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The Distracted Boyfriend Meme Started in 1916 Comic Strip

A recent discovery by an internet comics aficionado might reveal the early origins for the famous “Distracted Boyfriend” internet meme.

An internet blogger may have uncovered the early origins for an internet phenomenon, expanding the historiography of the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme to reveal roots in a 1916 cartoon printed in the Chicago Tribune. Disloyalty comes in many forms, but perhaps no representation has taken more of a hold on the internet’s collective imagination than the world-famous “Distracted Boyfriend” meme. However, it appears that this immortal symbol of infidelity born from stock photos may in fact be merely the latest in a long line of distracted boyfriends, and a newspaper funnies cartoonist named Frank King may be the trope-maker.

The “Distracted Boyfriend” meme originates from a stock photo taken in 2015 by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem, fittingly entitled “Disloyal man walking with his girlfriend and looking amazed at another seductive girl.” The meme itself rocketed to internet stardom in 2017 and has remained a staple of internet culture ever since thanks to its exaggerated yet relatable take on the age-old problem. While similar images across time have been discovered by internet art historians, one such image which shares the meme’s parable in note-for-note synchronicity has recently been discovered.

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