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One of the best things about having kids (or so I would have to imagine) that goes beyond creating an actual tiny human whose face lights up every time they see you is that kids will believe quite literally anything you tell them. Just think about it. Think about how absurd it is that we tell children that a fat man comes down the chimney every Christmas to deliver gifts, or that a giant-ass rabbit brings them a basket on Easter. It’s madness! Yet, they accept these terrifying notions at face value, mostly because they involve toys and candy. It’s this inherent gullibility we have partially to thank for the “gonna tell my kids” meme.
The meme began in earnest back in September when Twitter user @Wake_n_Bacon tweeted out a joke at the expense of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amid yet another brownface scandal. In this instance, it was over a costume he wore to an “Arabian Nights” themed party in 2001.
“I gonna tell my kids in 2055 that this was Justin Trudeau,” read the tweet, accompanied by an image of the “Mr. Popo” character from Dragon Ball Z.
I gonna tell my kids in 2055 that this was Justin Trudeau pic.twitter.com/7u760IU8qf— 🌎🌹 Lil.Brutus🌹 🌍 (@Wake_n_Bacon) September 19, 2019
Fast forward to November, when the rest of Twitter began picking up on the joke. Some of the earliest known examples involved jokes about former President Barack Obama. On Nov. 11, user @ech0astral posted the following image of rapper Chief Keef standing behind a White House podium, writing: “I’m gonna tell my kids this was Barack Obama.”
im gonna tell my kids this was Barack Obama pic.twitter.com/SOaTrLuc11— the vibe formerly known as julian (@ech0astral) November 12, 2019
Others soon followed, featuring Gus Fring from Breaking Bad (Giancarlo Esposito), Tyler the Creator, Drake, and others.
gonna tell my kids this was obama pic.twitter.com/dgyiVN54Q7— benjamin (@lowendfury) November 14, 2019
gonna tell my kids this was obama pic.twitter.com/OT7EEjIJ6M— Odd Future (@itsOddFuture) November 15, 2019
gonna tell my kids this was Obama pic.twitter.com/BBIVfmb7tE— Josh Mack (@Ohh_My_Josh) November 15, 2019
im gonna tell my kids this was Obama pic.twitter.com/w9itevkGgV— one of ur hoes (@miliondollameat) November 17, 2019
I’m gonna tell my kids this was Obama pic.twitter.com/DWBNkOfp6f— TRAVIS SCOTT DAILY (@dailyfIame) November 19, 2019
Others then got in on the “gonna tell my kids” meme, making jokes at the expense of other historical figures such as the founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and the Kennedys, and so on.
gonna tell my kids these were the founding fathers pic.twitter.com/C7YCgHCC9a— soulja blegh (@MarcosSOTS) November 18, 2019
Gonna tell my kids this was Abraham Lincoln pic.twitter.com/nZlVBZ0QPi— yeah i’m emo, so what? (@ThyArtIsMemes) November 17, 2019
Gonna tell my kids this was jfk and Jacqueline Kennedy pic.twitter.com/3A1C4emWsD— Alyssa (@xhodez) November 18, 2019
Gonna tell my kids this was Queen Elizabeth. pic.twitter.com/nJfqGXAp4I— brittany packnett cunningham (@MsPackyetti) November 19, 2019
And then some people got really absurd with it, mixing up Elvis for the singer of My Chemical Romance, Elon Musk for literally Iron Man, and a hairpiece-wearing Kevin from The Office for Ashton Kutcher.
Gonna tell my kids this was Elvis pic.twitter.com/rdldrrbBti— yeah i’m emo, so what? (@ThyArtIsMemes) November 17, 2019
gonna tell my kids this is elon musk pic.twitter.com/iqPwzJBZV3— yeet loaf (@ChickenAlfonso) November 17, 2019
gonna tell my kids this is Ashton Kutcher pic.twitter.com/r0PmU1Bi7B— Jim Halpert (@JimHalpert__) November 19, 2019
And then, of course, brands such as Netflix added valuable contributions to the “gonna tell my kids” meme.
gonna tell my kids these were the ghostbusters pic.twitter.com/GqrXESczqI— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) November 19, 2019
gonna tell my kids this was their father pic.twitter.com/aRNJdCeFYP— Netflix US (@netflix) November 19, 2019
Gonna tell my kids these are the Founding Fathers pic.twitter.com/lFq3DrEsvT— Jersey Shore (@JerseyShore) November 19, 2019
While we can’t advocate that you actually tell your kids any of these lies, we also can’t necessarily advocate that you don’t. Grades are overrated, right?
Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.