Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Man With 1000 Kids’ On Netflix, A Docuseries About A Prolific Sperm Donor And The Parents Who Felt He Lied To Them

The Man With 1000 Kids, directed by Josh Allott, documents the trail of children created by prolific Dutch sperm donor Jonathan Jacob Meijer, and the families who feel like Meijer lied to them about how prolific a donor he really was.

Opening Shot: A shot of a baby. As a narrator tells us that “the average couple has 2.3 children in their lifetime. But the record that one couple is thought to have had is over 40.” As we pan out and see dozens of babies, the narrator that “there is a man alive today who may have fathered over 1000 children.”

The Gist: The filmmakers start in The Netherlands, Meijer’s native country, and talks to couples and single mothers who turned to a sperm donor because either they had trouble conceiving or just needed to find a donor. Meijer, a YouTube influcencer who traveled around the world for his videos, was charming and handsome with long, wavy blonde hair. He often did his donations privately, arranged with the prospective parents. He would offer to donate the sperm “naturally” (i.e. via intercourse), and some clients took him up on the offer, but most had him leave a sample, and would inseminate themselves at home (or in the car, as one prospective mother recalled).

Meijer also donated to sperm banks all over The Netherlands, against the country’s rules that limit the number of sperm banks one man can work with. There are also supposed to be limits on how many children a donor can father, with the rationale being that the more people with one man’s DNA that are out there, the more of a chance that down the line, two people will engage in a sexual relationship and creating children, not knowing that they are half-siblings (a concept called consanguinity, according to a fertility doctor that the filmmakers interviewed).

Meijer told the families that are interviewed that he had fathered about 25 children. But through investigation and discussion in a Facebook group populated by parents that used his DNA, he possibly fathered over 100 children in The Netherlands alone. But remember, he’s a world traveler, and the show follows his trail to Australia and talks to parents there that used his DNA to conceive.

The Man With 1000 Kids
Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The Man With 1000 Kids is made by the same filmmakers as the film Lover, Stalker, Killer. It uses a lot of the same storytelling devices as that film, including the real people who are involved in the story doing reenactments. Lance Oppenheim’s outstanding documentary, SPERMWORLD, takes a look at the subject from an entirely different perspective.

Our Take: There are certainly negative ramifications to what Meijer was doing with his sperm donations, and the filmmakers on The Man With 1000 Kids lays them out. He lied to families in order to get them to trust him, and by fathering more children than the regulations in The Netherlands allow, there is a higher chance that consanguinity can happen.

The families who are interviewed are rightfully angry that Meijer lied to them, and that their kids might have dozens of half-siblings around. In one of the parents’ cases, she knew someone who also used a sperm donor, and they both ended up using Meijer.

But one of the big problems in this documentary is that we don’t hear from Meijer himself, as he refused to participate. However, he has talked about the docuseries, and he feels that the filmmakers purposely found the few families angry with him among the over 500 (!) that received his sperm. The filmmakers refute this, saying they’ve talked to dozens of families who were angry with Meijer’s conduct and petitioned to the courts in their various countries to get him to stop donating.

It feels like the filmmakers are leaning a bit too hard on the speculative parts of Meijer’s story without dealing with the facts they actually know. Even by calling the show The Man With 1000 Kids is purely speculative; it’s an estimate based on where he’s traveled and the reports of where he donated.

One of the things we wanted to hear more about is the actual scientific and emotional implications of Meijer’s activity. What are the real chances that consanguinity can happen, especially in a smaller country like The Netherlands? Is there an emotional toll that this knowledge might take on not only the parents but eventually the kids? And what can really be done to bring someone like Meijer, who doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything wrong, in line?

The fact that Meijer doesn’t feel he’s doing anything wrong also speaks to a psychological profile that desperately needs to be explored. He feels he’s helping people start or continue families. That kind of savior complex is something that we needed to hear about. He truly feels he’s doing good deeds, even if the totality of what he’s doing is ultimately damaging. Maybe the other two episodes of the series will touch on that, but we have our doubts.

Man holding baby in The Man with 1000 kids.
Photo: Netflix

Sex and Skin: None, besides views of pregnant bellies in archival photos.

Parting Shot: In the now-rote end-of-episode “twist”, two Australian mothers sit down to talk about how they used Meijer’s sperm to conceive.

Sleeper Star: Suzanne and Natalie were definitely the most vocal couple/parents to talk to the filmmakers. Natalie said that she exclaimed “What the actual fuck” when she heard about Meijer’s exploits.

Most Pilot-y Line: The reenactments are annoying, but if you’ve read any of our docuseries reviews, you knew that more than likely we’d think that.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Because the series is so one-sided and speculative, The Man With 1000 Kids has to be seen with a bit of jaundiced eye. But that doesn’t keep us from being fascinated at the results of what happens when one man feels the need to donate his sperm everywhere he can.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.

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