Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Matt Furie, Aiyana Udesen, Emily Heller, Lisa Hanawalt, John Michael Greer, Aleks Krotoski, Kevin Sukho Lee, Johnny Ryan, Adam Serwer
Written by: Giorgio Angelini, Arthur Jones, Aaron Wickenden, based on original artwork by Matt Furie
Directed by: Arthur Jones
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 92
Date: 09/04/2020
IMDB

Feels Good Man (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Trumping Frog

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The fascinating documentary Feels Good Man does a fine job digging into the disturbing mindset of supporters of the hate-filled alt-right, but it's also balanced by the calm presence of the kind, sensitive artist Matt Furie.

Furie tells the story of Pepe the Frog, who was created as part of his 2005 comic book series Boy's Club. After Furie published a strip that featured Pepe saying the words "Feels good man," the panel began appearing as a meme on the web. Soon the anonymous site 4Chan appropriated it. When the meme began going mainstream, 4Chan users attempted to take it back by making it as shockingly negative and as hateful as possible, including images of white supremacy.

Then, when Donald Trump began running for president, the meme became closely associated with him, and with the alt-right movement. Meanwhile, the kind, sensitive Furie watches with horror as his creation spirals out of control. But when Pepe is used for a racist children's book, it's the last straw, and he decides to act.

Directed by Arthur Jones, the doc best demonstrates this during the depositions of Furie and InfoWars radio host Alex Jones. Jones tried to sell an alt-right poster with Pepe's image, and Furie tried to stop it. Furie's deposition is calm, while Jones rails about the "evil" of Furie trying to sue him. Jones also includes interviews with 4Chan users, as well as scholars and psychologists to help explain what happened on an individual, emotional basis. When Trump is elected, one 4Chan user writes "We just memed a man into the White House!"

Weirdly, there's also a confusing, seemingly unrelated section devoted to people who became wealthy via Pepe-related cryptocurrency. But the section is perhaps no weirder than the one in which the Egyptian frog-God Kek is appropriated for more right-wing propaganda. By contrast, images of Furie and his family are a delight. They come across as normal, happy, smart, and prone to smiles and laughter.

They're the opposite of hate, and the movie ends with Furie moving forward and hoping to find a "hardcore happy place." Strange, beautiful animation sequences by Giorgio Angelini help round out Feels Good Man and bring it back to a place of celebrating creation and artistry.

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