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.
On November 2, 2015, the source image, taken by photographer Antonio Guillem, was posted on the stock photo database iStock under the description “Disloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl” (shown below, left). According to a post published on the Meme Documentation 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 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,” who’s earliest available version was posted on January 30th, 2017, as well.
On February 23rd, 2017, Instagram user @_dekhbai_ 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).
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. In the coming days, several posts about the meme format were submitted to /r/MemeEconomy.
In March of 2018, Slate cited it as one of the memes most influential to the spread of the Object Labeling trend of the late 2010s.
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.
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). As of August 25th, the post gathered over 47,500 notes.
On August 24th, Twitter user @akfamilyhomeak 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 added a photo to the same series as @akfamilyhomeak, featuring the two women being together with the implication that they got together (shown below).
In late August, photographer Antonio Guillem gave several interviews about the photograph to various news sites, including Wired and The Guardian, in which he revealed he didn’t known what a meme was until recently. On August 29th, NY Mag published an interview conducted by Guillem with the models from the photo.
In late October 2017, another photograph by Antonion Guillem was discovered on Shutterstock in which the roles were reversed, depicting a man’s girlfriend looking lustfully at a man passing by (shown below).
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, where it garnered upwards of 8,400 points (91% upvoted) and 110 comments over the next day.
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). On October 30th, The Daily Dot published an article about the new stock photo titled “Distracted girlfriend brings gender equality to the meme world.”
Henry Cavill Photoshops
On January 26th, 2018, Twitter user @synistere tweeted a still of the upcoming film in the Mission Impossible series featuring Henry Cavill (shown below).
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. 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 covered the Distracted Boyfriend/Henry Cavill parodies on the 28th.
On April 15th, 2018, Distracted Boyfriend was named “Meme of the Year” at the 10th annual Shorty Awards. The meme beat Expanding Brain, Right in Front of My Salad, Roll Safe,, The Floor Is… and Tiny Trump.
On April 16th, 2018, Twitter 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.
@ELXGANZA followed the tweet 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 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 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.
Cape Town Recreation
On July 7th, 2018, Twitter user @pjmboothang 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 and Daily Dot. 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 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.
The same day, Twitter user @Kesseltoyrun reposted the photo, which gained upwards of 33,600 likes and 10,600 retweets within 24 hours. Also on July 23rd, a Moments 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 published an article about the picture titled “‘Star Wars’ cosplayers reenact the Distracted Boyfriend meme at San Diego Comic-Con.”
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 (shown below).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
Distracted Boyfriend meme IRL ft Jack black 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/12Q5AD4fi1
— IDir ♓🔺 (@StoicIDir) February 25, 2019
On February 26th, Redditors began posting the Jablinski Distracted boyfriend format to /r/dankmemes (shown below).
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).
The same day, Twitter user @Lifetheuniverce 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 page for the photos titled “Distracted boyfriend’s partner is stunned by phone and computer screens.” Meanwhile, The Daily Dot 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. On March 13th, Facebook user Gábor Ligeti 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.
Many Twitter users found the billboard ironic. That day @ToddAtticus 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 also took advantage of the format for the situation (shown below, right).