pedobearAre you offended by the bear pictured here? You should be! He's Pedobear, an Internet mascot for pedophilia. Sort of. It's not like actual pedophiles go around IDing each other by little badges with a teddy on them. If they did that, they'd probably have a lot of awkward run-ins with preschool teachers. Pedobear is just a character made to mock pedophilia. And like anything interesting on the internet, he's often feared and grossly misunderstood.

No one knows who first drew Pedobear. According to Encyclopedia Dramatica, the satirical NSFW version of Wikipedia, Pedobear came to the American forum 4chan from its Japanese counterpart 2chan, where he was just named "Bear." (In Japan, says the Encyclopedia, it would be redundant to put "pedo" in front of anything.) He's a bear (resembling a naked Paddington bear with a Grateful Dead neck fringe) who loves little girls. He has enemies, tastes, and methods. The brilliance of the Pedobear mythos is that none of it is apparent in the picture of this innocent picture of a teddy. That's why, as seen below, he ended up in ads for a children's costume store.

Preferences

In the many photoshopped images of Pedobear, he chases little girls, also called "loli." His favorite target is Stephanie, the teen star of the kids' show Lazytown. He also shows up with a lot of anime characters and Dora the Explorer. At times he'll even go for boys, but generally anyone over 15 gets Pedobear's stamp of disapproval: "Too old."

Enemies

A visit from Pedobear usually means another visit from Chris Hansen, the host of NBC's To Catch a Predator. Hansen is often shown chasing down Pedobear, or even wearing a Pedobear mask to catch pedophiles. Pedobear also fears the police.

Purpose

Pedobear is a shorthand for saying, "You're being creepy about a kid." If anyone on 4chan posts a picture of a questionably young looking girl in a sexy pose, someone will inevitably reply with a pic of Pedobear. Many times, Pedobear is added to a picture to point out real-world sexualization of presexual kids, but it's alternately shown as an acknowledgment of being inappropriately attracted to a child.

This admittedly risqué line of humor shouldn't be seen as condoning pedophila. Child pornography is banned on 4chan, and the site's users have helped authorities track down pedophiles. But the freedom to joke about it, even offensively, is part of 4chan's ethos of absolute free speech, liberty from censorship, and intentional bad behavior.

That said, users of 4chan and similar sites like Fark and YTMND love to see Pedobear show up in inappropriate places. The freedom of posting offensive pictures in an anything-goes forum can't beat the glee of subverting public standards of decency.

Pedobear on the internet

Pedobear spread from 4chan as a basic mascot for pedophilia, again mostly as a mocking example. CollegeHumor made a parody of the film Doubt using Pedobear and a girl who looks like Stephanie:



Pedobear in the real world

The ultimate coup for a 4chan meme is subversive or accidental use in the real world, and Pedobear's gotten it. To the initiated, any picture with a bear and a kid will look hauntingly like a Pedobear attack. But thanks to Pedobear's innocent appearance, the actual bear can show up in ads for businesses that didn't know better.

In a since-deleted news clip, a Portland costume store was interviewed after inadvertently printing Pedobear in a flyer. The news station interviewed I Can Has Cheezburger president Ben Huh, who explained that Pedobear is just an off-color joke, but the shopkeeper had to apologize for all who might be offended. Pedobear's like a curse word: A picture of a teddy bear is only as offensive as the meaning it's given.

By the way, you can buy a stuffed Pedobear. I did.