From coming-of-age celebrations to horrible hazing, periods have been a staple of pop culture for years. Good, bad, and ugly – we’ll take a look at some of Aunt Flow’s top mentions of modern-day references to menstruation in the media below and offer our take on how periods are portrayed in the media:
Big Mouth – Everybody Bleeds (https://youtu.be/NEbQ7CQPfNI)
Big Mouth is one of the most unapologetically awkward and embarrassing shows about puberty to hit the airwaves. If you haven’t watched it yet, pop over to Netflix and check it out. In this episode, Jessi gets her first period while out on a school field trip… and while wearing white shorts (we’ve all had that stigma-fueled nightmare). But who WOULDN’T want a giant tampon serenading them with “Everybody Bleeds”? Unfortunately, the giant tampon lost us when referring to red stains as “shameful” – periods are NORMAL and stains happen, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Queen’s Gambit – Checkmate
We love how Beth Harmon (portrayed by Anna Taylor-Joy) challenges gender stereotypes in chess by lowering the boom on competitors left and right. What we DON’T love is The Queen’s Gambit portraying Beth’s first period as an embarrassing and shameful moment. This sort of depiction in pop-culture reinforces the stigma that periods are a terrible, horrifying, taboo moment in life. The plus side was former competitor Anette Packer lending Beth a pad and becoming a source of support – we love to see it. People helping people. PERIOD.
Superbad – Stain Shame (https://youtu.be/LlHK4HgXjJ0)
This is maybe one of the most horrific instances of period-shaming in mainstream pop culture. While marketed as “comedy”, seeing a bunch of guys laughing at Seth (portrayed by Jonah Hill) for getting a period blood stain on his pants after dancing with a girl at a party is anything but funny. Seth is so repulsed by the period blood stain that he gags and says “somebody perioded on my f*cking leg?” This type of portrayal is so harmful because it reinforces the stigma that periods are disgusting and something deserving of mocking. Periods are natural, stains happen, and blood is not the end of the world.
No Strings Attached – The Period Mixtape (https://youtu.be/sMIKxNbUOkc)
We love a Flow Bro. In this scene, Adam (Ashton Kutcher) provides emotional support, normalizes menstruation, and even calls it a “beautiful thing” to be a woman. He also created a mixtape with songs like “I’ve Got The World On A String” by Frank Sinatra and “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. Hey Hollywood – more of this, please.
Broad City – The Great Tampon Hunt (http://www.cc.com/video-clips/yo8k0e/broad-city-the-great-tampon-hunt)
QUEENS! While on a flight, Abbi starts her period with no available menstrual products. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as Abbi asks around to see if there are any other passengers who have a tampon, Ilana does her best to piece a tampon together using random items like a hair tie and some pita bread. If there was ever a time for Aunt Flow to come in clutch, it would have been in this scene – hey airlines, we’re talking to you!
Carrie – “Plug it up” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpo_ly6mncM)
In the 2002 remake, filmmakers dramatized Carrie’s first period and then followed that up with some scathing bullying. Not only does this clip feed into stereotypes about periods being horrifying traumatic events, it also highlights the shame and sexism around periods with Carrie’s female bullies chanting “plug it up” at her. There is no need for shame or bullying around your period – it is completely natural!
Black-ish – Period Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZynhPpJDv4)
WE LOVE AN EMPOWERING PERIOD EXPERIENCE! In this super memorable clip, Diane ( portrayed by Marsai Martin) gets her period for the first time. She’s surrounded by a ton of supportive women, which makes her period positivity soar to new heights. THIS is how you do period-related comedy – we’re looking at you Seth Rogan.
New Girl – Syncing up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scrvX3lPUGo)
This humorous approach to talking about menstrual cycle symptoms is a New Girl fan favorite. We love that New Girl normalized talking about your period around the people in your life, and Winston’s (portrayed by Lamorne Morris) full-support – and participation – of Jess’s (Zooey Deschanel) period pain was stellar. We also love Nick (Jake Johnson) leaning in and being supportive despite knowing little-to-nothing about menstruation.
The Middle – Sue gets her period (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7hBiVKBtK0&list=PLOIo2qU8RpHgSA_NiOp2K5QpDkN1ctkWC)
Sue (portrayed by Eden Sher) gets her period while on a camping trip with her family, and the touching moment of excitement she shares with her mom is incredibly moving. We love a celebration of menstruation. More of this please!
Orange Is The New Black – Tampon Sandwich (https://youtu.be/2_9-ZjN66zU)
Orange Is The New Black didn’t shy away from the harsh realities of a life behind bars. When Piper (portrayed by Taylor Schilling) first arrives, she goes through some truly brutal hazing, even being served a bloody tampon on a bun at one point. OITNB was an incredibly progressive show that didn’t shy away from menstruation or showing period blood in a non-shaming light, which was a refreshing change of pace.