Have you ever thought about why the Netherlands is a happier place than America? The answer is likely, no. But filmmaker Jonathan Blank explores what makes one of the most liberal countries in the world also one of the happiest in Sex, Drugs & Bicycles.
Writer/ director Blank goes to the Netherlands to explore the social democracy that makes it such a freeing place to be. Topics that are explored include healthcare, drugs, animal rights, and sex work. He interviews Dutch citizens of all types to get their take on how things work and why they work in the Netherlands and compares it with how things work (or don’t work) in America. The answers are quite surprising.
A big issue with America is its healthcare system. Millions of people in the U.S. are without healthcare because it is just too costly, whereas, in the Netherlands, it is much more affordable. That’s not the surprising part, though. The surprising part is what Netherlands’ healthcare is used for. Their healthcare covers all the basic medical needs such as trips to the emergency room, doctor’s appointments, childbirth, etc. It even covers things like gender reassignment and sexologist appointments. In 2006, Netherlands made a law where no family could pay more than 5% of their income on healthcare. Their government pays for healthcare through taxes as it would public education.
“…goes to the Netherlands to explore the social democracy that makes it such a freeing place to be.”
Another surprising fact about the Netherlands is that although things like drugs and prostitution are considered illegal depending on city restrictions, their government still puts money into both the drug and sex industries. I know it sounds strange, but let me explain. The government funds a television show with two people trying drugs that the viewers want them to try. The Dutch government does this to educate their citizens on the effects of drugs. The Netherlands government even goes as far as to test ecstasy pills for citizens and warns tourists not to buy drugs off the streets. With sex workers, the government has put a little more restrictions on them but does so to make it safer and crackdown on sex trafficking.
Sex, Drugs & Bicycles does explore the issue of racism in the Netherlands, though not quite enough. The Dutch “celebrate” Black Pete or Black Piet, who was a sidekick to St. Nicholas. To celebrate Black Pete, the Dutch have a parade during Christmas where they dress in black face. The black people in the Netherlands are not happy about it, but they still say that it is easier to be black in the Netherlands than it is to be black anywhere else.
Something that is also not mentioned much is violence. It is mentioned in the way that they have it but that it is not a major issue. My opinion is that there should have been a little more discussion about the negatives of the Netherlands. I also would have liked to see how the Dutch are doing in a pandemic, but I’m sure the production of the film started way before the pandemic took over the globe.
What Sex, Drugs & Bicycles made me realize is that the Netherlands is such a happy place because they are free. Nothing seems to be taboo to the Dutch. They do not keep secrets about the way things work. Rather the opposite, they help explore the way they work. The film also made me realize that I want to visit the Netherlands. This film is done in a seemingly comedic way that does not make it just another boring educational documentary. It is effortless to watch and enjoyable.
"…made me realize that I want to visit the Netherlands."