"Distracted Boyfriend" Meme: Charlie Chaplin Gave Us the OG Image

He played the "Distracted Boyfriend" before it was cool.

by Josie Rhodes Cook

If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past several months, you’ve probably seen some version of the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme. You know, the one where a couple is walking together, a woman passes by, and the boyfriend openly checks out the passing woman with his girlfriend standing right there.

Lots of similar memes have popped up since that meme first took the internet by storm, but did you know that actor Charlie Chaplin gave us the OG image of the “Distracted Boyfriend” in a silent film back in the day? It’s news to me, too.

Charlie Chaplin as the OG Meme

According to the Huffington Post, in a 1922 silent film featuring Chaplin called Pay Day, there’s a scene that looks a lot like the distracted boyfriend meme, especially when you pause and screenshot it. About 9 minutes and 15 seconds in, Chaplin’s character turns to look at a woman on the street — while his wife is standing there watching him check out the other woman.

Although technically the Chaplin film came first, memes were obviously not a thing at the time, so the filmmakers couldn’t have known that their star would one day go “viral” comparing a shot from the film to a shot from a popular internet image. But obviously, this matchup was always meant to be.

Other similar versions of the distracted boyfriend meme have popped up since the stock photo image went viral, but this Chaplin one is one of the oldest I’ve seen, and therefore the original, if you ask me.

The “Distracted Boyfriend” Meme, Explained

Other takes on the popular distracted boyfriend meme include the political one below, which has almost 10k likes as on Monday afternoon.

There’s also this one, which features the internet’s favorite animal: cats.

Then there’s this one, which played around with a popular theme from the Spider-Man comics and movies.

But those all generally use the same stock photo, with a few tweaks. Chaplin’s scene is an original creation, damn it.

Twitter, of course, wasted no time using the original distracted boyfriend scene for its own, nefarious purposes such as relatable current events tweets involving weird restaurant news.

The point is, the distracted boyfriend meme is literally older than the internet — almost 100 years old, to be exact.