This Controversial Danish Children’s Show Is About a Man with a Giant Ding-Dong (So We Got a Family Psychiatrist to Weigh In)

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If you thought that a kid’s TV show about an anthropomorphic sponge who lives in a pineapple and likes to play his nose like a flute was weird, just wait until you hear about the latest children’s programming from Denmark. Danish public television network DR (their equivalent to PBS) has debuted a new animated kid’s show called John Dillermand that features the everyday adventures of a hapless figure and… his giant penis. Yes, you read that right.

Each five-minute episode of the show follows the main character wearing a red-and-white striped onesie as his member gets him into silly shenanigans. Think: John doesn’t have enough money for lunch (he’s trying to buy a sausage, because, of course) so his penis steals a hatful of coins from a street busker. He then must fix the problem and set things right, usually learning a valuable lesson along the way.

The show is aimed at 4- to 8-year-old kids and we all know that this particular age group loves potty humor and all talk about genitalia, but what does a licensed professional think about the show? We tapped Dr. Lea Lis, adult and child psychiatrist and author of No Shame: Real Talk With Your Kids About Sex, Self-Confidence and Healthy Relationships for her take.

“I have always respected the Northern European approach to sexuality,” says Dr. Lis. “It is not uncommon for Danish families to get naked together in the hot tub and approach sex education very openly,” she adds. But she doesn’t think that kids should be exposed to a TV character who can’t control his long penis. “It sends the wrong messages about body image and ideas of masculinity, by showing kids that ‘men will be men’ who can't control themselves,” she explains.

And yeah, she makes a good point. But what if the show had been about a woman with no control over her vagina? “[This] would still be problematic because the idea is that the brain controls the penis or vagina, not the other way around—the idea otherwise is misinformed, and also leads people to believe they are not in control of their sexuality and choices,” says Dr. Lis.

But hey, it’s not all bad news: “There is something cute and innocent about it, and I love that message about how he is good natured and learns from his mistakes, but there are better ways to teach this lesson.” (Indeed, in the network’s online description of the show, they write that while Dillermand’s genitalia may get him into embarrassing situations, it can be used for good once he embraces that he is different.)

And here’s another interesting point for critics of the show: Dr. Lis reminds us that this isn’t really a show about sex: “Any pornographic thoughts about the show would come from the lens of being an adult,” she explains. All kids really see while watching the show is, well, pure silliness (Dr. Lis confirms that after watching the show with her own kid, they find it hilarious). But that doesn’t mean that they’re not picking up on subliminal messages—see the therapist’s earlier note about problematic ideas of masculinity and control.

So when it comes to teaching kids about their bodies and sexuality, what does Dr. Lis recommend? She’s a fan of books like It’s Not the Stork and online courses from sexual educator Saleema Noon (“they’re awesome!”) that is helpfully divided up into age groups. Duly noted.

Psst: If you’re curious about the show, you can stream the first episode here—it’s in Danish but TBH, you can get the, um, long and short of it, even without any subtitles.

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Alexia Dellner

Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...
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