Everything You Need to Know About the Danish Children's TV Show With the Long Penis
American and Canadian parents might be celebrating the fact that Caillou has been cancelled, but it's far from the only children's show getting buzz right now. John Dillermand, a new animated series airing on DR, the Danish public service broadcaster that's the equivalent of the BBC or PBS, revolves around a man whose extraordinarily long penis helps him rescue kids, fetch objects from a river, and hang from balloons. "Diller" is slang for penis in Denmark, so the main character's name literally translates to Penis-man. Understandably, the premise is leaving plenty of parents questioning how appropriate the show is for kids.
Here's what you need to know.
'John Dillermand': What It Is and Where You Can Watch It
The first 13 episodes of John Dillermand—each of which is only five minutes long—currently live on DR's website, so they're pretty much available to anyone who wants to stream them, whether you live in Denmark, the U.S., or elsewhere. And each episode features Dillermand getting himself into some kind of predicament with his enormous penis, which just looks like a long, candy cane-striped rope.
For example, in the first episode, he uses his penis as a lead for his dog, and then his neighbors want him to walk their pets too. In another episode, he uses his penis to steal ice cream from the zoo, and in another, he finds himself stuck floating in mid-air as a result of balloons being tied to his genitalia.
A statement, written by a network executive and provided to Danish outlet Ekstra Bladet (and translated into English) noted, "John Dillermand is a fictional and humorous universe where we want to tell a funny story that captures the kids. It is an animated series where humor, exaggeration, and magic are at the center, which is something that children know and can easily decode."
How Parents, Politicians, and Experts Are Voicing Concern
While some parents have found the TV show's concept entertaining, funny, and possibly even educational, others have spoke out against it. For instance, according to CNN, Danish politician Morten Messerschmidt, a member of the right-wing Danish People's Party, said children should not be forced to watch a cartoon depiction of an adult man's groin. Similarly, some parents have posted complaints on DR's Facebook page.
Christian Groes, an associate professor and gender researcher at Roskilde University, told The Guardian that the show is problematic because it "perpetuates the standard idea of a patriarchal society and normalizing 'locker room culture' … that's been used to excuse a lot of bad behavior from men. It's meant to be funny—so it's seen as harmless. But it's not. And we're teaching this to our kids."
What the Pro-'Dillermand' Crowd Is Saying
Erla Heinesen Højsted, a clinical psychologist who works with families and children, countered to The Guardian that some criticism of the show has been blown out of proportion. "John Dillermand talks to children and shares their way of thinking—and kids do find genitals funny," she said. "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. 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."
While Højsted feels the timing is poor and it would be preferable for a show like this to depict "difference and diversity" beyond an oversized penis, she concluded, "This is categorically not a show about sex. To pretend it is projects adult ideas on it."
And plenty of parents are applauding the show. One mom posting on the DR Facebook page shared, "John Dillermand is the new hit at home. The 7-year-old is completely on board with John! Please never stop talking to children as children. The only ones who can get anything sexually out of that program are puritan adults. I appreciate that my kids can see the humor in an absurd long penis that gets poor John in difficulties time and again."
Another wrote, "The kids who see Dillermand ... think it's funny—nothing else. Those who sexualize it are the parents who storm in here and see a problem with everything. Our job as parents is to raise our children. ... Once again, thank you for the fun children's TV."
And a third shared, "I think it's funny. What is the difference between arm, nose, or penis? Just the parts of the body."
The Bottom Line
In response to the backlash, a DR spokesperson named Sarah Cecilie told CNN that most critics have voiced their opinions "without even (having) seen the show, because it wasn't released yet," but now, it's a hit. "The children are watching it in big numbers," she told the outlet, sharing that over 200K kids have seen the show so far.
Meanwhile, the network executive's statement insisted that John Dillermand is not "harmful in any way." They explained, "Our content is based on a long tradition of being true to the target group. With the series, we acknowledge the budding curiosity about the body and genitals, and also the embarrassing and funny thing about the body—it is something that is exciting for the exact age group that Ramasjang [DR's network targeted to children aged 7-10] addresses."
The network's position aside, it's ultimately up to parents to decide if they're comfortable with their kids watching a show with such an—ahem—unusual theme.