I'm a recent graduate of United World College Costa Rica, and I'm curious about making links between things.
It’s no secret that one of the best ways to pass time is by finding a nice show or movie on Netflix (or your preferred streaming service) to occupy your time. While doing this, I stumbled across the movie 365 DNI. It just came out on Netflix Nigeria and I was bored, so I decided to give it a chance. The movie is about an Italian mobster named Massimo who kidnaps a girl named Laura and gives her 365 days to fall in love with him. If by then she hasn’t fallen in love with him, he returns her home; if she does, they live happily ever after. I believe that the movie was intended to be edgy and play off the ‘nice-girl-next-door meets bad boy’ storyline, but I found it quite problematic because in the process of doing all that, it glorifies dangerous behaviours exhibited by men, making it an obstacle to efforts focused on redefining manhood and relationships with women.
By romanticizing the abduction of a woman, the movie promotes dangerous ideas about male entitlement. At the beginning of the movie, Massimo is mortally wounded in a drug-related attack. However, he survives and he claims that he saw Laura’s face as a hovered between life and death. This in itself is not problematic. The part of this that becomes problematic is when he devotes his life to finding her, and eventually drugging and transporting her across international borders (from Poland to Italy) in a bid to win her over. In real-life, this would likely be termed as international trafficking, but in 365 DNI, this is romantic and shows Massimo’s devotion to Laura. More importantly, the people who work for him just turn a blind eye and act like this is perfectly normal, even his lawyer who is supposed to be the voice of reason. The romanticization of her kidnapping is dangerous because of the message it sends out to young children who might watch it. It objectifies women by portraying them as commodities, sending the message to young girls that they have no agency over their bodies. In boys, it promotes the idea that boys should be willing to go to any length to get a girl’s attention, regardless of resulting trauma that could ensue. This could lead to boys normalizing violent behaviour towards women. Overall, it could allow children to internalize such relationship dynamics as the norm, promoting toxic behaviour in interpersonal relationships.
Glorifying Gender Stereotypes
Besides normalizing toxic behaviour in relationships, the movie employs harmful gender stereotypes in telling its story. In the movie, Massimo controls every aspect of their ‘relationship’, often pushing Laura’s feelings to the side, and is physically aggressive towards her. Despite this, he tries to portray himself as a gentleman, as he’s quick to emphasize that ‘he won’t do anything without her permission’. In contrast, Laura has very little power in the relationship. The only time she has the upper-hand is when it comes to sex, because it is the only thing that Massimo can’t provide for himself. The portrayal of their relationship is harmful because of its support of gender stereotypes. The portrayal of Massimo in their ‘relationship’ shows boys that it’s okay to leverage economic resources (or other means) to demand submission from women, and that a ‘yes’ given under duress is acceptable. This is in direct opposition to what consent teaches and portends danger to girls navigating the world of sexual relationships. On the other hand, the portrayal of Laura in the relationship objectifies women by promoting the idea that a woman’s strength lies in her ability to provide sexual pleasure. Both of these portrayals are harmful because they put children in danger of internalizing gender stereotypes that have harmed women for years.
Despite their role in promoting toxic behaviors and gender stereotypes, the most damaging feature of the movie is how it uses Stockholm Syndrome to give the movie meaning. As stated earlier, Laura was kidnapped from Poland and she spent time with Massimo (who desperately tried to pass himself off as a gentleman). In addition to this, Massimo often took her shopping and took her out to all sorts of places. Suffice to say, by the end of the movie, she has fallen in love with him. This is the use of Stockholm Syndrome, i.e., a captive forming an emotional and psychological attachment with their captors, regardless of the danger said captor poses. This is damaging to portray because Stit humanizes Massimo and makes us forget the problematic nature of their relationship. Thus, Massimo goes from being a kidnapper to being a knight who won over a princess. In reality, this could make people sympathize with the people who are violent towards women, making it harder for women to seek redress for violent actions taken against them. Moreover, it takes away the burden of accountability from men. By showing Laura get won over through some good times and shopping trips, it gives boys the idea that they can treat girls any way they want and get away with it as long as they engage in some type of restorative action. What this does is that it minimizes the trauma caused by violence towards women, negating its importance as important mental health and social issue. Overall, the use of Stockholm Syndrome normalizes violence towards women, making it harder for them to seek redress or help when necessary.
To wrap things up, it’s clear that the plot of 365 DNI has a detrimental effect on the movement to redefine gender relationships by glorifying the very things that the movement is against, particularly violence against women. This should serve as a wake-up call that we need to be careful about what we consume because a wise man once said ‘we are what we consume’, and anyone consuming this will certainly have the wrong idea about manhood and relationships.