Cinema Review: Feels Good Man | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, September 24th, 2020  

Feels Good Man

Studio: Ready Fictions
Directed by Arthur Jones

Sep 04, 2020 Web Exclusive
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One of the first documentaries centered around an internet meme, Feels Good Man explores the rise of “Pepe the Frog,” a character created by artist Matt Furie for his Boy’s Club comic book in 2005, that is now on the Anti-Defamation League’s list of hate symbols. The film bounces back and forth between explaining the rise of the character on internet boards as a symbol of discrimination and Furie’s reaction to seeing Pepe being used as the opposite of what his character is supposed to represent. Through this unique lens, director Arthur Jones and Furie offer some insight on America’s increasing cultural divide, explaining the country’s relationship with the internet and the internet’s fostering of division.

While the documentary has a lot of different ideas to explore, Jones pieces the story together with gravitas and skill, bringing an unexpected but necessary level of sophistication to a story centered around a topic that could be mistaken as a joke. Through the opening few minutes of the documentary – dedicated to Furie’s initial creation of the character – the quick pacing, quirky animations, and Furie’s gentle commentary help sell the image of Pepe the Frog as one of comedy, love and happiness. When the documentary takes a sharp turn into exploring the sinister entity that the character has become, it becomes difficult – and horrifying – for viewers to watch. 

Feels Good Man’s strongest attribute is how effortlessly and uniquely it explores America’s relationship with the internet, particularly in the film’s second half. After the documentary explains Pepe’s rise to the top of internet boards like 4Chan and Reddit, it then pivots to exploring the character’s role in the 2016 election process, particularly in its ties with Donald Trump. Showcasing just how much the current President’s campaign was tied to the image of Pepe, the film utilizes images of 4Chan users’ posts sponsoring Trump, Trump’s Twitter retweets of the meme, and loads of other evidence to pose a simple yet important question: Just how much power does the internet have on society? While the documentary doesn’t directly answer the question, just suggesting it is enough. The way Feels Good Man is structured allows viewers to take their own messages away, rather than wasting time spelling its ideas out. 

Feels Good Man never plays like a conventional documentary. The story almost seems too crazy to be true. The various narratives unfold at such a rapid pace, it can be a lot to take in at times – particularly in the final act, but it’s difficult to turn away with a film as entertaining and engaging as Feels Good Man.

Just as the character is a balance of love and hate, the documentary is as well. By shaping these two ideas into separate narratives and bouncing back and forth between them, Feels Good Man is able to engage viewers in a way that rarely feels tiring or repetitive. While it does spend a lot of time exploring the dark connotations that Pepe the Frog has, by cutting to Furie’s fight against these forces, Feels Good Man gives viewers hope, in a situation where hope might not seem accessible. Its nuanced approach to exploring an unexpectedly complicated topic is enough to set Feels Good Man apart as one of the most influential and unforgettable documentaries of the year.

(www.feelsgoodmanfilm.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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