There’s officially an 18th-century version of the “distracted boyfriend meme,” and it’s uncanny

Although the “distracted boyfriend”/”disloyal man” meme has only been a thing since 2017, the concept of the distracted boyfriend has been around for centuries — and there’s physical proof. Someone found the 18th-century equivalent to the “distracted boyfriend” meme and it’s honestly just as relatable as the one we’ve come to know and love.

What got its start as a simple stock photo showing a man holding hands with his girlfriend while he comically stares at another woman over his shoulder quickly became the hottest meme to come off the Twitter press during the summer of 2017. After the first “distracted boyfriend” post went viral, the internet got to work and warped the photo into thousands of other hilarious decision-making memes. In each one, the girlfriend represents the reasonable thing to and the other woman symbolizes the more “pleasing” choice.

English artist Joshua Reynolds obviously had no idea what a meme was when he painted his 1761 portrait of friend, actor David Garrick, whom he depicted between Comedy and Tragedy. But Reynolds certainly understood the nature of humans and how we’re so often caught between “pleasure and virtue,” as the Tate Modern Museum explained via Mashable.

Does that ring a bell with any other distracted boyfriends out there? Because it should.

Twitter user @ELXGANZA was the first to make the connection between Reynold’s piece and the internet’s pride and joy.



And @ELXGANZA even went so far to put the painting into meme format to explain the historical context. false

People are freaking out about how similar Reynolds’ piece is to the modern day stock photo. The women in the painting and in the photo are wearing the same colors. And the stock photo girlfriend and Tragedy are basically the same person.

Just a few hundred years late to the game, the painting is now making the rounds on Twitter and receiving the same treatment as the OG “distracted boyfriend” meme.


We’re so glad the grandfather of the meme to end all memes is getting the recognition it deserves. This shows that no matter the time in history, there has been, and will always be, a distracted boyfriend.

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