Watch: Does 'Minx' Liberate Full-Frontal on Television?

Monday March 21, 2022

Streaming services are getting bolder about presenting full-frontal on television. The new HBO Max series "Minx" looks back at when full-frontal founds its way into magazines in the 1970s, and isn't afraid to show it.

"It just never crossed my mind to want more penises on TV," says the showrunner Ellen Rapoport of the new HBO Max comedy "Minx" to the New York Times.

But the narrative to her show called for it. Set in the 1970s, the show follows the rise of a new adult-oriented magazine called "Minx," which is patterned after such real titles as Viva and Playgirl. Both those glossy mags broke the full-frontal taboo when they published male nudes along with feminist-inspired content. At the peak of its success, Playgirl sold around 1.5 million copies a month.

Amongst both Viva's and Playgirl's fans were gay men who, aside from the long-standing posing magazines, had no outlet for male nudity in print. In speaking of Viva, the website Shondaland writes: "the magazine also delivered unexpected gratification to a group outside its target demographic: gay men. Viva's male nudes, like Playgirl's, served as covert pornography for gay male readers, for whom sexuality was still very much stigmatized."

On "Minx," Joyce, a hard-line feminist writer, joins forces with an unlikely ally — adult male publisher Doug (Jake Johnson), the publisher of soft-core magazines, to publish a mag that would combine politics with porn. She wants to call it "The Matriarchy Awakens," but when told that is a buzz-kill, she comes up with the on-target "Minx."

"Not like a schvantz right in the face," Doug says in the first episode. "Classy." And while the first episode is called "Not like a shvantz right in the face," it contained a cheeky montage that was precisely that: "a minute-long scene in which about 18 men audition, bottomless, for the privilege. As Jean Knight's 'Mr. Big Stuff' plays, the men strip off. They strut. They dance. They karate chop," adds the New York Times.

After shooting the sequence, Rapoport wrote on Instagram: "It's a miracle when any project gets made, infinitely more so during a pandemic. Endlessly grateful to our amazing cast and crew for getting us across the finish line. If anyone needs me I will be recovering from the 18 penises I met this week."

She followed it with an eggplant emoji.

Tanya Horeck, a professor who studies gender and sexuality in contemporary media, told the Times the names of recent series that have shown full-frontal male nudity: "Sens8," "Euphoria," "Scenes From a Marriage," "Sex/Life," "Succession," "Pam & Tommy," "The White Lotus." (She could have added "The Leftovers," "Looking," "Outlander," "Shameless," "Togetherness," "Easy" and "The Affair," too.)

"How to explain the onslaught? In interviews, academics and intimacy coordinators listed reasons including the ubiquity of pornography; the uptick in queer, female and nonbinary showrunners; the impact of the #MeToo movement; the presence of intimacy coordinators; and the need for attention grabs in a saturated media landscape," writes the Times.

"Minx" executive producer Paul Fieg ("Bridesmaids," "The Heat") told Decider when asked about the show's nudity. "You know it's why most of my movies are R-rated. I don't like lewdness. I'm actually not that big a fan of sex scenes, but I like things to be honest. And if you're going to tell a story about someone starting the first erotic male magazine, if you can't show anything, what's the point?"

But the full-frontal nudity nearly sunk the show.

"I thought [Minx would] be an easy sell and I'd just walk in and be like, 'We're gonna show 30 dicks,'" Minx creator Ellen Rapoport told Decider. "I was wrong. It was an incredibly hard sell. I think people really liked it and they gave us the nicest passes: 'But you know obviously we're not going to put penises on our service.' Which, fair enough."

He continued: "Nobody wanted it because they were afraid of the nudity," Feig said. "Because they were afraid of just the subject matter. And honestly we ended the whole pitch round and we hadn't sold it. I was so bummed out that what I knew was going to be a great show wasn't getting picked up."

But, Rapoport adds, while most of the penises seen are real, they often had to resort to prosthetics — but not simply to make a big impression, but for continuity reasons. "Penises are delicate and annoying," Rapoport explained. "You have to maintain the continuity from shot to shot."