Pepe the Frog is Love and Peace: His Second Life in Hong Kong

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Abstract

In Hong Kong, starting in June 2019, a series of demonstrations and civil disobedience actions were launched, protesting the government’s controversial proposal of the extradition law. The political situation has turned out to be tense and, to an extent, violent, where one can see police in blue and protestors in black assaulting each other; where one can see countless Molotov’s cocktails and tearing gases flying in front of the backdrop of the metropolitan, where one can see an abyss gradually being formed between the authorities and the Hong Konger activists, and where one can also see how people possessing different political views have moved their battleground from physical places to online platforms amidst the pandemic. Amidst all this, one icon always remains ubiquitous: the face of Pepe the Frog. Connoted as an alt-right symbol, a figure of hatred and white nationalism, the meme of Pepe the Frog sheds these meanings and signifies something very different in the political drama in Hong Kong: love, peace and frustration towards the government. Indeed, through repeated uses in different situations, the meaning of memes also changes, which can result in a contrasting understanding of the same meme by two groups of people. Investigating the uses of the meme of Pepe the Frog in the current Hong Kong situation, I will explore how politically charged memes can be appropriated otherwise from their original contexts and significance. Memes have the affordances and the flexibility to be entextualized out of their original place and be re-contextualized by their users. In this way, a meme does not only appoint one specific way of understanding, but allows its viewers to derive and create their own ways of comprehending the meme through continually identifying with the meme itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Meme Reader
Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Mutations of the Viral Image
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherInstitute of Network Cultures
Pages289-306
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789492302779
ISBN (Print)9789492302762
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameINC Reader
PublisherInstitute of Network Cultures
Number15

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