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From Pepe the Frog to Pepe Le Pen: The Life and Times of a Political Meme

We hardly knew ye.

by Meaghan Beatley
May 8 2017, 7:36pm

Pepe the Frog—the "chill frog-dude" cum alt-right symbol—was laid to rest by creator Matt Furie this weekend, hours before Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate behind one of the meme's latest incarnations as Pepe Le Pen, lost out to centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in France's presidential election.

Did meme magic's failure to secure another populist send Pepe over the edge? Was the fate of its Gallic brethren too much to bear?

The straight answer circulating around the web is that Furie, unable to rescue his creation from the alt-right's clutches, "symbolically" killed off the frog. Furie has not spoken up since publishing the open-casket cartoon.

According to Whitney Phillips, a digital media folklorist at Mercer University, "what the outcome in France suggests is that [the alt-right] is able to wield [meme] influence only when piggybacking on media forces more powerful than themselves"—i.e. Breitbart and fake news.

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