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'Minx' Season 1 is the Full Package

Dicks. Boobs. Pornography. The first season of HBO Original comedy show Minx utilizes these crass elements typically reserved for behind closed doors to attract viewers to the show. But Minx proves that there is more than meets the eye, much like Joyce Prigger, the protagonist and founder of the titular, fictional magazine.

In the pilot episode, Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) and her magazine (originally titled The Matriarchy Awakens) fail to attract any publishers due to Joyce’s bold personality and the unapologetically feminist foundation of her magazine. In 1970s Los Angeles, no male-run company is comfortable nor willing to stick their neck out for a boundary-pushing magazine with no successful contemporaries. Enter: Bottom Dollar Publication’s Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson).


Joyce and Doug initially clash due to Joyce’s disdain for Doug’s previous work in pornographic magazines. However, sensing the unspoken demand for erotic content aimed toward women, Doug recognizes the business opportunity and convinces Joyce to revamp her scholarly magazine by joining Bottom Dollar and featuring nude images of men. Hence, a direct response to the male gaze.


To get Minx up and running, Doug carves out some office space for Joyce and wrangles together a small team: Bambi, formerly a Bottom Dollar nude model, Ritchie, a photographer, and Tina, Doug’s secretary. Joyce also enlists the help of her older sister Shelly, a mother and wife who is very out of her element but still keen to help Joyce achieve her goals.

Minx’s ensemble cast is one of its greatest strengths. Each character stands out in their own way, equipped with their own unique sense of comedic timing. As a unit, the Minx team works together well to both tone down some of Joyce’s concepts and suggest new ideas that Joyce would not have thought of on her own. They challenge and uplift the others to make Minx the next hot magazine.


As a former country club member and Vassar graduate, Joyce’s introduction to the greasy, lecherous world Doug lives in and embraces is rocky. Police raids and alliances with the Italian and Russian mob are not something she's familiar with, but she realizes playing by Doug’s rules is a compromise she must make in order to publish her life’s work.


Throughout the series, Joyce struggles with compromising her own integrity in a business where sales dictate content. In her past journalism career, Joyce fought and lost to her male counterparts, so she is especially unwilling to follow Doug’s advice. She is also reluctant to suppress her ambitions of liberating women — even if that means butting heads with the person who has given her a platform.

With the creation of Netflix’s GLOW, Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and now Minx, this trend of feminist period dramedies in which a young woman makes a career change into an industry she knows little about is most definitely a trend I welcome it with open arms.


Although it is much more raunchy and outwardly feminist than its predecessors, people who enjoy GLOW and Mrs. Maisel are likely to enjoy Minx. What sets Minx apart (for better or for worse) is that it is shorter, with 30-ish minute sitcom-style episodes, and thus more fast-paced. It also treads lighter on its drama than its peers. Even though it's only on its first season (with still no promise of continuation), the writers planted seeds for character backstories and growth. For now, the Minx team is reduced to a few broader characterizations.


Although the show covers serious topics concerning women’s rights and women’s safety, it never loses its playfulness. It also expertly utilizes its 1970s setting. Every new costume is exciting, the studio space of Bottom Dollar is a real-life search-and-find picture book. Additionally, the inclusion of real-world historical figures in the series, which can sometimes come off as shameless nostalgia bait, actually enhances the experience. It may rub others the wrong way, but my overall lack of knowledge about ’70s pop culture gave me a lot of interesting things to Google during the show.


In the first half of the season, Minx faces multiple technical challenges that are loosely tied to the overarching feminist theme, but once the magazine becomes a national sensation, the social backlash becomes the primary conflict. Evidently, men who believe the world works perfectly as-is are intimidated by the change that Joyce proposes in her articles. However, most interestingly, Minx isn't well-received by fellow feminists, either.

College-aged critics of the magazine argue that there should be a better representation of queer, BIPOC, and working-class women. They essentially dub Joyce a white feminist for mainly writing about heterosexual relationships and sex-positivity with a one-note perspective. Although the concept that college progressives are not pragmatic is poked fun at from time to time, I think that is a valid analysis against both the magazine Minx and the show Minx. It brings about many questions about representation. Should oppression against minorities be explored in Minx if there are no writers from that underrepresented group? We’re all well aware of the representation debate, so I won’t elaborate on that point. But as the show progresses, these queer and BIPOC issues gain more recognition, and I am looking forward to seeing how they are handled in later hypothetical seasons.


The potential practically oozes out of this show. Just like Joyce’s magazine, it is fresh (and would be even fresher if SexEducation didn’t exist), fun, and has a strong foundation for future seasons to explore the secondary characters' dreams in addition to more diverse issues. It has been a long time since I was this excited for the next season of a series, and I will be singing the praises of the show to anyone who will listen.


-Grace

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