By Rebecca Benest
If you live in Denmark, you might turn on the publically funded television station “DR2,” and find yourself faced with a naked woman accompanied by two men conversing about her various physical attributes. But in the event that you haven’t kept up to date with Danish television, this new show, “Blachman,” has caused quite the international buzz.
Named after the creator, the premise of the show is to bring naked women on screen where they stand silently, allowing Blachman and a male guest comment on their body. While this show is definitely a chauvinistic display, it also brings up several discourses on body image and sexualization of the female body in a new, although potentially offensive, method.
The show’s namesake, Thomas Blachman, was a previous host of Denmark’s “X Factor” and is commonly called the “Simon Cowell of Denmark,” known for his regular stream of negative comments. Blachman, however, has a different angle for his new show, as his stated purpose is to get “men discussing the aesthetics of a female body without allowing the conversation to become pornographic or politically correct.” To do this, he brings of women of all ages, shapes, and sizes onto the show, in order to “revise women’s view of men’s view of women.”
The purported message of the show, however, will probably never be seen amid the hailstorm of comments and criticism following the its start. Knud Romer, a Danish author, calls it “a claustrophobic strip club which only serves to cement classic concepts of male dominance,” while Dr. Christian Jessen responds, “are naked women that shocking and shameful? Lets have a debate!”
This is the main debate “Blachman” brings about, that while it appears to be a pornographic display of chauvinistic ideals, it may also be illuminating the unnecessary stigma we place on the naked body and political correctness.
The hypocrisy of the show itself adds to this debate. The introduction states, “between pornography on the one hand and politically correct puritanism on the other side, the poetry is lost.”
Despite this, later on in the show Blachman seems to lose this poetry he speaks so highly of, with statements such as, “Now, I’ve always been an ass man. Would you mind turning around for a moment? Very animated nipples. How does that pussy work for you?” Statements like this are exactly what angers viewers and shows Blachman to be a misogynist.
As admittedly offensive as the show is, it brings up interesting issues of body image. The women on the show are not embarrassed to be there, nor do they avoid eye contact with the judges—some even smiling overbearingly as the judges comment on their bodies. These women don’t view themselves negatively, which is a “requirement” to be on the show, regardless of age or weight.
The body confidence the women on “Blachman” seem to have is not seen often, and is something that many girls and women today seem to have a problem with. The Dove Real Beauty Campaign, which recently took over social media, thought up an interesting experiment: through drawings based on oral descriptions, see how women describe themselves in comparison to how others describe them. The results were shocking: the pictures, when posed next to each other, were drastically different, and in some cases the way the woman described herself was almost unrecognizable. The way we view ourselves ultimately dictates our lifestyle, and as feminist Laura Fraser writes, “we need to protest those standards more demonstrably, reassure ourselves that we’re good and worthwhile human beings.”
“Blachman” also brings up the sexualization of the female body, which is seen drastically differently across nations. When I was 16, for example, I was at a spa in Berlin with an aunt and was shocked when I was told that clothes were not allowed inside. Terrified, I wrapped my towel around me as tightly as I could and went outside. Men and women were sitting, talking, in the saunas and pools seemingly oblivious to their nakedness. While I was utterly embarrassed, I soon became used to the environment and was almost relieved at the way bodies were not judged or micromanaged. You did not have to cover yourself, you weren’t labeled; it was just a body.
While this view is definitely more common in Europe than it is in America, and while the crude comments made on “Blachman” are unmistakably offensive, it does start to take away the stigma of the naked body by talking about the women without sexual or pornographic connotations. The documentary “Miss Representation” takes on the sexualization of women in the media and offers a solution through education and empowerment. Filmmaker Jackson Katz states, “people learn more from media than any other single source of information,” and the representations in the media affect how we view others and ourselves.
The immense power held by the TV shows and movies we watch, the magazines we read, even the songs we listen to, can dictate our views of the world without us even being aware of it and, while “Blachman” is not necessarily empowering these women, there is something the message: it is just a body. We should be able to talk about them without having to worry about being too sexual or politically correct.
Photo by Charlotte Astrid