “angry” and various types of “feels”. It was certainly a much simpler time.
In the first half of the 2010s, Pepe only continued to grow in popularity and fame. Twitch, Twitter, Reddit, no matter where you went online it seemed like the frog was everywhere, but the good times couldn’t last. Controversy, that hasn’t gone away even today, was just on the horizon.
Pepe was originally created by Furie as having no political affiliation whatsoever but in the run-up to the 2016 United States Presidential election, he became a symbol for certain online groups and was labeled a “Hate Symbol” by various U.S. organizations, including the American Defamation League (ADL).
He’s still around today though, and that’s because the Pepe meme itself isn’t bigoted at all, but the context of use is an important consideration.
“Because so many Pepe the Frog memes are not bigoted in nature, it is important to examine the use of the meme only in context,” the ADL website says. “The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist.”
Just don’t test your luck throwing out frogs in Overwatch League chat, as the competition completely banned the meme back in 2018 (and even fines players caught using it to this day).
Different types of Pepe emotes
Really, you could write a book on all of the different variations that appear as emotes on Twitch alone, and that’s not even touching the countless “rare” Pepes that have been minted over the years either. To keep things simple, we’ll just focus here on some of the most common specimens you might encounter while browsing Twitch.
This is basically Pepe 101, a common reversal of the famous “feels good man.” Feelsbadman can be found all over Twitch when a streamer encounters something sad. Maybe the game you’re looking forward to still doesn’t have any updates? That’s a feelsbadman (looking at you, Overwatch 2).
If the name wasn’t enough to fill you in, this Pepe is barely able to contain his laughter. You’ll find it anytime something humorous happens on stream, or when chat knows something the streamer doesn’t.
When things get tense, and the anxiety starts building, there’s no better emote to pull out then MonkaS. If you’ve ever wondered how it got its name, it’s actually really simple. On March 16th, 2016, Twitch user Monkasen uploaded the emote to the Better Twitch TV browser extension. Monka – for the user, and S – for scared.
When your tune comes on, or the Fallout music hits just right, you know it’s time for PepeJAM. Pretty straightforward here, with headphones over his ears, and animated versions have him bouncing up and down.
At first glance you can probably guess the inspiration behind the ‘Poggers’ emote. That would be the longstanding ‘Pogchamp’ emote, that Twitch recently changed to feature a different streamer every 24 hours. It usually faces left, instead of right like the original emote, but animated versions can also be found flipping back and forth.
Honorable mention: Peepo (Apu Apujasta)
Peepo emotes seem to just keep getting more and more popular on Twitch since they started popping up in 2017 (and we can see why, as the little guy is undeniably cute). But a common misconception is that these are just poorly drawn Pepes. They’re not!
Peepo is instead a descendant, derived from the poorly drawn Pepe named Apu Apustaja (“Help Helper” in English) that first appeared on Finnish message boards before he made his way to Twitch. He can be used in just as many situations too, so expect to see plenty of him.
The humble internet frog Pepe has been on a wild ride over the last 15+ years, but he and his offspring like Peepo don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Even though the edgy Pepes will undoubtedly continue, it will be very interesting to see how the meme evolves by the time he reaches 30.