How the 'This is fine' dog creator stood up to the GOP
"Look at my friend Pepe the Frog"
For the past year or so an anthropomorphic dog has been the unofficial emblem of an awestruck and befuddled populace.
His words, three in total, resonate and multiply daily on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr like a postmodern Keep Calm and Carry On, a shorthand reaction for everything from the stress of exams to angering political policies.
"This is fine," the nameless dog says as the world around him literally burns.
The meme, an excerpt from a webcomic by American illustrator K.C. Green, first gained prominence on Reddit in 2014, but recently took on new gravitas when the Republican Party shared it during the Democratic National Convention.
For Green, who conceived the original comic three years earlier, his cartoon canine's new political ties weren't particularly welcome.
"I thought it best to say something about it," the 29-year-old recalls.
. <a href="https://twitter.com/GOP">@GOP</a> We actually paid the artist who made this. Here's what he came up with. <a href="https://t.co/4D4bmx9ccp">pic.twitter.com/4D4bmx9ccp</a>—@thenib
Green subsequently responded with two updates to the "This is fine" dog. The first replaced the protagonist with an elephant (the symbol of the GOP); the second — aptly titled "This is not fine" — reimagined the doomed dog freaking out, not only at the fire-filled room but the state of the world in totality.
"That is just the double-edged sword of being a meme," Green says of his brush with the American political right. "Look at my friend Pepe the frog. Matt Furie is a lovely man who don't deserve that for his art and comics."
Below, Green discusses "This is fine" dog's success and how it feels to watch your art become cultural currency.
The 'This is fine' dog first appeared in your daily webcomic Gunshow, which has since been shuttered. For those unfamiliar, can you give it some context?
Gunshow was just a "throw at the wall and see what sticks" kind of comic. That was important for me growing as a cartoonist, being able to try anything that came to mind and write about whatever I was feeling.
Most people don't realize the meme is only the first two panels of a longer comic called On Fire in which the dog eventually melts. Does that frustrate you?
This is not completely new to me. I drew the original Dickbutt and saw it transform into what it is now. I have little control over how any of my work is seen or appropriated by the masses who use it. I've come to accept that it happens, and the best thing to do is keep drawing new and good stuff.
Do variations bother you?
It doesn't bother me, no. That's the other part of memes, the way other people speak through it by altering it here and there. I guess the only thing that would bother me is the message behind it, like when the GOP used it.
Was 'This is not fine' intended as a political statement?
The reaction came from the growing popularity of the comic and the meme and all that. It was growing fierce all that year. I kept thinking about it and about the inverse of that feeling. About how none of this is okay and it's all weird and awful and ugly. It came as natural as the original comic did in its time.
The meme appears to be gaining more popularity as the Trump administration takes power.
It's exciting that it's growing as a protest, including the new version of it. I'm mostly worried that I feel like a bit of a huckster pushing all the merch I have of the dog. I try not to push it so often on social media and the like. It's there when people find it and I'll make new ones with careful thinking.
Like your successful Kickstarter campaign to create a plush doll version of the dog?
It was lucky timing and just something I have to deal with more now. It's where my job is: some comics and the dog everyone wants. That's fine, that means I don't have to travel as much to do shows this year. I can focus on what I want to do, which is comics. That's the silver lining I guess.
What is your hope for the future of the 'This is fine' meme?
I hope that eventually it dies out and something new takes over. It's happened like that to cultural touchstones for years and will happen eventually. I hope we are all okay enough to get to see that happen.
— Jonathan Dekel, q digital staff