The Most Feminist 'The 5th Wave' Scene Is So Simple, You May Have Missed It
The 5th Wave's Cassie Sullivan is one tough young woman. After aliens, known as the "Others," invade the Earth and begin killing off all of mankind in, you guessed it, five waves of attack, Cassie is forced to say goodbye to her life as a soccer-playing, party-going, crush-having teenager. First, the Others wipe out all electricity, then they start killing with earthquakes and a virus that takes out a majority of the Earth's population, leaving Cassie alone to take care of her little brother Sammy. And, when they get separated, Cassie embarks on a 70-mile trek across Other-infested land — all on her own — to find him. So, yeah, it's safe to say Cassie is a pretty badass female character, and The 5th Wave is a pretty feminist movie, following in the footsteps of The Hunger Games and Divergent. But there's one feminist thing in The 5th Wave you might have missed that deserves some major recognition: the tampon shot.
It seems strange to say, but girls in movies rarely have their periods. It's like being the protagonist in a movie magically makes your time of the month disappear into the abyss of things we'd rather not talk about. What if Katniss had her period in the middle of the Arena? Or what if Four had to go buy Tris some tampons in the middle of Dauntless training? We'll never know. Sure, these characters can have sex (or sexual tension) all they want, but a woman fighting for her life and saving others while on her period? Impossible.
The 5th Wave is helping put that myth to bed once and for all with just a few frames of film. In the opening scene, Cassie (played by the fierce Chloë Grave Moretz) walks into an abandoned convenience store at a gas station. With her gun out, she explores her surroundings, quickly picking up some of the supplies still left in the store that was obviously already raided by survivors. She grabs a dusty bottle of water, a toothbrush and some jerky, and then she goes for the box of tampons, takes out a handful and stuffs them in her backpack. Seriously, you see her do that. You see the tampons in her hands. If your jaw is not on the floor right now, then I need to know what Hollywood movies you have been watching that similarly normalize women's periods.
The shot of the tampons in The 5th Wave is hugely important and awesomely feminist. Women are constantly being shamed for their bodies, especially in film, and a woman's period is, for some reason, considered taboo. And yet in this film, it's acknowledged as a small facet of Cassie's life. A woman's body is rarely treated with so little fanfare on screen. If a girl gets her period in a movie, it's usually a way to wrap up a pregnancy scare story line or talk about puberty or menopause. It's never just natural. I, personally, can only think of one other film that has treated a woman's period so nonchalantly — No Strings Attached, the romantic comedy which gave us this description of what it feels like to be on your period: "It's like a crime scene in my pants." That film was also somewhat of a sex comedy, so the mechanics of a woman's body were, in some ways, more crucial to the plot than in The 5th Wave. The action movie could have gotten away without having the shot of tampons in the movie, just as in Divergent and The Hunger Games.
The fact that the inclusion of tampons wasn't necessary to the story of The 5th Wave makes it even more powerful. It's not exploitative or gross, and it never comes up again — it's simply a fact of life as seen in a brief shot. For a girl's need for basic feminine hygiene products to be addressed in such a matter-a-fact way in a big Hollywood movie is one step towards ending the strange stigma surrounding women's bodies.
It's awesome that a movie finally acknowledged that, just because aliens are invading the Earth and our heroine is busy facing off against certain death doesn't mean a girl won't get her period.