Well hey there, groovy Unicorns? What’s shakin’? You good? Out of sight.
Now I know that these days the era of choice in the nostalgia zeitgeist is the ‘90s (and maybe the early ‘00s, but that’s mostly getting mocked (rightly) for some of its heinous sartorial choices), but there’s a lot to be said for perhaps the most solid of all decades — the 1970s. Sure, the Cold War had some hot spots, the gas shortage threw everyone for a loop and social justice issues weren’t delivering on the promise the ‘60s made, but there is still much to examine and enjoy about this particular era. For one, there were many more open discussions about sex (not perfect or inclusive, but compared to the buttoned-up decades of yore), and that’s what is the particular fascination of the new HBO Max series, Minx.
Before I dive too deeply into today’s subject matter, I should give a few disclaimers. First and foremost, a few content warnings: this show does have scenes that depict sexual harassment as well as lots (and lots, and LOTS) of nudity, and a brief scene of drunk driving. I should also note that this review will contain SPOILERS up to and including the season one finale. Finally, if this is your first time around these parts and you’re wondering what this metric is all about, I highly suggest checking out our page here.
Everything copacetic? Slammin.’ Now let’s fire up the fondue, don those bell bottom jeans, and I’ll give you the skinny.
Minx is a comedy orbiting around the life of Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond), an ambitious magazine editor and fierce Second-Wave feminist hellbent on getting her dream project, a ‘zine by women and for women, sold and on shelves. Trouble is, the only buyer is publisher Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson), a porn mag distributor. After some back-and-forth, the pair and the motley crew at Renetti’s Bottom Dollar Publishing realize that blending the two interests can launch a whole new genre to an untapped audience of liberated women in America — essentially the feminine answer to Playboy, both in style and substance.
What I Liked:
At first I was surprised that, in the seasons final two episodes, model and centerfold coordinator Bambi (Jessica Lowe) and Joyce’s big sis, housewife Shelly (Lennon Parham), we got thrown into a budding romance between these seemingly polar opposite characters. But the more that I gave it some thought, the more it made sense.
In the world of Minx, any and all of the female characters are given full development yet solid viewpoints on the spectrum of feminism — both from lived experience and from being open to experiences from others. Because of this, a non-judgmental dynamic quickly springs up between Bambi and Shelly. We not only see various adventures crop up between the two of them (who hasn’t shared a night in jail with a new bestie?) but watch as they can share on surprising shared experiences.
I really love how these two archetypes of characters are really given much more room to grow than is typically given to them in a period comedy. Shelly isn’t just a bored housekeeper and mother, but openly encouraging not only of sister Joyce going for the melding of the world of porn with her progressive magazine and can give excellent advice on which vibe can “push you over the edge.” Bambi, who in other comedies would easily be dismissed as the breathy but emptyheaded blonde bombshell, gets to spread her wings and learn how to pitch ideas, put together an entirely new type of photoshoot, and even calm down the occasional mob. Not only that, but we get to learn about unexpected corners of her past through throwaway lines — most people wouldn’t expect Bambi to have been born in Kuala Lumpur and spent some time at Juilliard before her current line of work, but a show like Minx allows for much more than queer identity to be the beginning and end of why we find a character to be interesting. And that’s because this unique show is a sex-positive workplace comedy in the most unlikely of locations that fosters equal exchanges of ideas and the idea that anyone can have room to grow if they’re given a chance.
As for the beginning of this budding romance, I rather appreciate that we don’t quite know where it’s going to go after this first adult sleepover between the two characters. This all seems to be very new for Shelly (though, important note, she’s the one who made the first move) but a natural progression for Bambi — whom both actor Lowe and series creator Ellen Rapaport agree has had every kind of sexual experience and is definitely queer. And considering that the storyline is based on a real-life development from a staff writer’s mother’s life during this era, so it remains to be seen if art will imitate life.
Still: I loved watching this gentle, natural, tender progression of a relationship. In a show that’s about introducing erotica magazines to a female audience after Burt Reynolds bared (nearly) all on a bearskin rug, cutting away from the characters’ most intimate moments feels almost revelatory.
And hey! Lookit that! Not one queer person has died! What a concept!
What I Didn't Like:
C’mon, man. Just one hit of the word “bi.” You know I’m good for it!
Minx has no excuse here. We have a prominently out and proud gay character in photographer Richie (Oscar Montoya), and we’re a good 80 years after the word “bi” was invented. This isn’t out of the realm of possibility for someone to use. Hell’s bells, I’m surprised Bi Babes Quarterly isn’t one of Doug’s regular periodicals! (Not suggesting this as a fetishization, of course — I just wanna see the damn word come out of a character’s mouth.)
On smaller notes, not really a fan of seeing Bambi drunk driving, even if briefly. Or the fact that this may be the beginning of an affair for Shelly. But honestly, much more bothered about not using “bi” because I ship these two so hard.
What we have between Shelly and Bambi is a damn good start at what a bi love story would have looked like fifty years ago in Los Angeles. What I’m hoping for is that Shelly doesn’t retreat to her secure (but lifeless) heteronormative life and she is brave enough to explore this side of her sexuality. Bambi is clearly game — and, if Shelly follows her heart, the two would make a dynamic duo. While as of writing time the show has not yet been renewed, executive producer Paul Feig has reported that Rapaport has the next 2-3 season arcs ready to go.
I, for one, hope this wasn’t a one-off expression used as a cliffhanger and then never discussed again. But from what I’ve seen of the rest of the freshman season, Rapaport has well-thought-out plans for these feisty queer characters. I can’t wait to see where they go next.