Since its premiere on HBO Max last month, the 1970s workplace comedy “Minx” has become a critical and social media darling. The series follows the creation of the nude magazine of the title, revolutionary in being aimed at female desire versus male. Created by Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond), Minx starts to entice women who have felt unseen while at the same time inciting obvious controversy in the already turbulent 1970s.
Lovibond said during a recent Zoom interview with IndieWire that the writing of showrunner Ellen Rappaport is what initially drew her to the series. “Joyce is just such a fascinating character,” Lovibond said. “She’s so well meaning but quite flawed. She reminded me of the sorts of characters that Diane Keaton played in the ’70s; ‘Annie Hall’ was one of my favorite movies.”
The actress also felt that the show’s feminist message was done in a way that wasn’t dogmatic or preachy, but that felt natural and organic. And for all the discussion about the show’s freeing use of male nudity, Lovibond said the decision says more about us as a society than the show itself.
Lovibond’s interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
IndieWire: How did you see Joyce standing out compared to some of the other women she interacts with, like the Mob wives or the college feminists?
Ophelia Lovibond: Two of the things that stood out to me about [those] episode[s] was exactly that. How she [Joyce] has developed this idea of feminism within her own circle. She’s not challenged. She’s not interrogated her academic idea of feminism. What that feels like in the real world among women who are not exactly like she who is. So I think it quite rightly interrogates her limited sense of what feminism looks and sounds like.
So when she, for example, goes to the mob wives house, she’s in the kitchen. She initially says, “Oh, there’s a lot of unpaid labor going on in here” and “why aren’t the men helping,” and “don’t be fooled by appliances, they just give the illusion of freedom.” She starts to recognize that the women there are intelligent in a way that is different. They might not be academic, but they are smart and they are trustworthy. They’re the people who run the house in terms of the money and she sees they are still getting their own way, or getting their point across, but in perhaps a more manipulative way than she was accustomed to. But she does see that there’s value in it.
She sees that she can’t fix everything. She’s been accused of not fixing everything within this one issue of the magazine, but she recognizes that the way the women in the campus speak to her is not the best way to get people to listen to you. She recognizes in seeing them, perhaps, a mistakes that she has made in the way that she communicates her ideas to people. That she can be too dogmatic and too purist, and when she’s on the receiving end of it she recognizes this isn’t helpful. This is not going to further the cause. They’ve got valid points, but they’re not making them in a way that is inviting true conversation, which would actually engender change.
How well-versed were you on the feminism of the era before embarking on this?
I’m very, very familiar with it because it’s something that I’m very passionate about since I was young. Back to the suffragettes and beyond it’s something that I’ve always been interested in. It’s vitally important in my opinion. Going back to the first question of what appealed to me about the show was that it was exciting to have the opportunity to marry two things that I’m really passionate about, my acting with feminism in a comedy.
I, too, share Joyce’s love with Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis, but I was very careful to not apply any thinking that hadn’t really occurred yet. So all of the feminist tracts that I was reading I only read up to 1972. I didn’t reread anything else because Joyce wouldn’t have been aware of it. I didn’t want to apply a revisionist idea of feminism. When you think about the Talking Circle and things Gloria Steinem encouraged when she began Ms. magazine that she still conducts to this day. That was still in its genesis, really. It exposes how many different strands there are.
Were you surprised by the conversations popping up about the male nudity?
After [episodes] seven or eight; I thoroughly loved filming all of them, but those episodes in particular were just so exciting to perform because, for example, the comments Joyce is having when she goes to the radio station, she says there [are] more nerve endings in our genitalia than men. Why do we only ever speak about that? There’s a whole service industry that seeks to give men what they want but why not women? Why are we not talking about this in the same way? It’s a societal manufacturing. It’s not an inherent truth.
I just love that there’s the mirroring, that the show echoes what Joyce is saying. I understand there has been a lot of conversation about the male nudity that is in “Minx,” but I, myself, find that in and of itself interesting that it has provoked so much conversation because why? Why is it so remarkable to see a naked male body compared to females? Because we’re not used to seeing them? Why are we not used to seeing them? The fact that it’s provoked so much conversation almost makes the point.
Do you think it has to do with more female creatives?
That’s a really pertinent point because we have more female creatives behind the camera, writing. So perhaps that’s why we’re seeing more because we have just seen a slow improvement in the representation. But the fact is it has provoked conversation and even messages that I’ve received from people saying similar things to what you’re saying. It’s really satisfying to see, okay, yes, we’re making people laugh, but it is also making people go, “Why am I so surprised to see a penis? Let me examine that.”
“Minx” streams weekly on Thursdays on HBO Max.