By: Mikhail Yakovlev
Netflix’s 365 Days has been described by Variety critic Jessica Kiang as “a thoroughly terrible, politically objectionable, occasionally hilarious Polish humpathon.” So, why has this piece of questionable cinema topped the charts as the most-watched film in the UK, US and Australia?
“Up there with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and contents of Area 51 is the mystery of why this execrable piece of Polish soft porn is the No 1 film on Netflix,” jokes Kevin Maher in The Times.
Based on the first in a series of three books by the Polish erotic-fiction author Blanka Lipińska, 365 Days tells the story of a Sicilian mafia boss Massimo Torricelli who sees a beautiful Polish woman Laura Biel, just before his father – the Godfather – gets shot. Five years later, he bumps into Laura and decided to kidnap her. Ever the perfect gentleman, Massimo promises not to touch Laura without her consent and gives her 1 year or 365 days to fall in love with him.
While the presence of the handsome Massimo is undoubtedly pleasing, the actor’s performance does nothing to rescue the plot, equally far-fetched as it is misogynistic. The actors’ performances are jumbled and uncomfortable, their lines banal and hardly believable.
Still more disturbing are the film’s sexual politics, which Kiang describes as “dumber-than-hair.” The film is full of semi-consensual blow jobs and other scenes that glorify sexual assault and Stockholm Syndrome to the point that many are questioning whether Netflix should be giving a platform to such a film in the first place.
“Netflix clearly stands on the side of the abusers by having a movie that glorifies, romanticizes, and condones sexual assault trending on their top 10 recommended movies to watch around the globe,” explains the US-based body-positive influencer Mikayla Zazon, author of one of many change.org petitions that are urging Netflix to remove the film.
A victim of kidnapping and rape herself, the cult Welsh singer Duffy lent her voice to these demands in an open letter to the e-streaming giant’s head honcho Reed Hastings.
“‘365 Days’ glamorizes the brutal reality of sex trafficking, kidnapping and rape. This should not be anyone’s idea of entertainment, nor should it be described as such, or be commercialized in this manner.”
Duffy felt shocked that Netflix did not understand that giving a platform to films that openly push misogynistic narratives is wrong despite recent progress, like the #MeToo movement, and the sobering fact that millions of young women and girls are trafficked every year—and that films, such as this one, work to normalise rather than criticise this practice.
Unfortunately, Netflix is governed by the Internet’s laws of clicks and attention—and, the fact of the matter is 365 Days has done extraordinarily well in markets from the United States to Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both Kiang and Heritage have a theory that audience are “incredibly horny” due to pandemic-mandated isolation, laying the foundation for a soft porn hit that plays to the lowest common denominator and exploits our loneliness.
Of course, non-judgemental and open representations and discussions of a diverse spectrum of sexualities is a beautiful thing and makes for fascinating discoveries and beautiful stories. From interracial romance and homosexuality to consensual BDSM, human sexuality has a place on all of our screens to help us understand ourselves and the world around us better. However, the legitimate concerns of critics like Zazon and Duffy deserve to be heard. It shows that at least for some, 365 Days does not empower women and viewers of other genders to assume control of their bodies and narratives. Instead, the film infantilises women to the status of will-less sex objects and glamorises a violent hetero-patriarchal sexual model. As University of Utah Professor Sarah Projanksy observed in her ground-breaking study Watching Rape, such glamorisation and “the downright exhausting ubiquity of representations of rape”, more broadly, inevitably shapes our desires and perceptions of other people, their sexuality, gender but also race and class.
To sign the petition to remove the film om Netflix, click here if you are based in the US or the UK, and here if you are based in France or Quebec. To read Duffy’s open letter in full, click here.