Zara made a Pepe the Frog skirt. WHAT?! How would a brand like Zara be so tone deaf to not know the racial and political implications of Pepe the Frog?
First, some background on Pepe the Frog
Pepe the Frog is an anthropomorphic frog character from the comic series Boy’s Club by Matt Furie. On 4chan, various illustrations of the frog creature have been used as reaction faces, including Feels Good Man, Sad Frog, Angry Pepe, Smug Frog and Well Meme’d.
Pepe the Frog and American Politics
On October 13th, 2015, Donald Trump tweeted an illustration of Pepe as himself standing at a podium with the President of the United States Seal. Within 16 months, the post gathered upwards of 11,000 likes and 8,100 retweets.
On January 9th, 2016, the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom tweeted a picture of Smug Pepe in a tweet reaction to news about an upcoming meeting between British Prime Minister Theresa May and United States President-elect Donald Trump. Over the next 24 hours, the tweet gained over 9,000 likes and 6,200 retweets.
Soon afterwards news sites The Daily Dot, Vox and IBI Times published articles about the tweet, referring to the Smug Pepe illustration as a “racist meme” and “white supremacist symbol.”
On May 26th, 2016, The Daily Beast published an article titled “How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol.“ The article included an interview with Twitter user @JaredTSwift, identified as an “anonymous white nationalist,” who claimed there was a “campaign to reclaim Pepe from normies” by creating anti-Semitic illustrations of the frog character.
On September 9th, 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that half Donald Trump’s supporters were in a “basket of deplorables” during a speech held at a private fundraiser. On September 10th, Donald Trump Jr. posted a photoshopped movie poster on Instagram of the 2010 action film The Expendables, which features various prominent conservatives and Pepe the Frog with the title “The Deplorables”.
The following day, NBC News published an article about the photoshop, which referred to Pepe the Frog as a “popular white nationalist symbol” based on a statement made by Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich. That day, several news sites published articles referring to Pepe as a “white supremacist meme” and “white national symbol,” including The Hill, Vanity Fair, Talking Points Memo and CNN.
The same day, the official Hillary Clinton presidential campaign blog published a post titled “Donald Trump, Pepe the frog, and white supremacists: an explainer,” which labeled Pepe the Frog as “sinister” and a “symbol associated with white supremacy.”
So How Did Zara Miss That Pepe the Frog is a White Supremacist?
ZARA has responded to the controversy surrounding a cartoon patch on one of its skirts, asserting that the character depicted is not what it appears to be. The Spanish store came under fire for selling the cut-off denim skirt featuring a patch bearing a resemblance to Pepe the Frog.
Even if ZARA argues that the patch is not meant to resemble Pepe the Frog, it does and the insinuation that the ZARA brand is on the side of the alt-right has been born. After this weird Pepe the Frog decision, and their failed “Love Your Curves” campaign, we’re beyond confused over ZARA’s brand management — we’re over it.