‘Minx’ and How It Complicates the Concept of Gaze (With Lots of Dongs)
HBO’s Minx is the story of a young feminist named Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond) in the 1970s who wants to make a feminist magazine. She ends up teaming up with a pornography magazine publisher to create the magazine Minx, a fictionalized version of Playgirl and Viva.
There is a lot of male nudity on the show. So much so that even I was surprised that it was happening in an HBO series. Joyce teams up with Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson) to create a magazine that makes porn for the female gaze. This is a term that is limited to Joyce’s white, heterosexual, slightly prudish background.
In picking a centerfold, the characters go through a lot of penises on male models, all of them looking different. Snowflakes. All unique. It feels almost scandalous to watch, because we so rarely see penises on camera for that long. How many times have movies been marketed because you might see the glance of a Chris’s peen?
Tanya Horeck, a professor who studies gender and sexuality in contemporary media, talked to the Times about shows that showed male full-frontal nudity: ‘”Sens8,” “Euphoria,” “Scenes From a Marriage,” “Sex/Life,” “Succession,” “Pam & Tommy,” “The White Lotus.”
It was noted that while women’s breasts can be enhanced, more often than not they are still real. In comparison, most penises in media are silicone prosthetics and therefore are often oddly large.
“It’s very rare to just see a normal penis,” Horeck said.
Minx subverts this.
And they are real, though “Minx” does use prosthetics elsewhere in the series. “Penises are delicate and annoying,” Rapoport explained. “You have to maintain the continuity from shot to shot.” But as each montage penis receives less than a second of screen time, there was no need for expensive, outsized prosthetics.
And also, why should perfect penises be the goal? All bodies, all kinds of genitals have value, and while Minx does highlight some slightly more dramatic ones (hello David), it also allows bodies to be bodies. Pubic hair and all.
Nudity can have a narrative purpose. So far, Minx has found a way to not just show a lot of flaccid penises on-screen, but also used them to say something about what a beautiful man looks like from all angles.
In the episode “Relaying news of a wayward snake,” Joyce wants to recreate the David statue, but without the traditional sexual gaze. At first, they don’t really know how, because they want to capture David’s face, but Joyce doesn’t. At one point the model begins to do some stretches and he looks so delicate and graceful, yet strong and sculpted that it is both sexual and powerful. It is a great reminder that photographing sexy and beautiful doesn’t have to be that different.
If you respect the subject.
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