Animated children's TV show about a man with a long and multifunctional penis debuts in Denmark

Causing inevitable controversy, the John Dillermand series on public service station DR (the Danish BBC) is also a massive hit.

Date
7 January 2021
Reading Time
3 minute read

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Jacob Ley apparently came up with John Dillermand, the eponymous character of his animated children's TV series, when making up bedtime stories to tell his own kids. Dillermand, which roughly translates as 'penis-man', is “a middle-aged man with a prehensile penis that can extend to the length of several metres,” says the IMDB blurb. That unusual trait, as you can imagine, opens the floodgates to plenty of antics and challenges; as one of the episode’s description reads: “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 the diller. In fact, he can save the whole world if only he were allowed to.”

Having been very successful with the test audience of his own kin, the director pitched it to Denmark's public service broadcaster DR, the Danish equivalent of the BBC, which has commissioned it for a 13-episode series. And that’s where the controversy begins. For some parents and critics, a man with a long, uncontrollable member isn’t an appropriate subject for a show aimed at four-to-eight-year-olds. “Call me delicate,” writes right-wing Danish politician Morten Messerschmidt on Facebook, “…But am I the only one who finds it deeply reprehensible that our children should think it's fun to look at adult peeps [on DR]? Yes, I know Uncle Shrimp (another controversial kids’ show) and farting humour is probably fun and incredibly learning-effective, but I don't believe that looking at adult men's genitals should be made into something common for children.”

Feedback is mixed, with some calling for its removal, but many others saying that children find it hilarious and that only adults would interpret any sexual connotations. “Please never stop talking to children as children,” states one Facebook response from Maya Schäffer Falster, “the only ones who can get anything sexually out of that program are puritan adults. I appreciate that my kids can see the humour in an absurd long penis that gets poor John in difficulties time and again.”

The show has garnered attention from the world’s press, The Guardian quoting Christian Groes, an associate professor and gender researcher at Roskilde University, as saying the show perpetuates a patriarchal society, and normalises ‘locker-room’ culture. “It’s meant to be funny – so it’s seen as harmless. But it’s not. And we’re teaching this to our kids,” he says. Conversely the newspaper also cites Erla Heinesen Højsted, a clinical psychologist who works with families and children, as saying the character “talks to children and shares their way of thinking”. “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 is accountable.”

A spokesperson for DR Sarah Cecilie told CNN that over 200,000 people had already watched the first episode and that “the great majority are… making fun of the few critics”. She also added that many had criticised the show before it aired, seeing the subject entirely out of context. Children’s TV will always be subject to close scrutiny, perhaps rightly so, but to take a balanced view is to watch it first, and see it from a kid’s point of view and sense of humour, rather than projecting grown-up undertones. Far from lewd, Dillermand is very silly and taboo to children, therefore bound to make them laugh, and maybe that’s the point.

You can watch all 13 episodes now on the DR website.

GalleryJacob Ley: John Dillermand (Copyright © Jacob Ley and DR

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent the last ten years working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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