The distracted boyfriend meme started in the 1916 comic book

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A recent discovery by an Internet comic lover may reveal the early origins of the famous Internet meme “Distracted Boyfriend”.

An Internet blogger may have discovered the earliest origins of an Internet phenomenon, expanding the historiography of ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ Meme to reveal his roots in a 1916 cartoon printed in the Chicago Tribune. Disloyalty comes in many forms, but perhaps no portrayal has taken more hold of the internet’s collective imagination than the world famous ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ meme. However, it looks like this immortal symbol of infidelity born from stock photos may actually just be the latest in a long line of distracted boyfriends, and a funny newspaper cartoonist named Frank King could be the creator of tropes.

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The ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ meme comes from a 2015 stock photo taken by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem, aptly titled ‘A disloyal man walking with his girlfriend and looking in awe of another attractive girl’. The meme itself rose to internet stardom in 2017 and has remained a staple in internet culture ever since thanks to its exaggerated but relevant approach to the age-old problem. While similar images across time have been discovered by art historians on the internet, one such image that shares the parable of the meme in note-for-note synchronicity has recently been uncovered.


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Posted by Kevin Huizenga on his website F Blog after a trip to the Chicago Cultural Center, a distinct and almost identical scene to the widely reproduced meme appears in a 1916 Chicago Tribune large format cartoon, the product of longtime cartoonist Frank King. King’s two-page cartoon offers a bird’s-eye view of the activities of an average neighborhood, filled with King’s simple yet charming humor. Made complex by its scope and attention to detail, similar to that of Martin Handford Where is Waldo or Pieter Breugel the Elder 16e The century painting “Dutch Proverbs”, a peculiar little joke in the cartoon involves a woman berating her alleged husband for admiring a passing lady, saying: “what are you looking at Ezry? Shame on you!


King would later achieve considerable fame as the longtime cartoonist behind the comic. Petrol aisle, an innovative and highly regarded staple on fun pages in newspapers around the world. Starring Walt Wallet and his adopted son Skeezix, King’s style, portrayed by The New Yorker like a “simple and conversational humor” this “stood out as a calm voice“amid the most bombastic tapes of the day, would inspire a pair of radio shows and two feature films. Petrol aisle was notable for bringing chronological realism to cartoons, as King would age his characters accordingly over the years. Begun in 1918, King would design the characters for over 40 years, retiring in 1959.


Unfaithful partners are nothing new in the modern age, and a blatantly disloyal lover is likely an issue that many people have faced throughout the history of the human race. There is no doubt that this concept, simple yet ubiquitous like many memes, can be found in all kinds of art, including music, storytelling, and theater, for at least as far as these conveniences have existed. However, a 1 to 1 similarity, such as that found in the work of Frank King and the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme, is a rare and fascinating sight given the breadth of culture between the cartoon and the curiosity of the Internet and demonstrates, at least in part, the eternal flame of the human spirit. Well, maybe in some ways.


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Sources: F Blog, The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune

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