Denmark’s insane Voteman cartoon uses porn, dolphins to get out the vote

"Voteman," the cartoon muscleman who was enlisted, and then quickly dropped, to bolster turnout.
"Voteman," the cartoon muscleman who was enlisted, and then quickly dropped, to bolster turnout.

There's a palpable anxiety hanging over Europe as much of the continent prepares for upcoming E.U. parliamentary elections. Far-right, Euroskeptic parties are surging in polls and may capture a significant number of seats. The crisis in Ukraine has exposed, in some people's minds, the geopolitical feebleness of the bloc. And concerns about unemployment and the health of national economies remain entrenched.

So maybe the bureaucrats in the Danish parliament's E.U. Information Center can be forgiven for producing one of the more bizarre "get out the vote" videos ever made, in a bid to get more young people thinking about what's at stake in Brussels. The Voteman cartoon, released yesterday and summarily withdrawn today, depicts a mustachioed, muscular, leather-clad protagonist bashing and beheading his way through an apathetic voting public. It also opens with a pretty raunchy, gratuitous animated porn scene and then segues to Voteman emerging from his island lair, riding two dolphins. (You can watch the video here, but consider yourself warned: It is definitely NSFW.)

You see, as Voteman learned earlier in life, the European Union runs policy on everything from agricultural subsidies to how much cinnamon should be in your buns. If you don't get why that's important, young voter, well, Voteman will rip your head off or slap you around anyway.

“A high turnout is important, so you use every method you can," said Morgens Lykketoft, the speaker of Parliament, as the video went viral. But he would later backtrack: "Many people whose opinions I deeply respect have perceived the cartoon from the E.U. Information Center as far more serious and offensive than it was intended – and believe it talks down to young people," he said after Parliament pulled the video from its YouTube and Facebook accounts.

Denmark's turnout in 2009 E.U. elections neared 60 percent, much higher than the European average. If 2014 participation tops that, one wonders whether the Danes have Voteman to thank.

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
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