When it comes to your dreams, how big a compromise is too big? Does the compromise make your goal no longer worthwhile? Can you still consider yourself liberated if you still have to figure out your new identity?
These are some of the questions that Minx, a new show on HBO Max created by Ellen Rapoport, promises to answer. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, Minx follows Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond), a young and stubborn feminist, determined to sell her magazine The Matriarchy Awakens at all costs. She refers to this endeavor as her life’s work more than once, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Glenn (Michael Angarano), who has taken the traditional route of rising through the ranks at a publication rather than starting his own. Moments into their first interaction, it’s clear that Joyce has outgrown Glenn, a relic of her more conservative upbringing filled with country clubs and Nixon voters.
Tired of working for Teen Queen magazine, Joyce attends the Southern California Magazine Pitch Festival, hoping to find a publisher who’ll take a chance on The Matriarchy Awakens. Of course, the only person who seems even remotely interested is smut peddler Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson), who Joyce met and wrote off before the festival began. Despite that – and much to Joyce’s surprise – Doug actually takes the time to read The Matriarchy Awakens, deciding he’d like to publish it…provided he can literally fill it with naked men.
As Doug explains to a flabbergasted Joyce, “You gotta hide the medicine. It’s like when you give a dog a pill and you gotta hide it in peanut butter first.” His explanation makes sense, but Joyce isn’t willing to compromise at first. She can’t believe that any woman would be interested in a magazine like what Doug’s suggesting, and further believes that adding an erotic element to The Matriarchy Awakens would cheapen the work she’s trying to do. Eventually, though, spurred on by encouragement from her sister Shelly (Lennon Parham) and Doug’s willingness to fund the first three issues, Joyce decides to give his idea a try.
Her first day in the office introduces her to a fun group of supporting characters, including Bambi (Jessica Lowe), a model for some of Doug’s other magazines and Joyce’s new centerfold coordinator; Tina (Idara Victor), Doug’s long-time secretary; and Richie (Oscar Montoya), the only photographer they could get who would agree to photograph dongs.
If there’s one thing Minx‘s first two episodes make wildly clear, it’s that Joyce is uncomfortable with her own sexuality. She has to confront her discomfort head-on, and in multiple ways – along with her preconceived notions about Doug and his staff and the way that she still views the world. Joyce is thrown by the ease with which her new co-workers discuss what women find sexy, especially when her answers differ from the ideas everyone else pitches for the centerfold. When asked what turns her on, Joyce realizes she simply isn’t sure. That is, until she meets the model who eventually graces their centerfold, firefighter Shane (Taylor Zakhar Perez).
A show about a feminist in the 1970s could, depending on who the main character is, be liable to get preachy. Fortunately, Joyce’s preachier moments are part of the joke: when Joyce corrects Doug’s pronunciation of “Proust,” he responds, “Do people enjoy your company?”
But I found Joyce for the most part rather endearing, thanks largely to Lovibond’s portrayal. Joyce’s reluctance to lean into the part of herself that wants to enjoy sex, her surprise that Bambi is so interested in learning more about feminism, even her desire to advertise high-end products in the magazine rather than the sex toys that Doug is able to get on board – they’re all examples of a woman whose heart is in the right place, but who’s clearly still a work in progress. As much as Joyce wants to call herself a liberated woman, she’s not an expert on what liberation might mean. Minx establishes itself as the story of how she continues to learn and grow on this path with the help of an unexpected group of people.
After two episodes, I’d say the show is off to a solid start. Lovibond and Johnson play off each other well, and I’m excited to see how Joyce and Doug’s working relationship continues, given its somewhat rocky start. There are bound to be more missteps from both of them along the way, especially as Joyce realizes that she needs Doug a lot more than she’d like to admit: he knows the business she wants to be in, and he’s one of the few men in publishing who takes her seriously.
Another point in Minx’s favor is its fun cast of side characters who, unlike Joyce, seem to be rather secure in who they are. I hope they’re given their own moments to shine along the journey as well, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“A promising start and a fun premise”
Dir: Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Prod: Ellen Rapoport; Paul Feig; Dan Magnante; Ben Karlin; Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Cast: Ophelia Lovibond; Jake Johnson; Idara Victor; Jessica Lowe; Lennon Parham; Michael Angarano; Oscar Montoya
Release Date: March 17, 2022
Available On: HBO Max