To top off a year of subversive memes, the internet offered us the treasure that is “He’s Not Your Man” last weekend, a bait-and-switch meme that uses absurdist humor to point out classic bad behavior in a partner, while also mocking relationship advice. It begins by poking fun at lopsided relationships by listing the common characteristics of a crappy partner: he’s ghosting you, doesn’t listen, is rude to waitstaff, etc. Then the list pivots, becoming hyperspecific to point out the behavior of an actual terrible man in history or fiction:
It’s a flexible meme, with versions that apply to raccoons, the New York City subway, and fictional murderer Count Olaf. Even Dr. Seuss’s Cat in The Hat got called out for being a creep, and Clippy, the annoying Microsoft Word Office Assistant was given full meme treatment:
It is, like most memes, quite silly, but also incredibly relatable. Not only have most of us received crappy dating advice (solicited and otherwise), but the meme also speaks to a deeper truth about relationships: that sometimes we stay in them despite trademark red flag behavior. What’s more, it cleverly uses the relationship advice concept as a template to point out the many terrible things—often celebrated—men in history have done. In any case, “he’s not your man” is a graceful reminder that even if he isn’t a corrupt leader of an ancient Roman province or a sentient paper clip—if he’s always late and can’t text back, well, ladies, he’s not your man.