Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Heather Blatt

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Nathaniel Cadle

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Andrew Strycharski

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Critical Race Theory, Pepe the Frog, Jim Crow, Memes, Cultural Studies

Date of Defense



This thesis works to establish a literary theory and cultural studies as a theoretical lens with which we can view harmful emerging pop culture phenomena like the so-called alt right. The premise is supposed in three parts, with the first being a simple introduction to the Pepe character and how he is grounded in literary studies through a comparison of Sherlock Holmes and his early fandom. The second part is a survey of the legacy of Jim Crow and I present the evidence that Pepe is very much Crow’s spiritual successor in their shared preoccupation with white anxiety. The third is a discussion of language in which I bridge the use of memes as language with how that language effectively communicates. Ultimately, Pepe the Frog is able to tap into the pop culture collective through a democratizing of language facilitated by digital spaces on the internet, and his proliferation is made readily viral by the racist language he speaks through ala Jim Crow era anxieties.





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