Is a show about a man with a comically long penis appropriate for kids?
That’s the question being debated throughout Europe now, as it’s the premise of a new animated show on the Danish network DR.
John Dillermand, the titular protagonist of the claymation show, has a penis two or three times as long as his body. Diller is Danish slang for “penis,” the Guardian points out, so his name literally translates to John Penis-Man.
“Imagine if you had the world’s longest penis!” reads the show’s description on DR’s website, where 13 episodes are available to stream. “John does. It often gets him in trouble, and it can get really embarrassing, but when he stands by the fact that he is different, he can save children, babies and cars and even hoist the flag — with his penis. In fact, he can save the whole world if only he were allowed to.”
The opening sequence shows some of these misadventures. Sometimes they really look like less-than-ideal experiences, like when John Dillermand is dragged behind a bus because his giant penis is caught underneath. In other cases, he uses his biological difference to his advantage, such as when he spins his penis around in the air, like chopper blades, so he can fly to a neighbour’s house to put out a fire; or when he uses it to pick up heavy objects.
Critics, understandably enough, don’t think it’s appropriate for kids’ entertainment to be so penis-focused.
“Am I the only one who finds it deeply reprehensible that our children should think it’s fun to watch adult penis man?” right-wing politician Morten Messerschmidt wrote on Facebook.
Danish novelist Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen was also skeptical of the show’s premise. “Is this really the message we want to send to children while we are in the middle of a huge #MeToo wave?” she asked. Denmark is in the midst of a reckoning about sexual harassment in the workplace, spearheaded by TV presenter Sofie Linde, who revealed in August that a network executive had threatened to ruin her career if she didn’t comply with his sexual advances.
The show’s defenders, though, think “John Dillermand” is effective in holding kids’ attention and teaching them life lessons ― albeit in an unorthodox way.
“John Dillermand talks to children and shares their way of thinking – and kids do find genitals funny,” Erla Heinesen Højsted, a clinical psychologist who works with children and families, told The Guardian.
“The show depicts a man who is impulsive and not always in control, who makes mistakes – like kids do – but crucially, Dillermand always makes it right: he takes responsibility for his actions,” Heinesen Højsted said. “When a woman in the show tells him that he should keep his penis in his pants, for instance, he listens. Which is nice. He is accountable.”
A spokesperson for DR told CNN that many of the people criticizing the show haven’t actually watched it.
“Now the great majority here in Denmark are ... making fun of the few critics instead,” Sarah Cecilie told the outlet. “Hundreds of thousands [are] supporting ‘John Dillermand’ now.”
She added that over 200,000 people have watched the first episode.
DR also told the Guardian that it could just as easily have made a show “about a woman with no control over her vagina.”
Our world is, truly, an extremely strange place.