But why are they the happiest people?
American mainstream media has been a wee bit obsessed with the happiness of Denmark this past year. Since I'm an American currently living in the supposedly blissed-out Scandinavian paradise, I've been trying to uncover why this (somewhat incorrect) assumption has been made. Maybe it has something to do with comfort in gender identity and ambiguity.
There's a long tradition of using gender-bending characters in Danish comedy, but their growing prominence on TV has made me pay attention to some recent (otherwise unremarkable) commercials. In several ads that regularly show up on my television, multiple roles of different genders are all played by the same actor. My earliest understanding of this phenomenon dates to a now-defunct TV show in which male comedians Rune Klan & Mick Øgendahl regularly appeared in drag.
More recently, Denmark's mass transit/train system starting running commercials in which both male and female characters are played by the same actor. If that isn't mainstream acceptance, it's hard to say what is.
Most entertaining to me are ads for appliance store Skousen. You have to look closely to even realize it's the same actress, but I assure you it is. In the third one, also check out how similar all the choir members look.
I have yet to uncover any particular reason why Danes queer gender identities for comedic purposes. When I ask my Danish friends, they sort of shrug, unaware that this isn't particularly common elsewhere. "Why does this happen?" "Um...it's funny?" What do you think? Why do you think this happens, and does it say anything particular about the acceptance of gender neutrality? Or does it just appear to be more offensive stereotyping?
*Fun fact: the voice of "Harry," the purple muppet in the train commercials, is voiced by the woman who plays all the Skousen characters.
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