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
    +2

    Comment number 54.

    This is outrageous, sexist, oppressive, and has no regard for women's rights, treating them as mere sex objects to be ogled at by lustful men!
    How do you get to see it in the UK?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 53.

    Women want to be objectified. Why else would they do this?

  • 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
    +4

    Comment number 51.

    As others have said. We in the UK are ashamed of a naked body which looking at it is a pretty sad state of affairs.

    Then again, a male (or female for that matter) who decides to take their top of on a hot summers day is given a penalty for indecent exposure. You teach our children it is wrong from a young age and penalize adults like above, no wounder we are so uptight over body image.

  • rate this
    -26

    Comment number 50.

    In today's climate of human trafficking and sex slavery of women this is really demeaning and disgusting. This just shows the atmosphere of moral decadence pervading western societies that rail against the tenents of fundamentalist Islam as barbaric while themselves indulging in debased and humiliating attitudes towards women. Aside: Israel is a major hub of human trafficking and prostitution.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    The simple answer is to make a programme where women view and talk about naked men. That way no one need be offended and those of us not interested don't have to watch that programme either.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 48.

    Nobody has the right to comment on this unless they have seen the show. Otherwise they are making assumptions no matter how well reported it is.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 47.

    Hey, so long as they allow women to return the favour. When will we see a naked man standing in front of a group of women discussing them like objects on the telly?

    Frankly I think these so called "reality" shows are nothing but a waste of money. They're no more real than "Dr Who".

    Peter_Sym I agree entirely. Chuck the whole lot out and give us some proper entertainment.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 46.

    If someone is happy to take their clothes off for payment (male or female) what's the problem?

    If you don't like the programme, don't watch it. Simple.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 45.

    How is this much different from Take Me Out? OK, so the difference is the women are naked, big deal. Still ogling at human bodies, and I would argue that Take Me Out is a lot more smutty.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 44.

    It's not sexist it's just pretentious rubbish, not worth the airtime.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 43.

    "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!"

    Actually yes he is. Its called Freedom of Speech. The same as fanatics, she assumes her rights automatically override everyone else's.

    The only way this would be sexist if there was something preventing there been a similar show involving naked guys. As far as I know there isn't.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 42.

    I think, in the interests of fairness and equality, that they should also have a programme where naked men stand and get criticised by clothed ladies - if we can't have that, then sorry, it is just sexist titillation.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 41.

    As someone else pointed out, the Danes are much more comfortable with nudity and are able to see a naked body without equating it with merely having sex. After all, that's just one thing we do with it. They should get a few guys on the show to be assessed. Perhaps then the critics can turn their attention to clothing chains dressing little girls as hookers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 40.

    Is it sexist to interpret something as sexist instead of two humans.....

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 39.

    Feminism used to be about physical & mental liberation, celebrating womens' strength, burning bras and not being ashamed of your body.

    Now it seems to have descended into puritanical censorship and labeling as many women as possible as 'vulnerable'.

  • Comment number 38.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 37.

    I really can't see what the problem is. How can human beings possibly be offended about seeing a naked human body? Do they not bathe? I'm more offended by the fact that this offer is only open to women. Is that not sexual discrimination? £214 to get you kit off for an hour or two. Bring it on!!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 36.

    Liberals, get over yourselves.

    Liberalism cuts both ways. You can't have your cake and eat it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 35.

    24. Maria Ashot - You have the right to be offended, im affraid you dont have the right to censor. The naked body is something we seem to be ashamed of in the UK, thank god our European Neighbours are not so hung up on sexuality like the English seem to be.

 

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