”Kind van de duivel”: A Moral Response to an ‘offensive’ song

Kind van de Duivel
A moral response to an ‘offensive’ song

‘’Ik ben een kind van de duivel, mama jij hoeft niet te huilen.
Feesten alsof elke dag hier mijn laatste is
hoop dat je deze draait op mijn begrafenis.’’

When the Dutch rapper Jebroer released his single Kind van de Duivel in 2017, generous airplay of Dutch and Belgian radio stations coincided with considerably high chart positions in the Dutch single top 100 and the Top 40.[1] The lyrics and the clip, however, aroused quite some controversy among confined groups of Christian people, who responded to the song’s glorifying references to death and the devil.[2] Performances by Jebroer in Hardinxveld-Giessendam and Ouddorp were cancelled after protests of local residents.[3]

In this scrapbook entry, I start from the idea that the ‘Kind van de Duivel’-controversy can be understood as an example of offense. I am well aware that this assumption directly raises some a question of qualification: what is it, exactly, that is designated as ‘offense’ by these particular groups of people? Although much can be said about the references that are included in both the song and its clip, I have decided to follow Birgit Meyer and others (2018) in their assessment that offensiveness is not intrinsic to images [in this case, the clip of Kind van de Duivel].[4] Instead, as Christoph Baumgartner states, ‘’In the context of an analysis of offensive pictures, how- ever, »offense« more often refers to the effect of a deed or an event: the offense that someone takes at something’’.[5] In this regard, I will still discuss some basic qualitative notions of offense through the eyes of someone who takes offense to the song. My focus, however, is not necessarily on the offense itself, but on the way in which the offense is negotiated. I will reflect upon the difference between the two, and the significance of that difference, in my closing paragraph.

In a way, my line of thought in the writing process of this scrapbook entry aligns with that of Finbar Barry Flood in his article on contested images in the context of the Danish ‘Cartoon Wars’ (2013). My entry on Kind van de Duivel was inspired by Floods idea of ‘incommensurate notions of significations’; in that reading, the pivotal juxtaposition is one between the ‘metaphorical’ use of Christian ideas and imagery by Jebroer and the actual beliefs and ideas of his Christian respondents[6]. While I completely agree with Flood that the relevance of this relation is still evident, the response that I will now turn to challenged me to make a similar deliberate turn towards the continuous configuration and mobilization of boundaries through images and discourses.[7]

What stands out in a particular response to the song and the clip is notions of belief (i.e., in this particular case, any belief in the actual existence of the devil) do not play a central role in the counter-argument(s) of the person who takes offense. I quote one of the two public spokespersons[8] in the Hardinxveld case: ‘’De clip komt erg heftig over. Niet alleen vanwege het christelijke aspect. Een kind dat zichzelf doodschiet, dat is nogal wat. Of je nou gelooft of niet, zo wil niemand dat het met zijn kind eindigt’’.[9] Two things stand out in this statement. To begin with, the sentence ‘’niet alleen vanwege het christelijke aspect’’ denotes that Christian ideas, values and/or perceptions were not absent in the emotional response of the spokesperson. While the quote on itself does not specify the nature of ‘’Christian’’, the artist and the title of the song already twist two pivotal presuppositions in most [not all] Christian denominations: that there is [a] a savior figure called Jesus Christ [which is twisted by means of the artist’s name; Jebroer][10] and [b] an antagonistic metaphysical entity, the devil [which is evoked by the song’s title; Kind van de Duivel]. Any reference to these presuppositions, however, are immediately downplayed, because the spokesperson appeals to another argument: he judges the song because it glorifies a spectrum of death (by suicide), alcohol and drugs.[11] The argument is moral rather than religious, in the sense that the spokesperson presumes a shared set of social values, that is supposedly independent of any religious convictions: ‘’zo wil niemand dat het met zijn kind eindigt’’ [nobody wants his child to end this way, red.].

I argue that this distinction is crucial, because it implies a hierarchy in the types of arguments that one may hold on to. The spokesperson is aware that not all people ‘believe’, but he does assume moral uniformity among a specific group of people [i.e., all parents]. This particular assumption invokes a sense of negotiation on behalf of the spokesperson; the conviction that is considered less credible (‘het christelijke aspect’) is downplayed while the moral call upon the responsibility of the parents is emphasized.

This call gets more intelligible once we see how this song indeed flourished among young children [and their parents]. This extract is from De Volkskrant, a Dutch newspaper (30-7-2017):

‘’Hij (Jebroer, red.) had de woorden geschreven met zijn vaste doelgroep in het achterhoofd: die van 18 jaar en ouder. Tot ‘Kind’ uitkwam, trad hij slechts sporadisch op voor een jonger publiek. ‘Als ik al eens op een schoolfeest was geboekt, kende niemand daar mijn muziek. Maar dat is nu wel anders.’’

Nu vechten kinderen elkaar de digitale tent uit om een meet & greet met hem te winnen. Rens van 12 en Siem van 13 bijvoorbeeld zijn via Instagram in de prijzen gevallen en wachten in Saasveld tot ze een arm om zich heen geslagen krijgen van de man die ze thuis zo vaak mogen draaien als ze willen. ‘Mijn moeder vindt het hartstikke mooi, ze zingt het hele nummer mee’, zegt Rens.’’[12]

To conclude, the emphasis on moral rather than doctrinal arguments against the song, the clip and its reception challenges me to reconsider simplistic binaries of diverging signification processes; whereas it is true that the devil is real for some believers and ‘merely metaphorical’ for Jebroer, the response demonstrates that this binary actually informs a much more complex discourse of moral responsibilities and secular configurations of ‘morality’.

This essay was written in the context of an RMA course on Materiality and Corporality in the study of religion. Click here and here for other essays on The Wicker Man (1973) and Beyoncé.


Baumgartner, C. ‘’Is there such a thing as an <<offensive picture>>?’’. In B. Meyer, C. Kruse and A-M. Korte, eds., Taking Offense: Religion, Art, and Visual Culture in Plural Configurations. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2018. 317-339.
Flood, B.F.. ‘’Inciting Modernity? Images, Alterities and the Contexts of ‘’Cartoon Wars’’’’. In P. Spyer and M.M. Seedly, eds., Images that Move. Santa Fé: SAR Press, 2013. 41-72.
Meyer, B. ‘’The Dynamics of Taking Offense. Concluding Thoughts and Outlook’’. In B. Meyer, C. Kruse and A-M. Korte, eds., Taking Offense: Religion, Art, and Visual Culture in Plural Configurations. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2018. 340-372.


[1] https://www.top40.nl/jebroer-and-dj-paul-elstak/kind-van-de-duivel-1-28664. https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jebroer. Both accessed March 18th, 2019.

[2] There are multiple news articles that offer an introduction to the precise nature of the controversies and delineate which Christian groups responded (it concerns groups of people in at least three different Dutch provinces); here I take one from the NOS: https://nos.nl/artikel/2177763-dominees-waarschuwen-voor-hit-van-jebroer.html. In this scrapbook entry I do not focus on the clip, but it has been attached in the WeTransfer folder.

[3] https://www.rd.nl/vandaag/binnenland/optreden-omstreden-rapper-in-hardinxveld-afgelast-1.1392603.
Accessed March 20th, 2019.

[4] C. Baumgartner, ‘’Is there such a thing as an <<offensive picture>>?’’, in B. Meyer, C. Kruse and A-M. Korte, eds., Taking Offense: Religion, Art, and Visual Culture in Plural Configurations (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlah, 2018), 330-31. B. Meyer, ‘’The Dynamics of Taking Offense: Concluding Thoughts and Outlook’’, in B. Meyer, C. Kruse and A-M. Korte, eds., Taking Offense: Religion, Art, and Visual Culture in Plural Configurations (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlah, 2018), 343.

[5] My conception of Baumgartner’s argument is broader and more inclusive, for the lyrics are just as central to the notions of offensiveness that I will unpack. I take it that this broader conception does not undermine the initial argument, since it is [on itself] a broad statement, that is not necessarily coined on any pronounced particularity of imagery as opposed to text.

[6] Jebroer (or Tim Kimman, which is his real name) stated in an interview with the local newspaper AD: ‘’De duivel is voor mij niet meer dan een metafoor, maar ik snap dat als de duivel voor iemand een grote betekenis heeft, hij dat als eng kan ervaren.’’ https://www.ad.nl/rivierenland/rapper-jebroer-in-gesprek-met-hardinxvelders-over-kind-van-de-duivel~afda705e/. Accessed March 19th, 2019.

[7] B.F. Flood, ‘’Inciting Modernity: Images, Alterities and the Contexts of ‘’Cartoon Wars’’’’, In P. Spyer and M.M. Seedly, eds., Images that Move (Santa Fé: SAR Press, 2013), 45.

[8] Here I refer to the two persons whose names were publicly mentioned in several local and national media.

[9] https://www.rd.nl/vandaag/binnenland/optreden-omstreden-rapper-in-hardinxveld-afgelast-1.1392603. Accessed March 18th, 2019.

[10] Jebroer, Je broer, Je zus, Jezus, red.

[11] https://www.rijnmond.nl/nieuws/153787/Kind-van-de-duivel-zorgt-voor-commotie-in-Hardinxveld. Accessed March 24th, 2019.The glorification of alcohol and drugs is also reminiscent of another song that topped the pop charts in 2015: Drank en Drugs by Ronnie Flex and Lil Kleine (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_swivbEsD50). Accessed March 24th, 2019.

[12] https://www.volkskrant.nl/cultuur-media/voor-rapper-jebroer-is-kind-van-de-duivel-een-godsgeschenk-geweest~b9a21f1f/. Accessed March 24th, 2019.

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