Youp van ‘t Hek: Things my mother taught me

Youp van ‘t Hek thinks the new reality show about divorce is really not very good and he knows exactly what his mother would have said.

He looks like a car mechanic and that’s what he is. She looks like DIY store attendant and that is what she is. They met via the internet, made a date at McDonald’s and hit it off immediately. They had two kids, a Vinex house, in short, the sort of couple Ikea and C1000 make their money from. The sort of couple that can be found in thousands of football stadiums all over the land, and who make up the target audience for the television programmes churned out by the De Mols. They like the Toppers, and why not. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Only don’t make dupes of these people. Protect them against themselves. Don’t use them to get good ratings.
I’m saying this because I watched a reality show about divorce called Echt Scheiden, last Wednesday on RTL4. It has been kicking up a bit of dust and questions have even been asked in parliament. Questions to do with child protection. And rightly so.
The show features a car mechanic who looks like a car mechanic and a DIY store attendant who looks like a DIY store attendant. He has fallen in love with a women who looks even more like a DIY store attendant than the one he is married to and he wants a divorce. The couple have two children. He wants to go, she wants him to stay. The wife of one of the Toppers is there to guide them through the process, assisted by creepy divorce coach and a third-rate psychologist.
And to think that the tv top brass had a meeting and decided they should do this. The boss of RTL actually thought the pain of divorce would make good television. He should have used his own divorce, complete with the lawyers wrangling over the kids and the house. Instead he picked on two not very bright people from Brabant and shows the woman crying helplessly and the man mumbling vaguely. Meanwhile, the children are wretched witnesses to the whole thing.
I kept thinking about the tv boss who gave this his blessing. And about René Froger’s wife who kept spouting meaningless twaddle in a sympathetic voice. Could those two be held on charges of child abuse? I think so, and what’s more I think they should. Could we go back to some semblance of decency, please? We need to protect these simple souls against ratings obsessed tv bosses, by law if need be.
Erland Galjaard is the boss at RTL4. A man of flesh and blood, as far as I can tell. He’s been through a divorce himself and knows how devastating it can be for children. But that is all by the by: Porsches don’t come cheap, targets have to be made. But is it ethical to keep shareholders happy at the expense of a couple with learning difficulties and their children?
Child abuse
Viewers will watch, that’s what they do but do we really have to broadcast this? This is child abuse! What’s happening here? First Erland films people in hospital without their permission and now he is using vulnerable people and their children. But weren’t we supposed to protect these people? Isn’t there a law that says so?
The RTL4 bosses will have another meeting and no doubt they will rub their hands and not worry about anything I might have to say. But I am speaking on behalf of my mother who was a special needs teacher. ‘They were born this way and can’t defend themselves. That’s our job!’, she used to say. It’s a mantra I grew up with. So here it is, courtesy of my mum!
Youp van ‘t hek is one of the Netherlands’ best loved comedians and writers

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation