The Unrealized Potential of “Minx”

Anika Reads
5 min readApr 27, 2022

The HBO show about porn proves…dated and cringe-y

Here’s the thing: I really wanted to like “Minx.” On the surface of it, it has all the things I love:

  • An independent female protagonist who wants to chart her own future in the world of publishing (A+ that it’s the golden age of magazines, an era long gone by the time I graduated into working in the genre)
  • A subversive re-examination of gender roles and the idea of the objectifying gaze
  • A setting far enough in the past that you could call it a “period series”
  • A lengthy montage, early in season 1, that basically features a host of male actors stripping down while the camera zooms in on their dicks. In theory, this montage represents the centerfold audition for “Minx” magazine, a think-y feminist mag that mixes reporting on marital rape with images of…well, dicks. I wanted to embed this montage, but — unsurprisingly — it turns out, it’s not on YouTube (but searching YT for “penis” was a fun five minutes I need never repeat). I did find this lovely video instead:

Unfortunately, the show’s values and script are possibly even more dated than its 1970s setting.

The basic plot: “Minx” is about an aspiring magazine editor — Joyce Prigger, a name I literally could not make up — who’s been working on her feminist masterpiece, “The Matriarchy Awakens” since the seventh grade. She has fantasies of being feted by Gloria Steinem at the Pulitzer Prize ceremonies. Unfortunately, Joyce can’t sell the concept behind “The Matriarchy Awakens” to a publisher, because the men of the magazine world find it too “angry.” In waltzes the greasy king of porno, Doug Renetti, who runs “Bottom Dollar” publications and has made his fortune with titles like “Milky Moms.” He wants to take a shot at “The Matriarchy Awakens” but retitle it “Minx” and hide the brainy content behind crotch shots. His advertisers all want to reach a female demographic. Joyce — against her better judgment but on the advice of her delightful sister — agrees to the deal, even though she feels like she’s compromising her values.

From there, several things just go terribly wrong with this series.

The Joyce and Doug Dynamic. The show wants to play Doug and Joyce as foils, but instead of an intriguing or witty relationship, the two basically spend the first three episodes rehashing the same charmless fight in which Joyce is offended by sex and Doug plays the hulking caveman. Snooze-fest, and not just because the dynamic doesn’t budge.

Joyce is a joyless stereotype. Even Doug criticizes Joyce for being “angry”, which is a tedious trope par excellence. Yes, “The Matriarchy Awakens” doesn’t exactly sound like a beach read, but in the 2020s, watching a man berate a woman for writing about marital rape in a “shouty” way feels utterly tone-deaf. Then there’s the fact that Joyce herself is self-righteous and annoying in just about every possible “campus feminist” way. But this show isn’t trying to lampoon stereotypes, it’s merely relying on them instead of being original.

It doesn’t actually want to talk about female desire, like at all. As you might expect in a show like this, one of the plot points turns on Joyce accepting her role as an agent of porno. An early and tragic story arc focuses on — wait for it — her affair with the brainless centerfold model they hire for “Minx’s” first cover. I don’t know what part of this premise is more annoying. The fact that Joyce is terrified of her sexual side (Doug’s memorable mansplain: “you’re afraid of that side of you because you think it makes you seem weak” honestly landed), brags about how she doesn’t know anyone who uses sex toys (SERIOUSLY?) or the centerfold model himself: a beautiful dolt who can barely pronounce the word “patriarchy” (an insulting and harmful trope, honestly). Later on, Joyce tells the model that he was “by far the best” of her four lovers. I find this a weird and fucked up situation, tbh. While I laud a show that takes as a given that straight women enjoy ogling hot dudes as much as straight men like ogling hot women, equating a rock-hard six-pack with endless orgasms seems like the wrong train to get on. If this affair is supposed to represent Joyce finally coming to terms with her own desire, there’s nowhere near enough in the text to back it up. While male centerfold #2 bucks the trend by quoting from textbooks about renaissance Italian art, it doesn’t seem like this show has any interest in exploring what it means to be on either side of the sexual gaze. Yawn. And anyway, Joyce’s born-again virgin act is not particularly inspiring. It was the 70s. Surely, they had other options?

It gets worse…because then we delve once more into the realm of the absurd. Joyce’s sister Shelly— an overworked suburban housewife — confides that she uses sex toys because she can’t have orgasms with her husband. This common situation becomes a problem to be solved, and who offers to solve it but Bambi (another name I could not make up) the female centerfold model who is trying to make a career shift from nude modeling to…literally anything else in the magazine industry. I’m not entirely sure why “Minx” doesn’t want to depict a female model who enjoys her work (maybe that’s a real stretch) or at least examine the structures that stigmatize it, but that’s a problem for another day, because we have a bigger problem now. Bambi’s proposed fix for the sister’s dilemma is to stage a cheesy boudoir-themed photo shoot. GUYS. Like, the solution to Shelly’s problem of her sex life being all about her husband’s satisfaction is to make it even more about his satisfaction? Like how will a sexy photo of herself help her get off? What is going on here?? It turns out that this shitty premise is actually a thinly veiled setup for another shitty premise, in which Bambi and Shelly end up having sex in the middle of the photo shoot. I’m going to be honest: the stifled suburban housewife experimenting with the sexually adventurous centerfold model in the middle of a lingerie shoot is like…the type of situation that even straight porn would acknowledge is tediously overripe. And yet, “Minx” spends an entire serious-seeming story arc on it. The closest thing to a lesbian encounter in this show is a lame scene between two chicks who see themselves as straight. I get this isn’t the L Word, but this goes back to my initial complaint about this show, above: it doesn’t actually examine real female desire. Even the dicks are basically an absurdist shock tactic, because the show then devolves to putting men and their bare bodies into neatly squared-off set pieces that no one dwells too long on.

And the sad part is, if not riddled with literally every cliche and then a few more, this premise had so much to sell it.



Anika Reads

Reader, gamer, sci-fi/fantasy nerd, reviewer. I love great stories, regardless of medium. This account is for honest reviews, observations, and critiques.