What is the origin/popularity of the annoying "I'm watching you" gesture meme?

I’m talking about this gesture, which apparently has even made it to movie posters.

It’s everywhere. Commercials, movie trailers, TV shows, human behavior. For some reason I find it incredibly annoying and unfunny, but man, is it pervasive.

I don’t remember it being nearly this widespread even a few years back. Does anyone know the origin of it, or why it’s suddenly everywhere?

The gesture has been around for decades in the armed services - the British SAS for instance - as a way of saying “look over there” when having to operate in silence. I don’t know when it transitioned into “I’m watching you” or when that became so widespread, although I’d point out those “Little Fockers” posters you referred to are nearly two years old now.

I thought it was originally a technique to focus the attention of someone developmentally disabled or something, and therefore meant to be insulting when you do it to a normal person.

Far from “having made it to movie posters”, I’m pretty sure that the Fokkers movies were in fact what popularized it to begin with (though the origin is surely older).


De Niro did it in “Meet The Parents”, and it’s been a “thing” ever since.

Ahhh, that makes sense. I’ve never seen those awful-looking movies.

I saw a child do the gesture to an animal in a commercial the other day, and that’s when I realized it had definitely gone too far and I was sick of seeing it.

I can’t say I’ve ever noticed this in any commercial, TV show, movie, etc., except in the context isaiahrobinson describes – a silent way for people in a military setting, or just people doing something sneaky, to communicate “look over there” to a companion.

I saw Meet the Parents on TV several years back, and IIRC the Robert De Niro character is a retired CIA agent. I don’t remember him making the gesture in that movie (although he may have done), but I would assume that it is meant to be a gesture he picked up in his days as a spy.

One of the animators for the Avatar TV cartoon seem to like it. The characters in the original series do it a couple times, and at least once in the new spin-off series.

The cartoon came out a year after Fockers, so they may very well have picked it up from the movie.

I can recall it from numerous war movies, particularly Vietnam movies, that far predate “Meet the Parents.” I’m fairly certain it was in “Platoon” (I can see Willem Dafoe in my head doing it, but I could be projecting) and others from the '80s and '90s. “Meet the Parents” was playing off a gesture that was already fairly common in film, as opposed to creating the meme.

And isaihrobinson is right. It meant “look over there” or “watch for movement over there”, at least in the movies.

As an “I’ve got my eye on you, Porkchop, so you’d better be damned careful” and not a silent infantry-tactics gesture, I think it started with Meet the Parents.

My stepfather (and later my older brother) used this gesture with me in the '70s and '80s, with the context “I’m watching you so be careful.”

In the military, it means “enemy in sight”.

Once or twice.