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'Minx' showrunner Ellen Rapoport gives us lessons in boldness

June 21, 2022
5 min read time

If you have yet to watch Minx, you are in for a treat. The two-hander featuring a pair of mismatched lovers of freedom who start a female-driven porn mag with a feminist message is definitely one of the most fun comedies of the year. The show tells the tale of Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond) and Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson) and their missions are as different as they are: Joyce just wants to be an outstanding journalist with her own publication, her dream for as long as she can remember. Doug, he’d honestly love to be rich and famous and he’s cool if his riches and fame come from softcore porn.  

Former attorney and show creator Ellen Rapoport rooted the show deeply in truth. She was fascinated with the soft core magazines marketed to women in the 1970s, a time of upheaval, change, and general discontent. Rapoport spoke of immersing herself in the decade to create the show: “It was fun to put myself in a world that’s not this current horrible one, to travel back in time to an era where everyone had problems and be in a time of chaos not dissimilar to now. I also really wanted to educate myself on early 70s feminism. It’s fascinating to think how far we’ve come in that regard.”

 

The reviews are in

The show has mainly turned out to be a critical darling, and for good reason. No character is without a solid arc. The costumes are to die for, and, just wait until you hear how much thought goes into all the dicks. Indiewire said, “Minx layers life lessons with exciting subversions.” Roger Ebert’s site called Minx: “breezy, effervescent, charming, and subversive.” Some criticism did emerge on Joyce Prigger, someone you could call strong, empowered, and in the process of self-discovery, some critics have dismissed her unfairly as “a stick in the mud.”

Rapoport has a message for such critics: “It is interesting, and I find it fascinating when it comes from other women-- anything negative, it stands out. It is really an aberration from the mean deviation from the rest of them…. I always knew frankly that some people would find Joyce annoying. She’s the character with the furthest to go, and we just have a long history of people hating women. I remember people hated Anna Gunn’s character in ‘Breaking Bad,’ and she’s just trying to stop her husband from becoming a meth lord. I think it’s just systemic misogyny. If there was no new change agent, what would that show have been? Just people having sandwiches and going to photo shoots.”

 

Get specific for your audience

Much like life, it may be a loss for the viewer who dismisses Joyce Prigger. One thing Joyce never dismissed is the look of the magazine (which includes the chosen penises for the centerfold). Like Joyce, Rapoport doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to details on the show: “I have so much input on this… I look for inspiration pictures of what I wanted each one to look like, and our make-up artist would work with the prosthetic house to make them. It was a weird process, but I’d ask, ‘what do I think the all-American centerfold penis would like?’ And then, yeah, for the later ones we started to have fun with it. The last one that is in the finale… I just want it to be a shar-pei and have so many folds. That was fun to look for that picture.”

It is clear not only how much Rapoport cares for the details, but how much she cares for her characters. Not only does each supporting character get a lovely arc, but if you watch carefully even background characters seem to have a story. The office is so carefully populated it transports you so specifically to time and place. But you can’t deny that Bambi (Jessica Lowe) and Shelly (Lennon Parham) felt like stand-outs this season. “I thought it would be a great surprise to have this housewife, someone you think is sexually repressed and judgmental, and opening her up throughout the season,” recalled Rapoport. “But it was not until writer Ben Karlin came in that her full arc evolved. During our first meeting, he told me about his mom who had come out when he was in high school, and what it was like, and I thought we have to do that for Shelly and Bambi. It seemed like a logical place for that friendship to go.”

 

More than body parts

Perhaps one of the juiciest joys of the show (aside from the unabashed full-frontal nudity) is the unabashed feminism. When asked if we are losing ground today on that front, Rapoport was hopeful and determined we have made progress: “I think that we are in a very different place- feminism in the early 70s was white lady feminism, not intersectional. It’s not a secret that they would say we are not for gay, and not for people of color. The attitude was to take care of ourselves first, and then we will get to you. Times have changed. The division between feminists and their attitudes toward pornography really splintered the movement in the late 70s. But most people have come around to women’s sexuality as a viable thing for feminists to care about.”

Aside from Joyce’s empowerment and self-discovery, much of the driving force of the show is the buddy comedy aspect of her relationship with Doug. Johnson has painted such a joyously debaucherous dream chaser with the character. Rapoport spoke of their working relationship: “I love Jake. I think that he has a lot of just interesting ideas for his character and it really feels like he knows him and where he is coming from. It’s been such an easy working relationship. He’s a dream… he and Ophelia set an excellent tone in terms of 1 and 2 on the call sheet.” 

As fans await a new season mum was the word from Rapaport: “I can’t say much…. I will say...

I don’t think we are doing a reset. A lot of shows like to find a way to take it back to the beginning and tell similar stories, but I don’t think that’s something we’ll do. We did scrappy underdogs against the world, and now they are in a new phase of having some success.”

Rapaport ended the interview with some excellent advice while looking back on her first show sale, “I think the best thing that I heard with the landscape being so cluttered, there is no more making a show for everyone. Your show doesn’t have to be everyone’s favorite show, but someone’s favorite show. Also the specificity of it, and finding something that you are really passionate about and that you would watch.” There’s no doubt Rapaport has created something that will remain a favorite for many as she takes her ragtag crew of feminists, pornographers, moms, and more into a new era for Season 2.

 Stream Minx now on HBO Max.

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