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 254.

    why do women get so angry about women being free to do what they choose? you're not all the same woman, people are different. i do not understand why a certain demographic of women think they have the right to judge all women by what they do - very dogmatic and oppressive

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    @246 Moneydude
    My statement works both ways ... men and women understand what I haven't said (400c) Sexism is just another word to plunk people into a category...I think there is more intelligence than we (either gender) are given credit.

    It doesn't matter one iota to me or to world affairs...if programs like this subject are offered. Much ado about nothing!! Just keep us preoccupied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    What rubbish!

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    a person should not be judged like this, man or woman.

    Why not? Advertising DEPENDS on this kind of judgement. We all do it, all the time. If the women volunteer I cannot see the feminist argument - unless, of course, they think they know better than those women themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Unfortunately, as we have witnessed with the riots in Sweden last week, Scandinavia is not immune from globalisation. And globalisation dictates that half dressed or naked women will be used for the sake of commercial interests.

    Feminists will convince themselves that this is actually OK because feminism is only another branch of corporatism anyway. No one cares about poor women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    225.Gabriel Oaks
    "Is this programme best described as a pair of tits discussing a pair of tits?"

    I'd says it's a pair of asses discussing a pair of tits. ;)
    Or a pair of twits discussing a pair of tits.
    Or a pair of nitwits discussing a ...
    Or a pair of gits ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Should do well in Iran or Saudi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    @240 Beammeup

    "I just think "men" are wonderful. Operative word "men". Males another subject. "

    Now let me reverse your statement....

    I just think "women" are wonderful. Operative word "women". Females another subject.

    When it is reversed it is seen as "sexist" towards females/women. But I am sure you feel your original statement is not sexist.

    This is dual standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Think I may have to do some "research" on this when I get home, but
    I bet the internet will have slowed to a crawl by then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    It is interesting that the quoted dutch host paul de leeuw is openly gay.
    They do say that TV sucks.

    He has also showered naked on dutch tv at a very early hour of the evening

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    The usual hypocracy and political correctness. As long as bodies are "discussed" in a civilized manner can`t see anything wrong here. Bring it on, the ratings will soar and finally a reality show worthwhile to watch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Denmark has been 'living under a cloak of political correctness'. Uh not like here then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    I'm outraged! But when the male version comes on the air I'm off to Copenhagen for me £300!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    I just think "men" are wonderful. Operative word "men". Males another subject.

    As a woman, I expect programs like this one to appeal to some. I do not take it personally or as an offense against my gender. There are those females who don't care for men making comments about women...a lot of that is jealously. Oh they will deny it, but its true.

    btw Not ALL women are libbers!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Here I am in Kansas thinking US TV is not worth watching. This must surely raise the bar for worthless waste of broadcast space. People here are shocked that my wife and I aren't connected to cable or antenna and prefer to buy movies and watch what we please. Thank God for the BBC's standard of excellence. "Foyle's War" is just one of our favorites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    ""Women's bodies thirst for men's words!" he insists." Er... the very epitome of sexist rot. The man's deluded.

    fwiw: studies show that porn decreases men's respect for women and their tolerance of rape and violence against women. Erotica, respectful adult entertainment, increases men's respect for women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    As usual "All men are sexist, all women are victims" rubbish from the BBC. It's a Danish program not on UKTV.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 235.

    "You don't have to be remotely feminist to find this crass and juvenile"

    I am happy to agree this is crass and juvenile but no more so that so much of the freakshow TV that is on these days, fat families, TOWIE, the Apprentice etc.

    You know how I deal with those? I change channel. If I had the power to remove 1 show from TV, this would be a long way down my list of what should go.


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