If you thought children's television could not get weirder, Denmark has upped the ante.
Danish public television network DR — Denmark's equivalent to PBS — has debuted a new animated children's television program, "John Dillermand," featuring a hapless Everyman with an extra-long penis that he uses, Inspector Gadget-style, to help him in his daily adventures.
"Diller" is, in fact, the Danish word for penis, so yes, the emphasis on the male sex organ is deliberate, though its purpose in the show is definitively asexual. According to The Guardian, the show is intended for children ages 4-8 and was made claymation-style in 5-minute episodes.
In the series, John Dillermand is an adult man with a handlebar mustache who seems to be wearing an old-fashioned red and white striped bathing suit and cannot control his extraordinary penis.
Throughout different storylines, John tries to do ordinary, everyday things, sometimes using his penis to help him (steal ice cream from children, raise the Danish flag up a flagpole, rescue a runaway baby buggy before it can roll into oncoming traffic). More often, he finds his penis just causes chaos.
Critics of the show cite what example producers are setting by featuring, literally, a man who cannot control his penis. The Guardian reported DR's response to criticism was "it could just as easily have made a programme 'about a woman with no control over her vagina' and that the most important thing was that children enjoyed John Dillermand."
American parenting and child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa told TODAY Parents she agrees with critics of the show. "Children's television has a unique opportunity — and therefore responsibility — to shape the thinking of a generation about who they can be and what they can accomplish," Gilboa said.
"This is, at best, a wasted opportunity. It is, for the majority of kids who will see it, a confusing, unnecessarily sexualizing message about boy bodies. Even worse, for a percentage of kids this will speed their genital exploration ahead of their cognitive development in ways that can be damaging."