When streamer Chonkikage first joined Twitch, she knew already that Pepe The Frog was a hate symbol used by the alt-right.
Yet the prevalence of the little green frog across the platform made her question whether it had been reclaimed.
“When I first started streaming on Twitch and I saw Pepe emotes everywhere I was like, this is very weird,” she says. “But I noticed people were using it in friendly ways from my experience, so I was like oh maybe it’s reclaimed, maybe it’s been adopted, it’s part of the culture.”
Pepe The Frog emotes are among the most popular on the platform. They’re not included as standard, but through third-party plugins like Better TTV and are used by viewers through the chat function as shorthand reactions to streamers.
The meme blew up in the 2010s but was adopted by alt-right groups on messageboard sites like 4chan, as outlined in last year’s documentary Feels Good, Man. The image has since been listed as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) but it remains in use across the internet, including Twitch.
Since then, LGBT+ Twitch streamers are fighting back by banning Pepe The Frog emotes from their streams.
There are viewers who use the emote innocently enough, while others have specifically attempted to reclaim the image for good.
“Reclaiming is a complicated process if it’s happening at all,” says Chonkikage. “It would take time for a symbol to be fully reclaimed anyway by the communities that it’s harmed.
“Even if I haven’t been attacked by it or I haven’t seen people use it in a negative way, it’s making [marginalised] people uncomfortable and if they’re saying that they don’t want to be in a space where they see that symbol because it’s hate speech to them, it’s traumatising, just remove it.”
She continues: “But continuing to have Pepe…when you hear them say that it’s harmful to them and they don’t feel comfortable in that space and then you’re like ‘oh well, I like Pepe’, what does that say?”
That’s why Chonkikage, a full-time non-binary streamer and graphic designer, decided to create some alternative emotes. Named Froogy, the new emotes are available for anyone to use for free using the Better TTV plugin.
“I’m going to draw my own version and let people use it and it’ll be cute and different and just replace those other ones,” she says. “That’s how I saw it. I chose a frog because we’re going to get a better frog!”
There are multiple Froogy emotes available that act as direct analogues to the most popular Pepe The Frog emotes. Froogy is a cute and innocent alternative, which viewers can use without the implied (though often unintentional) undertones of white supremacy.
So far the emotes have been downloaded and used by hundreds of streamers since their creation back in January.
“Seeing Pepe being replaced by them is wonderful,” says Chonkikage. “I live my values on my stream and I put my whole heart into these emotes. I feel like everyone who uses them is the same way so it’s great.”
Chonkikage is keen to point out that streamers don’t have to only use Froogy instead of Pepe The Frog. Her emote is simply one alternative, there for streamers and viewers to use if they like. After all, there are an infinite number of emotes that can be used for reactions that aren’t hate symbols, unlike Pepe.
Seeing the emotes being used by others is just a small way to spread positivity on the Twitch platform.
“It makes me feel great because I know they’re taking the conscious effort to be more inclusive and understanding of people,” says Chonkikage.
“It’s subtle, I know it’s just an emote, but people that are actively choosing to replace [Pepe] with Froogy have this in mind and it makes those spaces feel safe.”
You can download the Froogy emotes on Better TTV.