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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Something to talk about

Google the Omniscient doesn’t seem to know if it was Henry Ford, P.T. Barnum, or somebody else entirely who first declared, “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they keep talking.”

Regardless, it’s a sentiment that must appeal to the makers of Netflix’s new adaptation of Persuasion. Because despite all the fan-hate directed at the two-and-a-half-minute trailer . . . despite the many, many brutally negative reviews of the full-length film . . . despite all the claims that poor, dead Jane Austen must be whirling in her grave . . . or perhaps because of these very phenomena . . . Persuasion was the second-most-watched English-language movie on Netflix last week.

And it wasn’t just popular in the United States, where it clocked in at number five on the Netflix Top 10 list for July 11-17. No, the film hit Netflix’s Top 10 in eighty-seven countries, from places where you might expect enthusiasm for a screen version of a classic British novel (the UK, Australia) to places where you might not (who knew there were Janeites in Ecuador, Morocco, Iceland, and Vietnam?) The film’s success is especially impressive considering that it wasn’t even available for streaming until Friday, more than halfway through the week.

It’s unclear whether all the people who tuned in to see Dakota Johnson’s Anne Elliot break the fourth wall while cuddling a rabbit actually finished seeing the movie: Netflix totals up the hours watched but doesn’t reveal how many customers stayed till the end. And of course it’s impossible to tell how many of the people who invested a collective 28.7 million hours in Persuasion liked director Carrie Cracknell’s modernized-but-not-too-modern take on Austen’s last completed novel.

But as Henry Ford--or P.T. Barnum, or somebody--once said: Who cares if they liked it? They watched it.


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