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 434.

    these people are turning women into men
    by zumba and physical work
    no wonder the most beautiful women on earth is most unattractive after 30s they are too stupid to notice and pay attention

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    I moved to Taiwan a few years ago, there are quite a few expats of both genders here. What I noticed when I first came here was that very few of the Caucasian women have boyfriends, and if they do they are always Caucasian too. I remember speaking to a completely exasperated American friend of mine who told me

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    It is sexist because of the fact that the woman is not allowed to talk thereby reducing her to nothing but her naked form and so objectifying her. She is not allowed to express her personality, thoughts or reactions to comments. I find that more unhealthy than the nakedness, as indeed did one of the contestants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    Shock! Horror! A TV show where men talk about a naked woman! how dare they! Goddess forbid that men be allowed to show/discuss their sexuality!

    As shown, it's triggered the "All Men Are Rapist' rabid response in feminist spokes'persons'....

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Europeans have fought more wars then any one other nation not because they are smart or brave but stupid
    they have enslaved millions of people
    until 60s they didnt gave equal rights to black people
    even now they think that they are better thinkers writers and better then other in other aspect of life
    the only thing they dont do is say it
    no one has ever survived immorality ,religion aside

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    406.Ruby Chung
    "...Seriously, I begin to wonder if straight men have any respect at all for women!"

    I'm not homosexual.
    I respect women.
    They outperform males at all levels of education.
    They are far less evil.
    Their bodies are further removed from the animals.
    They make more of an effort to be presentable.
    They are much cleaner.


  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    This whole debate is ridiculous. If one consenting adult wants to stand naked in front of another consenting adult, while other consenting adults watch, then feminists have no right to stop them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    I have to agree with A Realist.

    I just wish more women would allow themselves to be examined in this way.

    Imagine the ratings if Cheryl Cole got her kit off and stood there for us real men to have a good look at! =)

    Then for the ladies we could have a version where they get to look at some fit bloke, whilst we real men watched the football on the other side.

    Everyone is a winner! =)

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Tell me honestly that women never talk about mens' bodies. Programs like Loose Women suggest otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    I don't see anything wrong with appreciating healthy bodies so long as it goes for both sexes. Create a similar show with attractive, naked men and women commenting on their bodies and I will agree that both shows are not sexist. I, for one, would volunteer to be a panel member on that show!

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    I don't live in Demark. I don't speak Danish. I have never seen this show.

    However, I am a British bloke and therefore an expert on everything.

    Will the BBC be importing the show for BBC4? I miss Borgen (and Montalbano) & can't wait for the next series. This could be a sort of stop gap.

    We all talk about other people - especially on the beach or by the pool - let's not be two-faced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    yes of course this is sexist - its males commenting on a female. Whether the volunteers know what they are getting into or not is not particularly relevant. The viewing target is almost certainly male voyeurs.
    The presenters must know that it would be a simple matter to make it balanced:
    (1) have both male and female commentators
    (2) have both male and female subjects
    But they haven't. Pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    @415 Doctor R "if a female flirts with me, and I don't want her attention, can I accuse her of harassment?"

    Somehow I don't imagine this being a problem.

    But really, ofc it'd be harassment if you told her no. I said it was only wrong against women... Another of your inferences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    There is a still a lot of prude attitudes towards this kind of thing here in the UK. The same goes for gay marriage.

    The old British characteristics of awkward sexual expression and openness will die out as the advocates of this kind of attitude themselves die out.

    "No sex please we are British" is a case in point.

    Sex is wonderful. Women are gorgeous. Nakedness is natural. Get over it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    ...and if I could charge her, I wouldn't. Because I wouldn't respond to someone liking me, even if I didn't want her attention, by waving a rule book in her face. I'd rather do the human thing, and appreciate the fact that another human being likes me, rather than try to get her fired.

    What a sad way to see the world. Why would anyone want to live like that, male or female?

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    Surely if they're doing this in one direction - ogling and discussing naked ladies - they must do it the other way for men. I mean, if their objective really is to cause discussion and foment new thinking, I can't think of a more logical, fair and effective way... One would think a mix of same-sex, homo- and hetero-sexual ogling and discussing would also have be part of it. I would watch that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    I am British and Danish. The show is merely trying to define how men interpret women on a physical basis, in an open and honest way. For some reason, nakedness is almost taboo in the UK where people refuse to discuss their body parts. To frank, it's nothing we haven't seen before and people need to grow up and get over it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    Something like this could really spice up daytime viewing in the UK (but drop the judges). Make a change from endless repeats of Murder, she wrote, Bargin Hunt & Homes under the Hammer!
    Maybe Channel 5 could do 'something for the ladies' to balance things out.
    It's a pity there's already a show called Flog It!

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    Is there any chance that the BBC which I have regarded as the best of the best in public broadcasting ever going to choose important issues for HYS anymore? I recall contributing to serious issues when HYS first started. Now it seems the powers to be in the Beeb tend to the safe, non controversial subject matters. What does TV programmes in Denmark have to do with us? Please BBC up your game!

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    So in your experience, pretty women don't want attention. All I'm presuming is that a women who dresses to attract men wants attention- because if she didn't, then she wouldn't dress or act the way she does. I presume the same of braggarts and showoffs- they want attention. And by the way, if a female flirts with me, and I don't want her attention, can I accuse her of harassment?

    Didn't think so.


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