Serwer: Prior to this year, did the ubiquity of its use and people using him in different contexts, did that ever bother you?
Furie: It’s never bothered me, in fact it’s been kind of inspiring to me, just seeing how mostly kids and teenagers, and kind of the youthfulness of Pepe, is what I’m attracted to, and it’s been an inspiration and something that I’m proud of.
Serwer: How do you feel about the way it’s been adopted by the so-called alt-right?
Furie: My feelings are pretty neutral, this isn’t the first time that Pepe has been used in a negative, weird context. I think it’s just a reflection of the world at large. The internet is basically encompassing some kind of mass consciousness, and Pepe, with his face, he’s got these large, expressive eyes with puffy eyelids and big rounded lips, I just think that people reinvent him in all these different ways, it’s kind of a blank slate. It’s just out of my control, what people are doing with it, and my thoughts on it, are more of amusement.
Serwer: So it doesn’t make you uneasy at all that for some people it’s become this weird Nazi thing?
Furie: I think that’s it’s just a phase, and come November, it’s just gonna go on to the next phase, obviously that political agenda is exactly the opposite of my own personal feelings, but in terms of meme culture, it’s people reapproppriating things for their own agenda. That’s just a product of the internet. And I think people in whatever dark corners of the internet are just trying to one up each other on how shocking they can make Pepe appear.
The interesting thing about this situation, is that I’m talking to you, and it’s like a newsworthy thing that this cute, generally happy frog character has taken on a life of its own for better or worse. I think what is happening now is overshadowing the importance Pepe has as a symbol for youth culture, and it’s been taken out of context and turned into something other than that. I honestly just think it’s a phase.
Serwer: Maybe you don’t have any insight into this at all, but why do you think they like Pepe so much?
Furie: One of the mutations of Pepe, he’s gone through happy, to sad, to all these different things, to people remixing it in these different ways. I think the smug version of Pepe, which is him just having a smug look on his face, his thumb under his chin, that one was kind of adopted into the Trump supporters’ campaign or whatever, and kind of encompasses the archetype of a smug character. I think Donald Trump is kind of a cartoon character himself, so I think it was just a natural thing, maybe to appeal to younger people or something.
Serwer: Did you read the explainer Hillary Clinton put up? And if you did how did that feel?
Furie: I read it, and I thought it was funny. Like I said I think it downplays the fact that Pepe is more than, whatever is happening in the news today, especially to younger people and to teenagers. For example, I get emails pretty regularly, from kids, from high schools, who need my permission to use Pepe in their senior shirts, or their clarinet club, or their photography clubs, and I tell them to go ahead as long as they sell me a shirt.