The premise is this: a loving wife adoringly surprises her dear husband with a loaded gun and a mysterious note. A raging battle of bullets presumably ensues. The loser is responsible for cooking dinner.
No, we’re not talking about actual guns, but rather, Nerf guns — the ones with the foam bullets that 8-year-olds want for their birthdays. And the scenario above is not from a book or television show or a movie; it’s a meme. It’s taken on several forms over the last few years, some iterations more popular than others, but the message is always the same: “Cool wives” buy Nerf guns for their husbands and “cool couples” know how to kick back, relax, and find the kid within themselves.
It’s the most annoying meme ever.
The meme to the right is what we’ll now call “cool wife with Nerf gun.” It’s not the first of its kind but it’s certainly the most popular.
Here’s the text:
Welcome home. I’m hiding in the house with a Nerf gun, here is the other one…
The loser cooks dinner tonight.
May the odds be ever in your favour.
This photo immediately exploded into prominence starting in the summer of 2014, when Tumblr users quickly began sharing it and adding captions like “marriage done right” or “This is the type of wife I’d be” or “my wife better do this!”
It even appeared on this BuzzFeed list of “26 Couples Who Have This Whole Relationship Thing Figured Out”, which now has more than 2 million views.
The guy behind this particular iteration of “cool wife with Nerf gun” is Michael Platco, a professional Snapchat artist, and the popular meme was a photo out of one of his Snap Stories. (A Snap Story is a sequence of Snapchat photos that are available to watch for 24 hours.)
It seems that the most popular part of this story was the close up of the note.
The rest of the Snaps, available to view on Platco’s Tumblr, didn’t make their way around the internet, but here they are in all of their glory:
“Husband” (Michael Platco) entered the house ready to go, and was quickly distracted by a tempting pint of ice cream.
Only to be ambushed by his wife mid-scoop.
The result: Wife wins the war, and Husband is responsible for making the burgers.
Platco did himself a favour by going the “husband and wife” route instead of using his name and his wife’s name in the note. It lent itself to create the most perfectly generic meme, immediately shareable by anyone who loved the idea. And this tactic worked — it remains the most popular version of “cool wife with Nerf gun” to date.
But like we said, it wasn’t the first. The first “cool wife with nerf gun” meme we found was this one.
The note reads:
Welcome home from work!
1. This gun w/ ammo is yours.
2. I have one too & your under attack as of now.
In January 2011, Reddit user “theaaronisgo” uploaded the photo. One of the top comments on the post mocked the idea, saying: “Whenever I see these type of posts on Reddit I imagine a forever alone thirty-something buying a nerf gun, writing himself a note and then crying as he posts it to imgur.” This echoes what many might think when confronted with a photo of a note online — that the circumstances implied are totally fake.
But others didn’t share the assumption. For some, this was clearly the embodiment of a perfect woman.
This seems to be the overwhelming opinion. By the end of 2011, mimics of the began cropping up on Reddit. The next one we found took the inspiration into Star Wars turf, substituting lightsabers in for the toy guns.
The script was the same format: Here is your weapon. I have mine. Let’s battle in the name of our perfect marriage.
Then the idea leapt away from the confines of Reddit and into the blogosphere. In September of 2012, a woman posted the following photo on her fitness blog. It is an exact copy of the original meme, down to the hand-drawn skull and crossbones signature.
The blog post elaborates on the success of the attack:
And the best part was that while I was hiding behind my
couchbunker, I heard Husband walk in the door, followed by 10 seconds of silence. Then he says, “So it’s like that,” and cocks his gun. ZERO surprise or hesitation in his voice. He gets me.
So by 2013, the meme was now synonymous with “marriage goals” and “best wife ever.” When you search any version of the phrase “Nerf Gun Surprise for Husband,” you will be directed to lists that advise how to “ignite the romance” and “keep the surprise in a relationship.”
That same year, a video of a husband arriving home to a “Surprise Zombie Clearout” birthday party went viral on YouTube. We bet you can guess the weapon of choice!
“Cool wife with nerf gun” memes send multiple messages: The women posting them want you to know they’re not (or they won’t be) a “boring wife.” Men love the idea of having a “cool wife.” One guy we talked to said he loved the note in the meme and the idea behind it, noting that this would be a great way for his wife to “keep the relationship fun, interesting, and happy.”
A number of Whisper submissions have surfaced in the last year all reflect the damaging popularity of the meme. Addressed from women to their future spouse, the posts all revolve around solemn vows to be “that kind of wife.”
Even if you take the Nerf gun out of the equation, “cool wife” note memes are still all over the internet. This woman tells her husband to “grab a beer and come grab my boob” when he’s ready after a long day at work.
It’s not that leaving a clever note or engaging in a fun Nerf gun battle with your significant other is bad. It’s that these memes have been shared so much that they now bizarrely represent to some the key to the perfect relationship.
When we posted a Facebook status asking guys to share with us their feelings on Nerf guns, someone immediately commented with a link, leading us to a “cool wife with Nerf gun” meme.
After receiving several more responses, we reached out to the men to find out what they thought of the meme. Most reactions were similar. “This girl is cool as hell” or “if my wife or girlfriend ever did that I would be floored” were some choice comments.
This is why the meme is so annoying. The issue not only lies with the stereotyping it involves — if you do this, you’re a good wife — but it’s promoting the idea that doing one thing a certain way qualifies you as a perfect spouse. No, women shouldn’t use food or sex to win arguments, but are Nerf guns the solution? LOL, no.
Just like people who only post flawless selfies or Facebook updates about their lavish vacations, buying into the “cool wife with Nerf gun” idea is just another way the internet is able to convince you that everyone else around you has it figured out, and you better figure it out too.
We can only hope that, in due time, this meme will leave the recycling belt and move to the trash.
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