There’s a Pretty Woman-esque shopping montage and a dash of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic with Jung’s father fixation, ultimately climaxing in a very long scene on a very big boat which will save you from having to read the Kama Sutra. It’s a far more explicit version of Fifty Shades of Grey, but with 50 less shades of grey when it comes to consent, one of the most disturbing elements of the film.
But if we’re not turned on, why aren’t we turning it off? Humankind has long produced erotica, and E.L. James’ sexy trilogy starting with Fifty Shades of Grey in 2011 introduced BDSM-lite to a mainstream audience and turned softcore pornography into popular culture.
We’re still hot and heavy for the trend. As CBD recently revealed, News Corporation Australia’s broadcasting boss and key advisor to Lachlan Murdoch, Siobhan McKenna, is the latest to get down and dirty with her erotic novel, about high-flying executive Charles Edgeware, Man in Armour. In one graphic scene in the novel, involving bamboo chopsticks, sushi and sake, it is distressingly difficult to follow what it is that’s being eaten. “He was hungry. And she was inventive,” McKenna writes.
Novelist John Purcell, who wrote the bestselling erotic trilogy The Secret Lives of Emma under the alias Natasha Walker, credits the popularity of 365 Days, which is based on a trilogy of Polish novels, to the fact that many people lead sexless lives and the coronavirus pandemic has not proven an aphrodisiac.
“People in lockdown have already put up with so much, why not persevere with a terribly acted, horribly scripted train wreck of a film for the chance of feeling a little bit naughty?” Purcell said.
Feminist erotic filmmaker Anna Brownfield, who runs Poison Apple Productions, said 365 Days also offers a chance for viewers to explore BDSM or fetishes without any guilt because its on a mainstream platform. It’s the modern equivalent of watching sexy late-night foreign films on SBS. While acknowledging the troubling elements of the film, Brownfield said such erotica can offer a safe way for individuals and couples to explore their sexuality.
“If it opens up conversation and people get a chance to explore their sexuality in a safe, sane and consensual manner, I am for it,” Brownfield said.
It could also be the sign of a gap in the market, Brownfield said. With pornography so accessible on the internet, people might be looking for more performative sexuality with a distinct visual look and style.
While memes from 365 Days have proliferated – particularly from the moment when the great Massimo asks his captive, “Are you lost, baby girl?” – there has been backlash. There’s a change.org petition to have the show removed for glorifying human trafficking and Stockholm syndrome, and Welsh singer-songwriter Duffy has also spoken out about the show’s glamourisation of rape after recently revealing her own horrifying experience of being “raped, drugged, and held captive”.
But writer Linda Jaivin, whose debut feminist comic-erotic novel Eat Me was an international bestseller, said perhaps there is some value to be gained from poking fun at such ludicrous erotica.
“In some ways, ridicule is more effective than sanctimonious condemnation,” Jaivin said. “Actual kidnap and rape is not funny, but to watch this like a parody is the healthy way to watch it if you really must watch. I don’t know how anyone can watch it without fast-forwarding, it’s so bad.”
Melanie Kembrey is Spectrum Deputy Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald.