Denmark's 'naked lady' TV show causes furore

 
Thomas Blachman and a guest from his Blachman Show Thomas Blachman (left) says his show is a tribute to women

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A year ago I visited the headquarters of the Danish public broadcaster DR to film a piece about the international success of their dramas Borgen and the Killing.

The two protagonists in those series were strong, feisty females who took no nonsense from anyone.

So it seems a little surreal to be back in Denmark now to talk to the same broadcasting company about their new show, called Blachman, in which a woman is required to stand naked in front of fully-clothed men and to remain silent as those men talk about her body.

"It's not reality TV!" protests the show's inventor and host, Thomas Blachman. "And it's poetry, not porn."

Yet it makes uncomfortable viewing. Blachman, shirt carefully unbuttoned, sits with a fashion designer friend of his and stares at a woman's pubic hair.

"I'm not really keen on shaving and waxing," he comments, before remarking to his co-host that the woman has nice feet.

The woman, paid around 250 euros (£214) for her appearance, just stands there and takes it.

"Oh come on!" says Blachman, when I say I find this deeply unnerving.

"Women talk all the time - this show is about letting men say what they think about women's bodies."

'Sexist rubbish'

Blachman believes that in modern Denmark, where there are strict equal opportunities laws, men have become emasculated by powerful women and silenced under a cloak of political correctness.

"Women's bodies thirst for men's words!" he insists. "We have had so much bad reaction from aggressive feminists and I didn't see it coming... Sure I wanted to provoke a little bit, but it's not sexist."

Scene from DR2's Blachman show

When I meet Nina - an attractive, bubbly primary school teacher who was one of Blachman's naked studies - she tells me she felt empowered by her appearance on the show.

Although she admits she would have liked to have been able to speak, particularly when Blachman and his guest were discussing her Caesarean scar.

Following the broadcast, Nina has not only had scores of fan mail letters, she has also had five marriage proposals.

But feminists - like Danish comedian Sanne Sondergaard - are outraged.

"In Denmark, sexism is not an issue," she says. "And then this show came along. It's sexist rubbish.

"I'm sorry but even if he says nice things, a man is not entitled to comment on my body, just because I'm a woman!"

'Creating debate'

DR2 has had more complaints about the Blachman show than any other. It has also had a huge number of viewings, particularly on its "watch again" internet site.

Sofia Fromberg, the commissioning editor of the programme, insists she is not chasing ratings with breasts and bottoms.

Nina, who has appeared on the show Nina says she has had five marriage proposals since appearing on the show

"Blachman certainly did not have the highest ratings of any of our shows. DR2's objective is to create debate about important issues in society. And it has created a lot of debate!" she says.

Thomas Blachman has been accused in the Danish media of being little more than a "sleazy middle aged man in a strip club". But, for much of the programme he seems ill at ease and a little awkward. His focus tends to be tamely set below the knees rather than on the more predictable breasts and bottoms.

"Nice ankles - I'm an ankles kind of a guy" he says. Before making a single remark about the nude female in front of him, one of his co-hosts takes a good five minutes to explain that he had been happily married for 50 years until his wife died last year - at such times, the silent naked woman in front of them almost seems forgotten and irrelevant.

I Want Your Baby!

But there is no hiding the fact that the more outrageous the show, the more it pulls in viewers.

Last week during a segment on breastfeeding, the host of the Dutch Saturday night show, Langs de Leeuw, suggested he would like to try breast milk.

An audience member offered him some milk she had expressed but host Paul de Leeuw told her he would rather take it from its source and suckled both her breasts on live TV.

A huge social media row followed quickly, although the network did point out that the act had not been sexual.

A few years ago I made a film on another controversial Dutch programme called I Want Your Baby!

A single woman who wanted a child, was allowed to select the father of her baby from a group of eligible men, voting off the weakest links each week. That show caused uproar in the Netherlands and prompted questions in parliament - it never got beyond the pilot.

Sanne Sondergaard Feminist Sanne Sondergaard says she is outraged by the Danish show

Last month, reality TV in France was plunged into some deep soul-searching over its future after a contestant died on the tough desert island challenge Koh Lanta and the doctor - who was unable to save him - killed himself.

Poor ratings caused Italy's state broadcaster RAI to scrap all its TV reality shows back in 2007. RAI said it would put the money it saved into Italian-made films and more intellectual programmes.

Now its new female director has called time on sexily dressed showgirls and game-show assistants on screen, claiming she wants to project a more sophisticated image of women on the network - one where women are more than cosmetically perfect airheads.

For any viewer missing the hitherto ubiquitous bimbo though, she does remain intact on scores of programmes broadcast on the private channels owned by the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Back in Denmark, Blachman points out that he never judged or criticised the naked woman's body.

"It's a show, which actually is a tribute to women," he says.

Unfortunately for him, his "tribute" has not been re-commissioned.

 

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  • rate this
    +32

    Comment number 236.

    The women want to go onto the show, its not like they have been tricked or forced to get naked. Its not sexist to allow a woman to show off her body if she wants to

  • rate this
    +92

    Comment number 55.

    Thank you BBC!!
    I am a British woman living in Denmark with a very limited grasp of Danish. For the last 3 months I have been completely confused as to why two middle aged men were talking at one naked middle aged woman for half an hour on TV. I assumed it was some sort of art show. Mystery solved!
    P.S. The show is not very entertaining,but useful for learning body parts in Danish :)

  • rate this
    +26

    Comment number 52.

    This is rubbish. It's not bad because it's a woman being judged like this, it's bad because a person should not be judged like this, man or woman. There's far too much obsession with our looks anyway, and shows like this just perpetuate that.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    I honestly don't see how this can be taken as sexist.

    Yes, men are looking at women's bodies but a man's brain is wired to marvel in the delicate shapes and details of a woman. At no point is anyone saying that these woman are only good to be gawked at, in fact it's a show dedicated to indulging the desire to look without rudely staring.

    Where's the harm in that?

  • rate this
    +38

    Comment number 30.

    It clearly IS sexist, not because there's anything wrong with discussing women's bodies but because the show only allows women as the subjects and men as the panel. Imagine if X-Factor or Dragon's Den only allowed female contestants and male judges, or vice versa! What's with the segregation if it's not sexist?

 

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