‘Distracted Boyfriend’ meme is similar to a Charlie Chaplin movie


charlie chaplin
Looks familiar.

First National Pictures

About a year ago, the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme captivated the internet in a nearly universal way that few jokes are capable of doing.

But the relatable situation shown in the picture is pretty common. So common, in fact, that one person noticed an early iteration of the meme appeared in a movie nearly 100 years ago.

On Sunday, Peter Goldberg, a 24-year-old copywriter based out of New York, took to Twitter where he pointed out that the meme mirrors a moment in Charlie Chaplin’s 1922 short film “Pay Day.”

In “Pay Day,” Chaplin plays a construction worker who just got paid. His wife wants to spend his earnings, but he wants to use the cash to go out and get drunk. About nine minutes into the 21-minute short film, Chaplin and his fellow actors strike the now-iconic “Distracted Boyfriend” pose.


Goldberg told INSIDER that he discovered the similarity by chance while watching the short, but the moment stuck out. “I saw it right away,” he said. “I chuckled, finished watching, then went back and screenshotted it.”

His one-off post has gone pretty viral and the comparison is blowing people’s minds.

Naturally, people have introduced the movie still into the meme format.

People are also making crossover edits of the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme and “Pay Day” still.

And others are using other similar pictures to describe this situation.

“I never thought it would happen because I fire off dumb jokes all the time without any response,” said Goldberg of his sudden internet fame. “But it kind of sucks, all these people are in my mentions trying to be clever, sharing the photo without credit, or tearing other people apart for reposting my photo without credit. I don’t know what makes people want to comment so vociferously because I noticed that a scene from a 100-year-old film looks like an old meme.”


But Goldberg wants to be clear: this is not the origin story of the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme. “I don’t think Chaplin invented the meme, it’s just a funny similarity,” he said.

As the saying goes, memes imitate art, which imitates life.

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