Minx takes many qualities familiar to HBO’s programming and puts its own twist on them. The series blends comedy and drama for a character-driven story infused with deeper societal themes important to the overall plot. That alone, however, would not seem to make the series exceptional among the programming juggernaut’s lineup.
But the feminist-infused story takes one element HBO has a long history of and changes its focus in an important way. Gratuituous nudity has a long history even among HBO’s most critically-revered shows, but for the first time Minx makes the male body its focal point.
The term “sexposition,” a portmanteau of “sex” and “exposition” came about largely in reference to HBO shows like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones that often featured nudity on camera in ways not immediately relevant to the story being told. Whether it was a strip club or a brothel, the nudty was a bold background detail that viscerally marked a departure from heavily censored cable fare from other networks. Such details supported the reality of their stories because it is so seldom in reality that nude bodies are always conveniently blocked out of view.
But what is unrealistic, and what Minx course corrects against, is that the overwhelming majority of nudity in previous HBO programs focused on the female body. Far from making nudity incidental, the entire eplot of Minx revolves around its main character, Joyce Prigger, starting the first women’s erotic magazine featuring nude male models. Perfectly aware of how salacious the subject matter is, the real hook of the show is that Prigger is an avid feminist embedding her culturally-conscious message into the magazine so that feminism can reach a wider audience. Minx accomplishes much the same mission, and does so with more full frontal male nudity than any HBO program previously.
Much of the philosophical thrust of Minx, set in the 1970s during the thick of the women’s liberation movement, involves striving toward gender equality by providing women the same opportunities and outlets as men. With women so often subjected to the male gaze in both men’s magazines and mainstream modern television, the goal of Minx ends up working on the dual levels of straightforward narrative and metatextual commentary. Much like the world of erotic publications in the 1970s, the TV of today has a disproportionate amount of female nudity.
Minx hits the ground running in making up for that gap. Its very first episode features an entire montage of full frontal male nudity showing off a startling variety of male genitalia as the main characters audition models for their magazine. The series never lets up from there, either, continuing on through its first season without ever shying away from showing off the male body. Sometimes played for laughs, sometimes played with sensuality, and always played with a sense of purpose to the story, Minx plays overtime in making up for a whole wealth of the human experience that previous programs, despite their commitments elsewhere to immitating reality, too seldom convey.
Minx walks the walk as much as it talks the talk, and perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the show is how it manages to so fully embody its own message. There’s something hypocritical about a series that strives so often to be as realistic a representation of the real world as possible while still disproportionately sexualizing its women for the sake of the viewer. Minx recognizes that gap, and makes up for.
After its renewal for a second season, it’s clear that the series still has plenty more to say. Infusing its important message into such a genuinely entertaining story and cast of characters, Minx does not need to break any new ground in order to continue being such a great show. But given just how groundbreaking its first season proved to be, it very well still could.
HBO’s Minx May Be It’s Most Important Feminist Victory Yet