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Eugène Delacroix/TheMet
Ladies, if he brings up your sex life during a play about his family drama, he’s not your man. He’s Hamlet.

The “He’s not your man” meme brilliantly targets bad men, from the Cat in the Hat to James Joyce

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 raccoonsthe 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.

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