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What’s Up with Danish TV for Kids? Posted by on Jan 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

If DR’s show John Dillermand had been about a lemur and its long, striped tail, nobody would have noticed. (Free image from Pixabay; no copyright.)

For the small size of their country, Danes have really managed to create a lot of outrage. (Remember the prophet cartoon crisis or the killing of the poor giraffe Marius?) This January, Danes did it again – with a children’s tv show about a man and his very long private part. Er intet helligt (is nothing holy) in Denmark, a foreigner might ask…

(Please note that this is a blog about language and culture – it’s not my job to judge the tv show. 🙂 The debate caused by the show, however, should be interesting to students of Danish, as it definitely says something about Danish society.)

Do you know Marsupilami (in Danish: Spirillen), the leopard-skinned cartoon animal that looks like an abe (monkey) with a very long hale (tail)? 🙂 Both female and male marsupilamis can use their flexible tails to pick up ting (things) and solve problems. If Danmarks Radio (= DR, the ”Danish BBC”) had made a børneprogram (children’s program) about Marsupilami solving problems with his tail, all would be fine. DR, however, covered Marsupilami’s body and tail with a red and white striped bodysuit, turned him into a middle-aged mand (man) and moved the clothed tail from the back to the front and voila – it’s a penis (diller in Danish children’s slang).

Although DR insists that ”John Dillermand” is just a bit of harmless fun with no sexual undertones, many Danes just can’t believe the show is aimed at 4-8-årige (-year-olds). A parent I talked to, would not let his børn (children) watch it. Some experts worry that a show about a man using his magical private parts to master his surroundings would be unhelpful to the fight for ligestilling mellem kvinder og mænd (equality between women and men) in Denmark.

I tried to do a little bit of research on debatten for og imod (the debate for and against). An example of the supporters’ view would be the child psychologist Erla Heinesen Højsted: “John Dillermand talks to children and shares their way of thinking – and kids do find genitals funny.” To which the American comedian Stephen Colbert replied: ”Just because kids think something’s funny doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for a kids’ tv show.”

As any foreigner who has spent sommerferien (the summer holidays) in Denmark knows, many Danes have a very relaxed and down-to-earth attitude to life. People generally don’t make a fuss if they see somebody bathing nøgen (naked), for example. (Of course, Danish forældre – parents – also love their children, and would be the first to step in if something did not seem naturlig, natural.) I wonder if the views of Danes and foreigners sometimes ”crash” simply due to different traditions! 🙂

Helle Strandgaard Jensen, a scientist, talked about a difference between Scandinavian børne-tv (children’s TV) and that from other countries: While Scandinavians typically try to make TV from the children’s point of view, non-Scandinavians often go for something more ”educational” (nudging the children towards the adults’ point of view).

But also within Skandinavien Denmark seems to be the ”extremist”: As a child I loved, loved, loved Bamse og Kylling, a show about a teddy bear (bamse) and his best friend who happens to be a chicken (kylling). Bamse is just like a big kid (which is why I and everybody else loved the show): He wants to eat all the cakes – poor Kylling can take the leftovers.

But when Bamse og Kylling aired in Norge (Norway), Norwegian TV received a lot of complaints from parents worrying that the self-centred Bamse would not be a good role model for their children…

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


Comments:

  1. Jorge Alexandre de Sousa Gomes:

    Very interesting reading, tak skal du have.
    I just think the more broad-minded Danes have a natural attitude towards sexuality and nakedness in general. In fact many pagan cultures to date share this same relaxed attitude about the sexual organs.

    However, I can also understand there are many cultures in which anything related to the intimate parts are deemed as taboo.

    It seems this sort of cultural clash is bound to happen in the ever more globalized world we’re living.