Danish TV show merits contemplative criticism


Photo courtesy of Commons.wikimedia.org

Danish TV Show Ultra Strips Down presents a new and foriegn way of promoting body positivity, and a mixture of backlash and support surrounds the series. 

On the show, naked adults stand in front of an audience of 11-to-13-year-olds. The children then ask whatever questions come to mind about the adult participants. 

Criticism include potential grooming and not seeing children as innocent anymore. Supporters push against critics by explaining there’s a need to show how normal bodies look in a world consumed by unattainable appearances.

Jannik Schow is the co-developer and host of Ultra Strips Down. In defense of the idea, Schow said to The New York Times: “Perhaps some people are like, ‘Oh, my God, they are combining nakedness and kids.’ But this has nothing to do with sex, it’s about seeing the body as natural, the way kids do.” 

At first, Schow’s defense seems preposterous. However, learning about Denmark’s openness with not only nudity but sex education at a young age offers deeper insight. 

As an American, I felt repulsed. I’d originally written a piece with bias towards how the United States isn’t like Denmark. But in a country lacking privacy seemingly in the name of normalizing the imperfect human form, Ultra Strips Down fits the agenda Danes are pushing. 

Though the clips of nude adults and clothed minors playing games and holding conversations certainly make me uncomfortable, there’s an intended message. In 2011, the U.S.’s teenage pregnancy rate per 1,000 women was 31.3. Compared to Denmark’s 4.4, the United States clearly trumps in teenage pregnancies.

Perhaps the open-minded ideologies of Danes contribute to their much lower rate of teenage pregnancy. After all, sex-ed is far behind in progressiveness within the United States — abstinence at the forefront of teaching. 

Another point to address is the consumption of pornography. Perfect images on social media serve as enough degradation for adolescents journeying through puberty. Mixed with watching porn, younger viewers can develop insecurity when their bodies don’t match the ones they are exposed to online. 

Ultra Strips Down connects its purpose to the fact that these insecurities at a young age can damage self-image. Children already see or can easily see nudity online on a daily basis. Exposing the adolescent audience to nudity, especially in Denmark, isn’t out of the norm. Nor is explaining that not all bodies look the way porn or social media teaches.

The audience asks questions such as, “Are you pleased with your private parts?” for the adults to answer. One girl who participated mentioned that she “felt more confident about her own body now.” It seems that the children walk away with an informed mind, at least from their comments and reactions.

Yet, deep down, it’s hard to accept the premise of the show as an American with ingrained values. We are prudish. We don’t tend to openly discuss sexual activities or the extensive variety of human bodies. But at the same time are comfortable with exposing models in all their glory and perfection. 

I also see the responsibility of teaching as belonging to parents, not naked strangers. If parents don’t pick up that responsibility, then they can’t get mad at a TV show teaching children more than they ever have.

Ultra Strips Down, yes, is an extremely foreign and strange-sounding concept to the United States or the UK where most critics originate. I’m still uncomfortable, but treading towards a more accepting view of the reality show in a country with different teaching and different values.