University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Comment: And the Oscar goes to…

Denmark's hipster image can be traced to a string of recent successful movies and TV series on left-wing, wealthy, good looking careerists. Stefanie Gross takes a look at Danish TV series

A mentally ill king. His sexually deprived wife. And a lucky physician.

It doesn’t take much to write a good script that can turn into a successful movie, but it’s still life that writes the best stories. As a result of their ménage-à-trois we get one of the best movies Denmark has ever delivered. Nikolaj Arcel’s historical drama ‘En Kongelig Affære’ (engl. A Royal Affaire) is nominated for the Oscars on Sunday.

But the more important fact is not that it could be the fourth Oscar in the category Best Foreign Language Film going to Denmark. Nor that the movie is – at least on paper – based on a Swedish soft porn novel. Way more interesting is a look at the general development of modern Danish television. Series and movies made in Denmark are experiencing a worldwide boom. After nine nominations and the great success that would come from a fourth Oscar in the category a win would be icing on the cake.

Denmark is the new hipster

In fact, Danish television in general represents everything ‘hipsterism’ actually rejects.

Being a hipster loosely defined is meant to be a carelessly dressed person with a retro choice in cheap fashion that rejects the mainstream idea of luxury, values overstated individualism and personifies counter culture attitudes. Most importantly a hipster is never mainstream.

Popular series such as ‘Borgen’ (shown on screens worldwide) and also the movie ‘A Royal Affair’ draw pictures of an embellished Danish society full of upper-class, left-winged, wealthy, good looking careerists who cycle to a fancy place to have an overprized coffee.

New, extravagant lifestyle

This demonstration of a privileged society doesn’t represent the mainstream Danish population. This is at the same time the secret ingredient that makes the Danish television production hipsterish.

So, for example, even if viewers can identify with Birgitte Nyborg Christensen struggling to juggle her career and family life, having marital as well as weight problems, they most likely won’t become Denmark’s prime minister.

So Denmark’s series stand out from the crowd by showing a new, and also kind of extravagant lifestyle.

On a roll

What other fact supports the thesis that Danish movie and television productions made Denmark ‘hipsterish’?

It has certainly set a new trend. The world suddenly has an eye on this rainy, little five million inhabitant country. The Times of London recently published an article examining ‘Why everybody wants to be Danish’.

Danish productions are slowly but successfully conquering the world. In 2011 the UK aired the crime drama ‘Forbrydelsen’ (engl. The Killing) and got an incredible response. Consequently, in 2012 ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Borgen’ followed to feed the now hungry audience. Two years ago ‘Forbrydelsen’ finally crossed the Atlantic and the United States also broadcasted a complete remake of the series which has run for two seasons.

Danish productions are on a roll.

Only cool, until

Denmark became a hipster nation because it has something new, something exotic. Now the world wants a piece of that cake. Unlike other film material that is produced in the States one can’t just stream Danish movies online or buy seasons packets on Amazon unless they are able to understand Danish.

The products need to be subtitled first, and the fact that you just can’t have it with a snap of your fingers makes it even more desirable.

But hipsters are only cool until everyone else is a hipster, too.

Hype has an expiry date

The last season of Denmark’s most famous series export ‘Forbrydelsen’ was shown in November on Danish television. And although the new crime drama ‘Dicte’ just started to be broadcast in January it is doubtful that any other crime series can follow in Forbrydelsens footsteps.

The world will once again have an eye on Denmark, which will now have to prove itself against competitors from Austria, Chile, Canada and its neighbour Norway. This can end two ways.

Either the hipster is too cool to win, maintaining its exotic hipster appeal until expiration date. Or it will end up where it can no longer be hipster, but successful by joining the mainstream.

Stay in the know about news and events happening in Copenhagen by signing up for the University Post’s weekly newsletter here.