Distracted Boyfriend Template of the original stock photo that went viral and became an internet meme

Distracted Boyfriend

Part of a series on Object Labeling. [View Related Entries]

Updated Aug 10, 2023 at 05:28AM EDT by Aidan Walker.

Added Aug 22, 2017 at 12:58PM EDT by Don.

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Featured Episode

About

Distracted Boyfriend, also known as Man Looking at Other Woman, is an object labeling stock photo series in which a man looks at the backside of a woman walking by while another woman, presumably his romantic partner, looks on disapprovingly.

Origin

On November 1st, 2015, the source image, taken by photographer Antonio Guillem, was posted on the stock photo database iStock[1] under the description "Disloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl" (shown below, left). According to a post published on the Meme Documentation [14] Tumblr blog, the earliest known captioned version of the photo was submitted to a Turkish Facebook group at an unknown date. On January 30th, 2017, the Prog Düşmanlarına Verilen Müthiş Cevaplar Facebook[13] page posted the image with captions identifying the man as Phil Collins peering pop music while prog music looks on (shown below, right).

The creator of Phil Collins meme has since stated that they were inspired by the political meme page "Siyasettin," whose earliest available version of a Distracted Boyfriend meme was also posted on January 30th, 2017.


Original stock photo that started the Distracted Boyfriend Meme Distracted Boyfriend meme of Phil Collins

Spread

On February 23rd, 2017, Instagram user @_dekhbai_[2] posted the image with the caption "Tag That Friend / Who Falls in Love Every Month" (shown below, left). Within seven months, the post gained over 28,500 likes. On August 19th, Twitter user @n1m161 posted the stock depicting the man staring longingly at "socialism" while "capitalism" looks on (shown below, right).


Distracted Boyfriend meme asking you to tag a friend who falls in love every month distracted boyfriend meme of the youth, capitalism and socialism

On August 21st, Redditor danikger submitted a captioned version of the photo in which the man looks back at the 2017 solar eclipse while being stared at by "scientific evidence supporting the dangers of staring at the sun" (shown below). Within 24 hours, the post gained over 31,200 points (93% upvoted) and 130 comments on /r/me_irl.[3] In the coming days, several posts about the meme format were submitted to /r/MemeEconomy.[5][6][7][8]


distracted boyfriend solar eclipse meme

In March of 2018, Slate[42] cited Distracted Boyfriend as one of the memes most influential to the spread of the Object Labeling trend of the late 2010s.

On December 29th, 2022, Rainbolt uploaded a video on Instagram showing the location where the photo was taken.[65] It was in the city of Girona, Spain. The specific street's name is Carrer Nou, 31. The video received over 533,000 likes in 3 weeks (shown, below).



Photo Series Compilations

As the popularity of the stock photo started to spread, people discovered similar stock photos in the series with the same actors in various scenarios. On August 22nd, Tumblr user klubbhead posted a compilation of similar photos from the series, featuring the man looking at the same woman at various instances with at the end showing his romantic partner in disstress and questioning why she didn't dump him.[9]


distracted boyfriend meme different angle stock photo distracted boyfriend proposing while checking out the girl in red Distracted Boyfriend of the couple having issues

Klubbhead added a reply to his post the next day, showing a photo of the man annoyed at his partner's shopping habits; alongside 2 series of stock photos from the set with the first showing the initial man and woman being a happy couple once (shown below, left) and the latter showing them all 3 being together with the implication that they all had intercourse together eventually (shown below, right).[10] As of August 25th, the post gathered over 47,500 notes.


Distracted Boyfriend meme stock photos of the couple getting along well Distracted boyfriend meme of the couple meeting the third girl

On August 24th, Twitter user @akfamilyhomeak[11] posted a tweet featuring a similar scenario, but instead showing the two women from the series getting closer to each other with the man being blurry in the background. Later that day, Twitter user @oranforest[12] added a photo to the same series as @akfamilyhomeak, featuring the two women being together with the implication that they got together (shown below).


Distracted boyfriend meme of the two girls getting together and ditching the guy

Interviews With The Photographer And Models

In late August, photographer Antonio Guillem gave several interviews about the photograph to various news sites, including Wired[17] and The Guardian,[16] in which he revealed he didn't known what a meme was until recently. On August 29th, NY Mag[15] published an interview conducted by Guillem with the models from the photo.

Distracted Girlfriend

In late October 2017, another photograph by Antonion Guillem was discovered on Shutterstock[18] in which the roles were reversed, depicting a man's girlfriend looking lustfully at a man passing by (shown below).


Ladies and Gentleman, the distracted Girlfriend Meme

On October 29th, 2017, Redditor toastr submitted an image featuring the new stock photo placed underneath the original Distracted Boyfriend picture, along with the caption "The tables have turned." Within 24 hours, the post gained over 25,600 points (92% upvoted) and 240 comments. That day, Redditor J0Aco777 reposted the image macro to /r/dankmemes,[19] where it garnered upwards of 8,400 points (91% upvoted) and 110 comments over the next day.


Old VS New - the distracted boyfriend meme has the tables turned with the distracted girlfriend meme

Meanwhile, a photoshopped variation of the image was submitted by Redditor SteW- to /r/me_irl, featuring the original Distracted Boyfriend as the jealous boyfriend (shown below).[20] On October 30th, The Daily Dot[21] published an article about the new stock photo titled "Distracted girlfriend brings gender equality to the meme world."


Distracted Girlfriend brings gender equality to the meme world in this reverse version of the distracted boyfriend meme

Henry Cavill Photoshops

On January 26th, 2018, Twitter user @synistere[23] tweeted a still of the upcoming film in the Mission Impossible series featuring Henry Cavill (shown below).


Syn #TMFU2 what backlash lol @synistere Follow Henry Cavill in #MissionImpossibleFallout 9

Shortly after the tweet, they created a Distracted Boyfriend parody of the image, gaining over 1,500 retweets (shown below, left). The following day, Tom Cruise tweeted the image. In the replies to the tweet, film critic Ali Plumb requested that somebody create a Distracted Boyfriend parody of the image.[22] In the replies, many Twitter users created parodies of their own. The most popular was created by Twitter user @Malforian, gaining over 1,700 retweets (shown below, right). The Lad Bible[24] covered the Distracted Boyfriend/Henry Cavill parodies on the 28th.


Distracted Boyfriend meme with the boyfriend distracted by a handsome Henry Cavill walking by

Shorty Awards

On April 15th, 2018, Distracted Boyfriend was named "Meme of the Year" at the 10th annual Shorty Awards.[31] The meme beat Galaxy Brain, Right in Front of My Salad, Roll Safe,, The Floor Is… and Tiny Trump.

18th-Century Equivalent

On April 16th, 2018, Twitter[25] user @ELXGANZA tweeted an image of a painting from 1761 by painter Joshua Reynolds side-by-side with the Distracted Boyfriend meme. They captioned the tweet, "I’ve found the 18th century equivalent to the distracted boyfriend meme." The post (shown below) received more than 34,000 retweets and 110,000 likes in 24 hours.


I've found the 18th century equivalent to the distracted boyfriend meme

@ELXGANZA followed the tweet[26] by writing, "Fun fact: the painting is by Joshua Reynolds and it depicts the actor David Garrick stuck between the alure of Comedy and the prestige of Tragedy, so here’s a depiction of how the meme would have worked in its original context." They posted the painting with each of the characters in the painting labeled "comedy," "troubled actor" and "tragedy." The post (shown below, left) received more than 700 retweets and 2,900 likes in 24 hours.

People responded to the image by posting memes featuring the paining. That day, Twitter[27] user @TheHipsterRebbe tweeted a version of the image where the characters are labeled "social contract theory," "enlightenment dude" and "divine right of knights. The post (shown below, center) received more than 300 retweets and 1,700 likes in 24 hours.

Twitter[28] user @KitsuneAlicia photoshopped the picture so that both the Distracted Boyfriend and Reynolds's painting label the characters. The post (shown below, right) received more than 260 retweets and 1,200 likes in 24 hours.

Several media outlets covered the reaction to the painting, including Mashable, [29] The Daily Dot, [30] and more.


Fun fact: the painting is by Joshua Reynolds and it depicts the actor David Garrick stuck between the alure of Comedy and the prestige of Tragedy, so here's a depiction of how the meme would have worked in its original context. agedy Troubled actor Comedý Eplightenment Dude Social ontract Theory Divine Right of Kings 茹 Historians

Cape Town Recreation

On July 7th, 2018, Twitter user @pjmboothang[35] tweeted an image she had taken of her friend that inadvertently bore a strong resemblance to the Distracted Boyfriend image (shown below). The tweet gained over 200,000 retweets and 566,000 likes.



After the picture went viral, the girl was identified as Trishna Pema of Cape Town, South Africa. The spread of her image was covered by Buzzfeed[36] and Daily Dot.[37] Twitter user @j47di tweeted a photoshop of the image which used the original template as the jealous girlfriend in the new picture, gaining over 70 retweets and 400 likes (shown below).



Star Wars Recreation at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con

On July 23rd, 2018, Instagram user @jujukitty2323[38] posted a recreation of the Distracted Boyfriend photograph including Princess Leia and Han Solo cosplayers at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con (shown below). That day, the post garnered more than 1,500 likes.


@jujukilttyeo

The same day, Twitter user @Kesseltoyrun[39] reposted the photo, which gained upwards of 33,600 likes and 10,600 retweets within 24 hours. Also on July 23rd, a Moments[40] page titled "Star Wars fans put their own spin on the 'distracted boyfriend' meme at Comic-Con" was published on Twitter, collecting various reactions to the photo (shown below). On July 24th, an The Daily Dot[41] published an article about the picture titled "‘Star Wars’ cosplayers reenact the Distracted Boyfriend meme at San Diego Comic-Con."


WastedFett @WastedFett My Falcon don't want none unless you got buns, hun. SG Temple Prime @SGTemplePrime That's not how the Force works. Kesseltoyrun @thekesseltoyrun Some friends from @SGTemplePrime at SDCC this weekend!!!

Swedish 'Sexist' Ruling

On August 15th, 2018, Sweden's Advertising Ombudsman, an advertising watchdog company, judged that the use of Distracted Boyfriend in advertising was sexist after it was used by the recruiting company Bahnhof in a recruiting ad showing "Bahnhof" labeled as the attractive woman and "your current job" labeled as the girlfriend[43] (shown below).


DU DINNUVARANDE ARBETSPLATS BAHNHOF

The Ombudsman unanimously ruled the ad to be "gender-discriminatory" and suggestive of the idea that women are "interchangeable in the same way as a change of workplace." The Ombudsman cannot impose sanctions, only pass judgment. The ruling was covered by CNET.[44]

Wedding Photo

On September 29th, 2018, Redditor Lyude posted a photograph to /r/bi_irl in which a man is taking a picture at a wedding with his bride, but is distracted by a shirtless man in the water behind him (shown below). The post gained over 300 points.[45]



On October 1st, Twitch and Twitter user @skylxrksays posted the photo to Twitter connecting it to the Distracted Boyfriend meme, gaining over 27,000 retweets and 94,000 likes (shown below).


SKYLXRK, but spooky @skylxrksays Follow Is... is this an improved version of the Distracted Boyfriend" meme

In the replies, Twitter users commented with Object Labeling memes similar to the Distracted Boyfriend meme. For example, user @amokistan posted a version poking fun at how the wedding photo was Distracted Boyfriend "but gay," and gained over 1,100 retweets and 4,300 likes (shown below, left). User @mikeyil posted about how his life had been taken over by Gritty memes, gaining 28 retweets and 239 likes (shown below, right). These jokes were covered by The Daily Dot.[46]


Amos @Amokistan Follow Replying to @skylxrksays you same meme but gay old meme @mikeyil@jawns.club Follow @mikeyil Replying to @skylxrksays @TheGreyKing Yes Me My life Gritty memes

JablinskiGames

On February 22nd, 2019, JablinskiGames uploaded a video entitled "Jumanji 4" (shown below). The video gained over three million vies within a week.



On February 25th, Viewers took notice of a moment in the video that resembled the distracted boyfriend meme (shown below).


On February 26th, Redditors began posting the Jablinski Distracted boyfriend format to /r/dankmemes [4][5] (shown below).


New Jack Black meme format Me Sleep Reddit

Shocked Girlfriend

On June 25th, 2018, Twitter user Ernie Smith posted a thread collecting various stock photos of the girlfriend from the original photograph appearing "easily shocked when looking at screens (shown below).


gettyimage AntonioGuillem 827885138 gettyimages AntonioGuillem 829471540 gettyimages AntonioGuillem 633535378 gettyimages Anto 811339794 gettyimages AntonioGu 915194996

The same day, Twitter user @Lifetheuniverce[33] photoshopped several of the photos on to the original Distracted Boyfriend image (shown below). Within 24 hours, the tweet gained over 2,100 likes and 300 retweets. On June 26th, Twitter published a Moments[32] page for the photos titled "Distracted boyfriend's partner is stunned by phone and computer screens." Meanwhile, The Daily Dot[34] published an article about the stock photos titled "The Distracted Boyfriend’s girlfriend is probably looking at this meme in shock."



Hungarian Pro-Family Billboards

On February 10th, Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, announced that he would promise major tax breaks for Hungarian women who have more than four children. Hungary wants to boost their population and Orbán views the incentive to be preferable over letting immigrants into the country. [48] On March 13th, Facebook user Gábor Ligeti[49] posted a photo of a billboard in Budapest, recognizing the models from the "distracted boyfriend" meme (shown below). The billboard promotes Orban's family protection action plan.[47]


IASTKAPNAK TAHAZASOK Kivándorlás Londonba

Many Twitter users found the billboard ironic. That day @ToddAtticus[50] tweeted a distracted boyfriend edit of the billboard situation which got 470 retweets and 1,720 likes in a day (shown below, left). Twitter user @OshaDavidson[51] also took advantage of the format for the situation (shown below, right).


Todd Atticus @ToddAtticus Replying to @VALERIEin140 Hungarian Government Literally any other stock photograph 5:09 AM-13 Mar 2019 Osha Davidson @OshaDavidson Replying to BBCWorld Orbán Demo ASEXAPNAK oK tion orru 1:19 PM-13 Mar 2019

New York Times Frontpage

On May 29th, 2019, a variation of the Distracted Boyfriend meme was published on the front page of the New York Times business section in which automobile manufacturer "Renault" ignores "Nissan" to admire "Fiat Chrysler." That day, Twitter[52] user @cbquist tweeted, "Dear NYT -- a half-page Distracted Boyfriend Meme was really the key thing for a section front?" Within 24 hours, the tweet received more than 735 retweets and 4,200 likes (shown below, left).

Following the release of the cover, people mocked the paper's use of the meme. Twitter[53] user @thesheetztweetz used the format to criticize the use of a meme instead of "photojournalism." The tweet received more than 775 retweets and 6,000 likes in 24 hours (shown below, center).

However, a day prior, on May 28th, a similar version of the meme was tweeted by Twitter[54] user @Malavtweets, one day ahead of the New York Times cover (shown below, right). The user did not accuse the paper of plagiarism. They wrote, "Such things are unavoidable. One can only hope that this is a coincidence. In their defense, they use only black font color."

That day, Twitter[55] published an Events page about the cover. Additionally, New York[56] magazine covered the meme writing, "Everyone please give a warm round of applause to the New York Times, which arrived in the year 2017 this week in a big way. The paper of record published its own version of the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme on Wednesday, using the characters to represent Fiat Chrysler, Renault, and Nissan."


Dear NYT -- a half-page Distracted Boyfriend Meme was really the key thing for a section front? Naomi Osaka took a rocky firet step toward a third straight major tstle but eked out a win at the French Open. ans with a richer Bemos, who wil have billions even afher her divorce, promised to donate more than half of her fortune that are Bus WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2019 inesS as TECH 1ECONOSY MEDAFINANCE be New orkmes Renault Nissan Fiat Chrysler 8:53 AM-29 May 2019 NYT Business Photojournalism MEMES Fiat Chrysler's 50/50 merger proposal to Renault explained using distracted boyfriend meme $FCA #Renault #Nissan Renault Nissan Fiat Chrysler 5:39 AM - 28 May 2019

Vintage Photo Version

On February 26th, 2020, Redditor Euxiom[57] posted to /r/OldSchoolCool a picture they traced to the early 1950s of a woman looking at a passing soldier, writing, "In the early 50's, a distracted girlfriend way before the distracted boyfriend meme" (shown below).


vintage black and white photo of a distracted girlfriend

The picture led to a revival of Distracted Boyfriend posts on Reddit using the photo. User PapaDragonPH[58] posted a self-referential version of the image to /r/memeeconomy, gaining over 10,000 points (shown below, left). Redditor Marius0306[59] posted a similar edit in /r/teenagers, gaining over 12,000 points (shown below, right).


DISTRACTED BOYFRIEND MEME OLD-SCHOOL DISTRACTED GIRLFRIEND MEME

Museum Of Moving Images Reenactment Photo

At KnowYourMeme's September 2018 Two Decades of Memes event at the Museum of Moving Images in Queens, New York, podcasters Charlie Todd and Cody Livingston, as well as data scientist Ulku Guneysu, reenacted the "Distracted Boyfriend" photo in front of a large blow-up of the image.[60] Over the following two years, the photo was erroneously shared numerous times by people claiming that the trio are the original models aged several years. Redditor Thecrazygoodguy was the first to do so, posting the image on September 28th, 2018 to /r/memes[61] with the caption "They are old guys" (shown below).


They are old guys Sp

The following day, the picture was tweeted by Zach Braff[62] with the caption, "This is how much 2018 has aged us all. On March 13th, 2021, Twitter user @jdpoc[63] tweeted it with the caption, "The actual people from THAT meme, 10 years on …", gaining over 240,000 retweets and 1.4 million likes. On March 15th, KnowYourMeme published an article debunking the claim that the three in the picture are the same as the original models.[64]

Various Examples


Zelda version of the Distracted Boyfriend Meme with the truth about BOTW Distracted boyfriend meme of Disloyal Mangaka distracted boyfriend meme about opening a cold one with the boys Distracted Boyfriend Meme about the old format being better than the new one Distracted Boyfriend meme about preferring it over the expanding brain meme Distracted boyfriend meme of a new format from the original photoshoot

Search Interest

External References

[1] iStockPhoto – Disloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl

[2] Instagram – dekhbhai (page unavailable)

[3] Reddit – me irl

[4] Twitter – @n1m161

[5] Reddit – /r/memeeconomy

[6] Reddit – /r/memeeconomy

[7] Reddit – /r/memeeconomy

[8] Reddit – /r/memeeconomy

[9] Tumblr (via Wayback Machine) – Klubbhead

[10] Tumblr (via Wayback Machine) – Klubbhead

[11] Twitter – @akfamilyhomeak

[12] Twitter – @oranforest

[13] Facebook – Prog Düşmanlarına Verilen Müthiş Cevaplar

[14] Tumblr – On the origins of the man checking out another woman meme

[15] NY Mag – Meme Stars Laura and Mario Break Their Silence

[16] The Guardian – I didn't know what a meme was, says Distracted Boyfriend photographer

[17] Wired – DISTRACTED BOYFRIEND

[18] Shutterstock – Distracted Woman Looking Another Man

[19] Reddit – Oh how they do

[20] Reddit – me irl

[21] The Daily Dot – Distracted girlfriend brings gender equality to the meme world

[22] Twitter – @AliPlumb

[23] Twitter – @synistere

[24] Lad Bible – Henry Cavill Has Just Been Turned Into A Meme And It's Amazing

[25] Twitter – @ELXGANZA's Tweet

[26] Twitter – @ELXGANZA'S Tweet

[27] Twitter – @TheHipsterRebbe's Post

[28] Twitter – @KitsuneAlicia's Tweet

[29] Mashable – This is what the distracted boyfriend meme

[30] The Daily Dot- This 18th-century painting looks like the Distracted Boyfriend meme

[31] Shorty Awards – Meme of the Year

[32] Twitter Moments – Distracted boyfriends partner is stunned by phone and computer screens

[33] Twitter – @lifetheuniverce

[34] The Daily Dot – The Distracted Boyfriends girlfriend is probably looking at this meme in shock

[35] Twitter – pjmboothang

[36] Buzzfeed – People Are Saying That This Photo Is The Real-Life Version Of The "Distracted Boyfriend" Meme

[37] Daily Dot – The latest Distracted Boyfriend meme gives us a delicious new twist

[38] Instagram – jujukitty2323 (login needed)

[39] Twitter – thekesseltoyrun

[40] Twitter Moments – Star Wars fans put their own spin on the distracted boyfriend meme at Comic-Con

[41] The Daily Dot – Star Wars cosplayers reenact the Distracted Boyfriend meme at San Diego Comic-Con

[42] Slate – The Distracted Boyfriend Was Onto Something

[43] Swedish Ruling

[44] CNET – Use of 'distracted boyfriend' meme in recruitment ad is sexist, watchdog rules

[45] Reddit – bi_irl

[46] Daily Dot – This wedding photo is the new Distracted Boyfriend meme

[47] BBC – 'Distracted Boyfriend' Couple Star in Ads

[48] The Guardian – Viktor Orban

[49] Facebook – Gabor Ligeti

[50] Twitter – ToddAtticus

[51] Twitter – OshaDavidson

[52] Twitter – @cbquist's Tweet

[53] Twitter – @thesheetztweetz

[54] Twitter – @Malavtweets' Tweet

[55] Twitter – The distracted boyfriend gets top billing in the NYT Business section

[56] New York Magazine – New York Times: Hello, Fellow Kids

[57] Reddit – /r/oldschoolcool

[58] Reddit – Rare Vintage Meme

[59] Reddit – hope u like it

[60] Reddit – /r/funny

[61] Reddit – /r/memes

[62] Twitter – ZachBraff

[63] Twitter – @jdpoc

[64] KnowYourMeme – This Is Not A Picture Of The 'Distracted Boyfriend' Models Ten Years Later

[65] - georainbolt – we will take it. w/ unox. #geography #travel #travelgram

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