HBO has long been credited with shaping the television landscape as we know it. More recently, it has been credited with something equally revolutionary: levelling the playing field for nudity. After years of women’s naked bodies being objectified on our screens, men are finally also baring all. From the Harry Goldenblatt reveal on And Just Like That to the myriad members of Euphoria, the era of dicks has arrived. And no show is doing more for this moment than Minx.
Staunch second-wave feminist Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond) takes her magazine prototype The Matriarchy Awakens to the 1971 Southern California Magazine Pitch festival, where her dreams are patronisingly crushed. That is, until she meets porn publisher Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson), who wants to make the magazine happen.
But there’s a catch: The Matriarchy Awakens would be rebranded to become the first women’s erotic magazine, the titular Minx. Doug’s rationale? Joyce wants equality and he’s offering it: “Why is it fair and equal that a guy has 12 places to go to see a pair of titties, but a woman has nowhere to go to see a dong?” It’s a succinct argument and it’s fun to watch Joyce, a fish out of water as an uptight feminist in the porn industry, wrestle with her desire to make her magazine and the realities of the market.
Minx is loosely based on the creation of Playgirl, and Doug’s Bottom Dollar Publishing has a lively staff: Bambi (Jessica Lowe), a blonde bimbo with an open heart and inquiring mind; Richie (Oscar Montoya), a gay photographer; and Tina (Idara Victor), a sharpshooting Black woman and Doug’s righthand woman. And Doug himself, who is quick to remind Joyce he is the money behind the venture – so Minx better not fail.
So what about the part about the male parts? As Bambi puts it: “There’s shorties, fatties, long ones and flatties…”, and from the first episode, Minx has them all. From casting calls to centrefold photoshoots, the dicks are everywhere and this may shock audiences (at least initially). This is a comedy, after all.
But Minx is also a metacommentary, a knowing wink to the politics of objectification and small-screen nudity. Joyce is championing a magazine that will “establish the female gaze … at the exciting intersection between feminism and eroticism”. By episode five, a centrefold based on Michelangelo’s David is literally – and figuratively – taken “off the pedestal”, showing Minx is about normalising sex and gender politics, equality and nudity.
The show’s beige seventies hues infer a triumphant nostalgia. Remember magazines? Remember porn before the internet? Or a time when you couldn’t get the pill? Remember when girlbosses in woollen pant suits weren’t taken seriously? But don’t let the pussybow blouses fool you, for Minx also has an eye on how far we have to go. Joyce’s quips about “abolishing gender distinctions [being] squarely in the zeitgeist” could still be uttered today. Peripheral character councilwoman Bridget Westbury (Amy Landecker) reminds us that many women in power uphold paternalistic and patriarchal traditions in office. And the female gaze is still predominantly a white one.
Created by Ellen Rappaport, with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig serving as executive producer, Minx is very funny, if light. Lovibond’s passionate and uptight Joyce plays well off her co-stars. Taylor Zakhar Perez’s turn as Shane Brody, Minx’s first cover star and super-sweet himbo, is amusing. But even pantless firefighter Shane is upstaged by Jake Johnson as Doug at every turn: he is endlessly charismatic, playing Doug with the right amount of smarm and charm that is beyond endearing.
In the first five episodes available for review, Joyce is still learning to loosen up. With that comes limitations. Minx’s collation, publication and distribution is delayed by a series of philosophical quandaries, local political interference and a disagreement with the mafia. But what happens when the magazine is released to the world? The first half of the season, while fun, feels a little insular. It could be that Minx will become a great show that, once taken off its dick-baring pedestal, is more than just a fairly run-of-the-mill comedy – but unlike the many images of male genitalia in Minx, that’s yet to be seen.