Feels Good Man (2020) starts with an image of a guy you likely won’t know by appearance picking up a small frog. He embraces it lovingly, and eventually, the frog runs up his arm. This introduction to Matt Furie and his gently loving handling of this small, seemingly innocuous creature perfectly sets up this crazy documentary.
There have been a few of these documentaries over the last few years that start with something that seems so simple at first that slowly takes the viewer down a dark journey that the opening could have never hinted at. Three Identical Strangers, Weiner, and Tickle all come to mind when thinking about what Feels Good Man does so well. Likely, that audience members will not know who Furie is, but they will know his creation: Pepe the Frog.
Director Arthur Jones introduces the world to Furie and his comic book, Boy’s Club – which adds the character, Pepe the Frog. Unfortunately for Furie and to his later dismay, Pepe becomes a meme. That’s where the dark element of this story enters in, as this particular meme has a varied existence. It begins innocently enough, but falls into the world of 4chan and eventually into the alt-right. Jones does a great job of slowly introducing these elements, and crafting one very compelling narrative.
This story that could be very superficial manages to brush up against several relevant topics and themes. Copyright law and intellectual property, internet trolls, the fragile white male ego, and many other ideas are integrated into this story of a man trying to reclaim something he made from people who have twisted and tarnished it. It’s universal in many ways while being very specific to a story that most of the world will, at the very least, have heard of, as Pepe invaded internet feeds all over the place.
Feels Good Man is a documentary worth everyone’s time. You may disagree with the messages being discussed, but it is inherently compelling – and, at times, depressing. Fans of docs that start optimistically only to slowly descend into the pit of darkness will find this exciting. Feels Good Man earns the Must See rating.