Menstrual Myths in Movies

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of yelling “Noooope!” at your TV screen. Aha – I’m not alone! It feels like the more we know about something, the more erroneous facts and contradictory beliefs seem to jump out at us when we’re trying to sit back and be entertained. I’m sure that by now you’ve probably noticed how menstruation is pretty negatively portrayed by pop culture. Periods in movies and on TV are usually either completely invisible (I recently read that on the show Friends, menstruation was only addressed once in ten seasons. Once! Ten seasons!) or only present as a negative, dramatic, or gross occurrence. Looking to the screen for a healthy attitude is a bleak endeavor, so it comes as no surprise that even just the menstrual cycle basics are misrepresented. So, without further ado, let’s debunk some myths!

REEL FACT: Menstrual blood attracts bears.
AS SEEN IN: Anchorman (2004)

“I read somewhere that their periods attract bears. The bears can smell the menstruation!”

REAL FACT: Bears do not care! From the Journal of Wildlife Management: “Due to widespread concern that menstruating women might be attacked by black bears (Ursus americanus), we recorded responses of 26 free-ranging black bears to tampons from 26 women and recorded responses of 20 free-ranging bears to 4 menstruating women in northeastern Minnesota. Menstrual odors were essentially ignored by black bears of all ages and either sex, regardless of season or the bear’s reproductive status. In an extensive review of black bear attacks across North America, we found no instance of black bears attacking or being attracted to menstruating women.” The National Park Service also analyzed hundreds of attacks by grizzly bears, and found no links to menstruation.

REEL FACT: PMS occurs only immediately before your period starts.
AS SEEN IN: Mystery Men (1999)

“PMS Avenger. I only work four days a month.”

REAL FACT: Some people would have the same work week as the PMS Avenger, but many others would be on the clock for longer. PMS can occur anytime between ovulation and your period, so there are even menstruators who experience symptoms for two weeks.

REEL FACT: Menstruators’ cycles will synchronize if they live together.
AS SEEN IN: No Strings Attached (2011)

“Ohhh, I understand what’s going on. You’re [three roommates] all on the same cycle!”

REAL FACT: It can absolutely be a nice bonding experience to have a twin period with someone you spend a lot of time with. Thing is, all it means is that the two of you got lucky! While menstrual cycles may appear to sync up over time, or at times, (due to the mathematical fact that menstrual cycles of different frequencies will repeatedly converge and diverge), there is no scientific basis to suggest that menstrual cycles will become synchronous for any reason.

REEL FACT: PMS does not actually exist.
AS SEEN IN: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

“PMS isn’t real, Needy. It was invented by the boy-run media to make us seem like we’re crazy.”

REAL FACT: I wholeheartedly agree that aspects of PMS are exaggerated or isolated to the detriment of menstruators onscreen. But PMS itself is a very real group of symptoms. They can be physical (such as headaches, bloating, and breast tenderness) and/or emotional (such as anxiety and irritability). Some people experience symptoms intensely, others mildly, and some don’t even notice a difference at all. However, I would hope that even someone who doesn’t personally experience PMS wouldn’t go so far as to claim it does not exist!

REEL FACT: If you miss a period, you’re pregnant.
AS SEEN IN: Grease (1978)

“I skipped a period.”
“Think you’re PG?”

REAL FACT: Not necessarily! There are other reasons your period can be late or skipped, such as stress, heavy exercise, weight loss/gain, birth control, change in schedule…That being said, if you are sexually active in such a way that pregnancy could occur, it’s definitely worth taking a pregnancy test just to be sure.