Hollywood culture trivialises menstruation, raising concerns about whether it is frightening girls into believing the experience is worse than the reality, according to a study.
Researcher Lauren Rosewarne, from the Melbourne University's School of Social and Political Sciences, analysed hundreds of representations of menstruation in film and TV. "The presentation of menstruation on screen is an overwhelmingly negative one," she said.
The research identified the representation of menstruation in Carrie (1976) as perhaps the most traumatising. "The fusion of a naked girl, shower stream, screaming and blood harked back to cinema's most famous shower horror scene from Psycho. Even though the audience presumably recognised Carrie was only menstruating, the character's terror was contagious," said Rosewarne.
Her analysis included jokes, plot lines and references from popular TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Mad Men, Friends and Grey's Anatomy, and blockbuster films like Annie Hall, Anchorman and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
"The regularity, normalcy and uneventfulness of real life menstruation is rarely portrayed on screen. Instead, it's treated as traumatic, embarrassing, distressing, offensive, comedic or thoroughly catastrophic," Rosewarne said, according to a university statement.
"There are numerous portrayals where menstruation is considered as evil, disgusting and as the root of all female evil."
Rosewarne said these negative representations affected how women approached their own experiences.
"Girls in real life are viewing menstruation as a hassle, women are happily filling prescriptions to make it go away, men are mocking it, loathing it and rarely understanding it," she said.
Rosearne's full analysis will appear in her upcoming book, Periods in Pop Culture, to be published by Lexington Books.