Retired, doctor, businessman, golfer, Manchester City fan, poker player… You will have seen him countless times, usually in shirt and in front of a computer, always looking at the camera with a quirky smile which has given it the nickname of Hide the pain, which we could translate as “hides the pain.” A smile that hides some comic drama. We also know him as Harold and he is the protagonist of millions of funny memes in the form of an image with text and also GIF animations.
From stock photo model to internet icon. Harold has become better known for appearing in retouched photos that have been circulated online with funny texts than for what he did for most of his life. The viral thing almost always comes from chance and many times it is difficult to know where it comes from, how a meme was born. This time it is not so, since the affected has given interviews on successive occasions and has told his story whenever he has been asked.
On the internet we know him as Harold, Hide the pain or Hide the pain, Harold. But in his real life it is called András Arató and has its own Wikipedia entry. He is actually a retired electrical engineer, of Hungarian origin, and in his last life stage he decided to pose as a stock image model. From these images he rose to fame in the form of memes that played on Harold’s misfortunes and his peculiar smile. In Spain we have an equivalent that the singer Lola Flores popularized before the concept of digital meme existed: “teeth, teeth, that fucks them up.”
From anonymous retiree to internet icon
Today, András Arató, Harold for everyone, is 75 years old and has his own website where we can enjoy images that explain his real life and its viral equivalent. Thanks to this fame he has starred television commercials that have been seen in his native country, Hungary, but also in other countries, such as Mexico. They even found a double of his in India. Be that as it may and without wanting or knowing it, Harold has made millions of people laugh of all the world.
Source: The Official Hide The Pain Harold website.
But let’s go in parts. As András Arató recounted in one of his many public talks, was born in Hungary in 1945. I study in the Budapest University of Technology, from which he graduated as an electrical engineer, also being a member of the Hungarian Electrotechnical Association since 1975 and vice president of the Hungarian Lighting Society between 1997 and 2010. Personally, he is married and has a son.
After his retirement, a photographer took an interest in him when he saw his vacation pictures on social media. He contacted Arató and he decided pose for stock photos, those images that you can find on the internet with water stains and that you can buy or download for free, depending on your license of use. These types of images have been one of the main ingredients of funny memes, since it is about photographs without context that many times are funny simply because of what we see in them.
In Harold’s official Instagram account you will find more stock images with his unmistakable smile
In his first images we met Harold dressed in a shirt, alone or accompanied by his “wife”, with a computer by his side and holding a cup. From that collection, starting in 2011, funny memes began to emerge that dealt with a thousand and one dramatic themes through funny texts that they played with his sad smile. The following year, a page with the name Hide Your Pain Harold appeared on Facebook. A new identity had been born on the internet, Harold, who was also called Maurice. Over time new photographs were incorporated in which he appeared with a jacket and tie. It even appeared in videos that were turned into GIF animations.
From a bad experience to accepting your situation
Maybe many look for fame on the internet, but not everyone finds it by choice. Some people become known for an image taken out of context or for a personal error that spreads virally until it reaches all the connected screens. And as happened with András Arató, who will always be called Harold, fame came to him without looking for it and being the protagonist of millions of jokes and jokes in the form of funny memes.
As he recounts in several interviews, at first it was a shocking and unpleasant experience. Nobody will like it make fun of, and much less in the public square that is the internet. He just wanted to be a stock photo model, not star in memes. Hence It will take several years to accept the situation. Accept reality, even if you don’t like it. Or put another way, turn it around and keep the positive. Resilience, a very fashionable word in recent years and that defines well the situation of this Hungarian retiree turned online star.
Once Arató accepted that, whether he wanted to or not, it was an important part of the internet in the form of funny memes, he could live more calmly. Or not. In his native country he is known on the street, where they ask for photographs. He has also traveled to several countries, in 2018 he took 20 flights that took him to places as far away from Hungary as Chile or Colombia. Everywhere he has been interviewed countless times and He has starred in advertisements parodying his character.
On the internet we will find millions of Harold memes, objects that show his face such as t-shirts, mugs or skirts, parody videos and other comic material, but we also find videos with their talks in which he explains his experience and serves as an inspiration to many. Be that as it may, Harold has become an internet icon, a familiar face whom we have seen more than many family and friends. Only by searching the internet or in meme search engines we will find dozens of images and GIFs of you. And if you search again, you will find new funny memes every few days.
To close this article, I link back to his TED talk titled “How to become a meme hero.” A very inspiring talk that escapes the classic meme and that teaches us a lot about ourselves and how the internet makes anonymous people famous.