“Minx” is a windy good time reminding the left to reclaim the lost politics of fun

Scratch a libertarian and you’ll find a prude. It’s a truth beautifully illustrated in the season finale of “Minx,” HBO’s airy but sharp comedy about a fictional ’70s magazine that combines a Ms.-style feminist editorial with Blueboy-esque male nude centerfolds. The show’s two “shock jock” characters, Willy (Eric Edelstein) and Franco (Samm Levine), use their airtime to titillate drive-by listeners with stories about their love of sex and partying. But Willy’s wife, Wanda (Allison Tolman), gets her hands on a copy of “Minx” and decides to defend her own right to enjoy his life, instead wasting her time giving her husband joyless manual labor between serve him meals. Suddenly libertarians aren’t so pro-freedom anymore.

The politics of equality is useless if it is not joined to a politics of pleasure.

Instead, the shock jocks interview Bridget Westbury (Amy Landecker), a Phyllis Schlafly-esque city councilwoman, to announce a new partnership combining “men’s rights” with this religious right-tinged war on pornography. With the studio’s prominent nude painting of a woman hovering over the stage, the counselor goes wild over how she plans to clean up the San Fernando Valley, and the two men eagerly join in the anti-porn sentiment they found out the second they found out that women have sexual fantasies too. The whole scene is very reminiscent of smiling Donald Trump alongside a smug Amy Coney Barrett, the “libertine” and the bible-thumper joining forces to crush the hope of women’s liberation.

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It’s a hilarious satire of the kind of men who vote Trump and listen to Joe Rogan, and like to imagine they’re “pro-freedom,” despite political views that stifle the much more real freedom struggles of women and people. LGBTQ.

Amy Landecker in “Minx” (Photograph by Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max)But this track also serves up a broader, sharper message aimed directly at the American left, which needs to hear it more than ever: the politics of equality is useless unless it’s paired with a politics some pleasure. “Give me bread, but also give me roses” was a feminist slogan at the start of the 20th century, but it resonates in the 1970s and today for a reason. People are not moved by dry political treatises on justice. What motivates people is to imagine what a better life would look like. It means talking about fun.

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And on “Minx”, it means talking about cocks. “Minx” is primarily the story of Joyce Prigger (Opehlia Lovibond), a Vassar-educated feminist who reluctantly agrees to run a male nudity magazine for porn editor Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson). Joyce wants to publish a rather strident feminist magazine — originally called “Matriarchy Awakens” — but finds, understandably, that no one in “respectable” publishing is willing to bet on such an obvious money loser. But Doug is ready to support her with his company Bottom Dollar. He believes women want to see photos of sexy naked men and he hopes filling porn with more lofty writing will make it easier to sell on newsstands. Joyce hates the idea of ​​porn and finds the whole subject of sexual pleasure uncomfortable. Yet she continues, because otherwise she never sells her magazine.

Sexy photos are more than the sugar that helps feminist medicine fall.

What Joyce soon discovers, with the help of her sister (Lennon Parham) and Bottom Dollar employees Bambi Jessica Lowe) and Richie (Oscar Montoya), is that sexy photos are more than the sugar that helps medicine. feminist to collapse. On the contrary, pleasure is at the center of the feminist project. One of the reasons sexism is so irritating is that it deprives women of their right to pursue happiness. But if women don’t even know what happiness might look like, it’s hard to convince them to fight the forces that keep them from having it.

NaughtyOphelia Lovibond, Lennon Parham, Jessica Lowe, Oscar Montoya and Idara Victor in “Minx” (Photograph by Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max)

As I’ve written before, in recent years progressives seem to have forgotten the importance of fun. Much of the discourse on the left has taken on a hectoral tone, focused on pressuring people to give up what they love, rather than imagining all the new joys that await us if we can free ourselves. The pandemic bears much of the blame, of course. The right’s resistance to emergency measures like social distancing and mask-wearing has caused far too many on the left to start seeing these misery-inducing behaviors as moral signifiers instead of temporary inconveniences. Truth be told, however, the sinister leftward shift had begun long before the pandemic, fueled by the way social media rewards self-righteous posturing and the politics of showy self-denial over the politics of pleasure.

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This was particularly troubling for me, as I emerged as a late third wave feminist and was part of the early explosion of feminist blogging. We, the first feminist bloggers, married the transgressive politics of pleasure to our demands for equality. We didn’t just say rape was wrong. We had pro-pleasure stocks like Slutwalk. We have argued that the ever-present threat of rape keeps women from enjoying their lives, preventing us from doing everything from early morning jogs to late night sexual adventures. We haven’t just talked about reproductive rights in terms of coat hangers and young mothers condemned to poverty. We talked about how birth control and abortion allowed women to have fun and experiment sexually, instead of being tied to the first man you slept with.

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“Minx” is set in the 70s, but speaks very clearly to the social dynamics of our time. The joyless progressivism found on Twitter is reimagined on the show as a dinner party in New York. Joyce’s snooty Manhattan friends poke fun at her little porn magazine and make ignorant assumptions about how Bottom Dollar employees must be a bunch of lost souls and losers. That’s probably not how people talked at dinner parties back then, but it’s very reminiscent of leftist social media now, with its focus on exaggerated discussions of trauma and its tendency to treat pleasure as loss. embarrassing time. Joyce ends up sneaking out for a drink and kissing a cute guy at a bar. As a sign of how much she’s grown, she refuses to apologize for wanting to have a good time. She doesn’t even try to justify it by calling it “self-care”.

NaughtyOphelie Lovibond and Taylor Zakhar Perez in “Minx” (Photograph by Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max)

As “Minx” ably demonstrates, this kind of pleasure-centric feminism has real power. If nothing else, it exposes how so-called “libertarian” law is no such thing. Even supposed hedonists like Trump are happy to enact all sorts of draconian restrictions on sexual freedoms and even freedom of speech, just to prevent women and LGBTQ people from enjoying the pleasures that come with equality.

As “Minx” ably demonstrates, this kind of pleasure-centric feminism has real power.

Unfortunately, all the gloomyness on the left these days has served Trump and his cronies well, allowing them to cast themselves as the “fun” opposed to “cancel culture.” This, even as Republicans try to nullify your sex life, your ability to read whatever you want, and now even Oreos and Disneyland. The right is a petty, narrow view of fun, mostly about cheap insults and lame trolling. Even the likes of Joe Rogan only appeal as a counterpoint to the supposed rebukes of the left, but don’t really have much to offer in terms of actual enjoyment, especially for anyone who isn’t straight cis.

“Minx”, in keeping with its pro-fun ideas, is a fun show, with lots of laughs and lots of really sexy stuff. (Although comical fake penises are a rare dud.) Freedom is a great idea in the abstract, but to make it worth fighting for, you need to remind people what it looks like in practice. On “Minx”, it’s many, many cocks. But it can be anything you want, as long as you allow yourself to enjoy it.

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