The Man With 1000 Kids on Netflix review: a story to chill the blood


This is a story to chill the blood: a cautionary tale about the perils of the modern age.

The focus of the documentary is Jonathan Jacob Meijer, who has made headlines recently for being banned from donating sperm. Yes, he is the man with the 1,000 kids in the show’s title – though it quickly becomes apparent that he has no idea how many he actually has.

Though it could sound funny, this new three-part series quickly shows us it’s actually anything but.

One after the other, we’re taken into the lives of the people he affected – from couples Suzanne and Natalie to Joyce and John and solo parents including Vanessa.

They all had one thing in common: they were longing for a baby and unwilling to pay for an expensive clinic in the Netherlands, where they lived, for multiple reasons. “I want to look the sperm donor in the eye and see if his personality fits my personality,” says Natalie: something anonymous donations wouldn’t have let her do.

Instead, they found him on the website Longing for A Child. Things started well. He was enthusiastic and handsome, “like a Viking”, as one says. He had a long mane of blonde hair that many apparently found dazzling – and even better, said he only wanted to father five children. Ten max.

He was keen to have children both “naturally” (yuck) and via insemination, and sure enough, children quickly started to be born. Very quickly. The law in the Netherlands states that the maximum number of kids one sperm donor can father is 25, but as the new parents were to slowly discover, Meijer had in fact been much busier.

John and Joyce (Netflix)
John and Joyce (Netflix)

Things spiral from there. From five, to 10, to hundreds. Children were soon popping up all over the Netherlands (one mother recounts seeing a child exactly like hers at their kindergarten and realising they shared the same father) – and abroad, too. And when they confronted Meijer, he turned nasty.

As the documentary recounts in gleeful detail, that’s not even the worst of it. The word ‘incest’ is used a staggering number of times across the three episodes (genetic incest among unwitting siblings is apparently a real problem), and sequence of images showing a pot, a syringe, a scan and a crying baby flashes up again and again, like the show is trying to pound it into our eyeballs.

It’s undoubtedly fascinating viewing, albeit in a very grim way – and the revelations about sperm donation (and Meijers’ way of doing it) horrifying. Is showing the documentary even the ethical thing to do, given the way it highlights the loopholes in the sperm donation industry?

And who is Meijer? The show struggles to answer the question. We see clips of his video log, of him grinning awkwardly against a backdrop of cityscapes. We hear speculative insights from women he knew – one posits that he was lonely as a child. We see texts he sent.

But we never actually hear from him, as he declined to comment for the documentary. Which leaves the show feeling somewhat empty, like there’s a void at its heart.

Why did he feel like he could sleep with desperate women? Why is he still donating sperm despite multiple court orders? “He’s addicted to having children,” one of the parents says, and what is the cost?

The Man With 1000 Kids is streaming now on Netflix