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

    Comment number 14.

    These women do it through choice and are paid to do so. So are these so called 'feminists' try to suppress a woman's choice to stand there for a while and earn more than the average person earns in two days?

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I'm outraged by Sanne Sondergaard's comments.

    She wants freedom of speech and expression and gets it to promote HER views.

    So why can those women not do what THEY want. They are not forced into it and are paid a nice bonus for a short period of work? They are free to do what they want or does Sanne Sondergaard want their freedom removed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Oh grief, I can hear the women libbers that were on Radio 4 this morning already foaming at the mouth.
    These women appear on the show because they want to, people watch it because they want to. It sounds fun and amusing so I'll find it on youtube tonight.
    Brilliant idea. If someone needs a bloke to appear on a reverse version I'd take 250 euros to do so :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Its surprising how much interest there is in this type of smut -

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Are the countless 'Look good naked' 'embarrassing fat bodies' shows primarily on C4 really that much better? Frankly this sounds preferable to 'Doctor' Gillian McKeith poking through tuperware full of poo criticising the person's diet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I never read the story about the dead French reality contestant and the suicide doctor! Then again all the BBC can give me is cheap American 'news' feed, daily, every day, 51st state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    "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."

    It's getting that way in the UK also.

    Perfectly fine for women to ogle a bloke half naked holding a can of some fizzy drink.

    Totally wrong for blokes to ogle women though...

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Each to their own. I can see why some people will find it mildly offensive and others will not.

    The best way to censor these things is via the 'off' button! No viewers means no advertising which means no program!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    In Denmark, nakedness as such is not really an issue, so this show has caused much more controversy abroad than here. One way of looking at it is as an honest attempt to explore the relationship of men with the female body. Blachman is not my cup of tea, but he is not arrogant towards the women, some of whom have been more than 60 years of age. I would welcome a similar show presented by women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I find it difficult to believe this stuff . I only ever met capable and sensible people who happened to be Danish . The French tv show was a different case altogether. People were asked to survive in tropical conditions unaided, and one did not survive . The "reality" of all this is highly debatable .

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Bring it on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Furore? Outrage? Hardly. As you state, it had a huge number of viewings, and watch-again viewings. A few frustrated feminists don't like it, but the majority of Danish are not as hung-up about the naked body as the English.


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