In HBO Max’s 1970s-set Minx, Doug Renetti, a wealthy magazine publisher with a golden heart and great chest hair, sits across from writer Joyce and advises her: “You gotta hide the medicine.” It’s like giving a dog a pill: you dunk it in peanut butter first. The characters are referring to erotic magazines. Medicine: feminist ideas about fair pay and against marital rape; peanut butter: nude men. It could also be a metaphor for the show, a lesson on feminism, how far we’ve come since the second wave, and how far we still need to go – all wrapped up in the hilarious, bell-bottomed, and cigarette-smoking cloak of a comedy about a fictional erotica magazine, one of the first in the country.
Joyce is unhappy with the subscriptions she sells to a pink Pepto Bismol women’s magazine when we meet her, but she thinks she has it all figured out when it comes to feminism, quietly discouraging mothers from buying magazines that tell their daughters how to stay thin and please their husbands. Joyce’s definition of feminism is, in many ways, both limiting and contradictory. In spite of its frustration, Joyce’s imperfect-but-well-meaning version of feminism offers viewers the chance to reflect upon themselves, regardless of whether they can see themselves in her pussy bows and matching pantsuits.
Throughout the season, we witness Joyce re-evaluate her worldview and feminism, which transitions from one-dimensional to more nuanced. Viewers can use this change to explore and critique their own feminism, as well as the way they engage with feminist discourse. We may be past the basics of these specific ideas around feminism in 2022 and recognize the value of intersectionality in feminism, but we can learn from Joyce’s experience, mistakes – about how to productively employ in feminism as we move forward.
In an interview with Refinery29 over Zoom, Lovibond says, “I learned what not to do.”. “Honey catches more flies than vinegar. If you tell them they’re bad, you won’t be able to have a dialogue with me. It’s more about educating and having a genuine discussion about something, inviting other people into that conversation, rather than just telling them what you think.”
Via Joyce, we see how second-wave feminism did not address the specific needs and concerns of women of color. Joyce’s feminist perspective is extremely black and white, with a heavy emphasis on white. Joyce asks Tina for a cup of tea in her first encounter with Tina, the only Black character on the show. Tina is pouring water for a meeting. Tina confronts her, saying: “Oh, I’m not the secretary, I’m just black,” only to quickly laugh as she is actually Doug’s secretary.
We ask Victor about the limited number of characters of color in the series, and if there is a concern that it leans heavily toward white feminism as the only form of feminism. Victor says “I believe that’s why (Tina) is almost opposed to Joyce since she doesn’t feel fully included in the discussion,”. She continues, “it’s a feeling that a lot of Black women have felt in relation to the feminist movement.” As a woman of color in a high position of authority at the time, Tina stands in direct contrast to Joyce’s overtly feminist approach. Since Joyce is white, she has the freedom to speak out freely about these issues and to share what she knows about feminism,” Victor says.
Do not mistake Tina for a character who serves the white man in charge. She takes care of the magazine company’s books, is Doug’s trusted confidante and adviser and has a reputation for always being the smartest person in the room. Tina’s subtlety is not a sign of complacency, but rather a reminder of the time and the ways in which many black women had to assert their power and agency. “She’s smart about these topics, too,” Victor adds. “She may not feel she has space to advocate for her side of things as a Black woman. Hence, she’s waiting for the right opportunity to act. The fact that I’m not shouting it from the rooftops doesn’t mean I don’t know.”