directed by Arthur Jones
by Walter Chaw Evolutionary anthropologist Richard Dawkins was right about a few things. In my limited experience, evolutionary anthropology tends to be right about everything. In his book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins posited that people, like every other organism, are only self-interested, and that one means through which we propagate is the dissemination of imitated images: that is, "memetics," or "memes." Something about the picture of us as deterministic automatons attracted to the simplicity of duplication appeals to me. One problem with the Internet is that it's the Tower of Babel when it comes to the replication of images and ideas. That's not a bad thing if the images and ideas foster acceptance; it's a very bad thing when it breeds a feeling of community and consensus in the trafficking of dangerous-unto-nihilistic philosophies.
The place where evolutionary, especially reproductive, anthropology collides with "memes" on the Internet is in the community of incels who found in underground-comics hero Pepe the Frog the burnout, weirdo loser image they saw in themselves. In the past, being this pathetic meant you were shunned and forced to either develop social skills or live a lonely life of quiet desperation. Not something you would wish on anyone, let's agree. Now, with the Internet and mostly-unmonitored chat forums like 4Chan, these outcasts have found validation in their absolute failure in the evolutionary reproductive gambit. If the selfish gene proposes that all an organism ever truly desires is to reproduce itself, then incels need to find a different way--other than biological, that is--to go about it.
Enter kind, unassuming cartoonist Matt Furie (who has a wife and has biologically reproduced), who created Pepe, a good-time sort of dude who's okay with himself and to whom everything seems funny. The wrong people seized on the image of the lovable weirdo jokester, and suddenly Pepe became weaponized in the pursuit of electing the ultimate irritant to the "normies," Donald Trump. Trump became the focal point for all the frustrations of people who don't belong in society--the discarded found an avatar for their shame in a shit golem so vile, his victory would mean, if not empowerment for them, exactly, at least endless irritation for those who had what they could never have.
This was frustrating for Furie, of course, and Arthur Jones's unexciting but pretty interesting documentary Feels Good Man traces Pepe's journey from deep underground cult figure to 4Chan incel spokes-amphibian to, finally, the favourite of the alt-right, white supremacists, and opportunistic scum like Alex Jones. Furie himself, we see, goes from a struggling iconoclast to a curiosity at conventions to, finally, the target of death threats, doxxing, and swatting attempts as he tries to regain control of his intellectual property by suing the shit out of all these unmoderated forums--and Alex Jones. Feels Good Man won't set the world on fire, but there are revealing insights here, such as a few incels defiantly proclaiming that their state of non-existence is, in fact, an elevated state. Oh, and that women are the enemy. The world has always had these people; it's just that before now they didn't have a flag under which to unite. God help us all. Programme: Documentaries from the Edge