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The Distracted Boyfriend meme hit 2017 like a runaway train. The meme was seemingly everywhere on the internet at the end of last year. A year and a half later, Distracted Boyfriend memes are still popular on social sites like Twitter, thanks to a simple “object labeling” style that allows people to project endless opinions and scenarios onto the three people in the meme.
The meme is based on a stock photo of a man walking with his girlfriend while being distracted by another attractive woman. The photograph, which is still available on iStock by Getty Images, is actually entitled “Disloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl”— but it will now and forever be known “Distracted Boyfriend.”
The best Distracted Boyfriend memes
The photo was taken in Catalonia, Spain in mid-2015, but it didn’t become a meme until the beginning of 2017 when it was posted to a Turkish Facebook group about prog rock. The post says the edited image was sent in by a user named Kaan Aksoy, who as far as we know, was the first one to attach labels to picture. In this case, the photo is used to illustrate musician Phil Collins being distracted by pop music.
A day later, the meme was posted to an English-language version of the group called “Prog Snob” where it has since been shared over 2,300 times.
On February 2, Twitter user @goftrop posted the Phil Collins version of the meme along with the caption, “this is maybe the best meme ive [sic] ever seen.”
New versions of the meme began popping up on Twitter and Instagram later in the year, including this incredibly popular version labeling the man as “The Youth,” his girlfriend as “Capitalism,” and the third woman as “Socialism”.
The meme quickly took off from there.
Who took the iconic Distracted Boyfriend photo?
“I never thought that one of my images will be that popular,” said Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem in a statement he released to the press after being swamped with request for comments. “I didn’t even know what a meme is until recently.”
“It’s quite strange to be a meme,” the woman who played the girlfriend (only identified by her stage name—Laura) said in an interview with New York Magazine. “But also funny due to the imagination of the people.”
The meme has inspired countless variations, with more still being added, but here are some of the best and most notable examples.
- The best memes of 2018
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The best memes from the Distracted Boyfriend universe
One of the things that makes these memes so great is that Guillem actually shot a whole series of photographs of the two models together. Apparently, the three of them work together all the time (according to his statement, Guillem stopped working with the third woman although he doesn’t mention why).
Once the meme went viral, people began discovering other pictures in the series, allowing them to build a whole fictional universe around the couple.
1) The boyfriend with a wandering eye
2) The unimpressed girlfriend
Although, if you reverse the pictures, you get a story about a woman who refuses to reconcile with a man who has a wandering eye.
3) The girlfriend and the woman in the red dress end up together
There’s even a version where the two women end up together.
4) The Distracted Girlfriend
Although we see the same woman in the picture, she now has a new man, or, this takes place in the past and this is how she meets her future boyfriend, who will later be pulling the same move on her. Anything is possible in this meme-i-verse!
5) Meta Distracted Boyfriend memes
Obviously, any meme that’s been around this long is going to inspire some meta versions.
Historical Distracted Boyfriend memes
1) Charlie Chaplin as the Distracted Boyfriend
The idea that a man’s wandering eye could make his partner jealous has been around as long as people have been getting together and has often been a theme for artists in various media.
Take for instance this still from the 1920’s Charlie Chaplin film Pay Day, which many people on the internet thought looked just like the Distracted Boyfriend meme.
2) The 18-Century Distracted Boyfriend
Of course, there’s no reason to stop there. What about this version from an 18th-century painting?
The painting itself is about an actor who is ignoring the drama and instead concentrating on comedy. So it was already doing the same thing people are doing now with the Distracted Boyfriend meme: taking a literal situation and using it as a metaphor.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pile yet another layer on top of that.
The best—and strangest—versions of the Distracted Boyfriend meme
Since the stock photo was turned into a meme almost a year ago, there have been countless variations and edited versions of the Distracted Boyfriend meme. It’s a meme that is now almost universally recognized on the internet, both by those who are Extremely Online and the so-called normies or locals. Here is a roundup of some of the best ones—so far.
This very early version contributed to the meme going viral and might very well have been directed at the President of the United States.
This biblical version of the Distracted Boyfriend meme captured the attention of everyone who remembered how Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt:
Here’s one that brilliantly combines the Distracted Boyfriend meme with the Captain America detention meme:
Here is Link getting distracted by a side quest instead of rescuing Zelda:
If you’re a Black Panther fan, you might enjoy this version that shows W’Kabi, T’Challa’s supposed best friend, getting distracted when Killmonger comes along.
And what could be more distracting than some delicious ice cream? This IRL version of the meme was the latest Distracted Boyfriend image to go viral:
These examples perfectly illustrate why this meme will never die. People will never stop being distracted from the thing they should be concentrating on, and as long as there are photos that look similar to the original Distracted Boyfriend, this meme will keep popping up and, ironically enough, keep us all from getting things done.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.