Europe

'Distracted boyfriend' couple star in Hungary pro-family ads

The famous internet meme of "distracted boyfriend" shows a man walking down the street holding his girlfriend's hand - but he is looking back over his shoulder at a young woman in a red dress - yet his girlfriend notices, much to her shock and dismay apparent on her face. Image copyright Shutterstock
Image caption The couple used in the Hungarian campaign have also featured in an image better known as an internet meme

Hungary's new family policies are being promoted by one of the internet's best-known dysfunctional couples.

The government of Viktor Orban is bringing in a "family protection action plan", which includes tax breaks for mothers of multiple children.

Eagle-eyed Hungarians, however, noticed something familiar about the models on posters that went up in Budapest.

The poster uses a stock image featuring the "distracted boyfriend" meme star and his partner.

Unlike the cosy picture of the couple featured in Budapest, the "distracted boyfriend" image has been shared innumerable times online, with text layered over the top to share jokes about indecision, disloyalty, hypocrisy or virtually anything else.

They were both in a series of images shot by photographer Antonio Guillem, and are available at low cost on Shutterstock.

The pro-family billboards provoked some amusement in Budapest, hours after the government appeared to have rushed to remove another series of posters across the city.

Those posters, paid for with public funding, had infuriated the EU and had been condemned as "fake news".

They featured European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, alongside billionaire philanthropist George Soros with text accusing both of backing illegal immigration. Mr Soros has frequently been targeted in Hungary with conspiracy theories and anti-immigration rhetoric.

The row over the posters and Mr Orban's repeated anti-EU rhetoric annoyed so many political leaders that his Fidesz party has faced calls to be kicked out of the European People's Party - the biggest group in European politics, of which Mr Juncker is a senior member.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A variety of anti-government messages appeared on the billboards when the anti-EU posters were removed

When the leader of the EPP group, Manfred Weber, visited Budapest on Tuesday to seek an apology from Mr Orban, the offending posters along his car's route were hastily papered over.

Mr Weber said the grouping's fundamental values "have to be respected by all EPP party members and also by Fidesz".

Anti-government graffiti soon appeared in the empty blue spaces where the posters had been.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The EU condemned this poster as fake news - it reads: "You also have the right to know what Brussels is up to"

While the billboard campaign appears to have stopped, the anti-EU ads were still to be seen on pro-Orban news websites on Wednesday.

The poster featuring the "distracted boyfriend" couple promotes a family protection action plan of measures to make Hungarian women with four or more children exempt from income tax for life.

Mr Orban's government is looking for a baby boom to boost its falling population numbers - rather than open the door to immigration.

The image selected for the new poster is entitled "happy couple or marriage hugging and enjoying in a couch at home".

The dramatic soap opera of the couple's life includes everything from fierce rows to financial worries to romantic evenings in.

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