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The "gonna tell my kids" meme, explained

Perhaps you’ve seen a few of the “gonna tell my kids…” memes bopping around Twitter today.

There’s one delightful photo of Lana Del Rey and A$AP Rocky from the video for "National Anthem" with the caption, “Gonna tell my kids this was JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy.”

The first iteration to cross my timeline this morning was a tweet reading, “Gonna tell my kids this was Brockhampton,” with a picture of the cast of Phineas and Ferb Live. It works because any crew of guys dressed in exaggerated cartoon colors could, in fact, be Brockhampton.

Humorous takes on revisionist history have been zooming around the internet for the past few weeks. This afternoon, when I searched “gonna tell my kids” on Twitter, there had been 2,800 searches for the same term in the last hour.

A crowd favorite, capitalizing on Baby Yoda fever, is a photo of the cute little green guy with, “I’m gonna tell my kids this is Danny DeVito.” Honestly, you should!

Plenty of the memes are similarly wholesome. There’s “gonna tell my kids this was Lady Gaga from A Star is Born,” with a picture of the Carl's Jr. mascot, a literal star. And “I’m gonna tell my kids this is Neil Armstrong,” with a photo of a beagle in a spacesuit.

A lot of them turned jokingly political. One good tweet reads, “Gonna tell my kids this was Beto O’Rourke,” but it’s actually John Mulaney. There is “Gonna tell my kids this is the Supreme Court,” on a group photo of the Jersey Shore cast. “Gonna tell my kids this was Barack Obama,” on a picture of Lil Uzi Vert on a plane dressed in an American flag outfit.

I saw lots of “gonna tell my kids these were the founding fathers” memes. People applied it to pictures of One Direction, NWA, and stills of The Lonely Island’s video “The Shooting AKA Dear Sister.” The official Jersey Shore Twitter account tweeted the meme with a picture of its tan, tank top-clad male cast members, presumably on the way to the gym. It’s unclear what Jersey Shore thinks this says about the bedrock of American democracy.

One fun aspect of the “gonna tell my kids” meme is that it plays with the idea of cultural significance — and also historical illiteracy. If, for a second, you look at John Mulaney and think he’s Beto O’Rourke, you’ve been effectively pranked. If you look at the picture of Lana and A$AP and think, “Damn, they’d make a stylish first couple,” that’s an effective reimagining of the early ‘60s through today’s cultural lens.

Kind of like “ok boomer,” which challenges the establishment way of thinking, saying that you’re “gonna tell your kids” a cast member of RHONY was the press secretary or whatever is a subtle subversion. Like all good memes, of course, “gonna tell my kids” swiftly descended into absurdity, which is for the best. Twitter may be cracking down on biased political ads, but users found a way to make fake news funny, and a little subversive.