By Karen Fratti
Menstruation is normal, but depicting it onscreen has been unfortunately taboo. From 'Carrie' to 'black-ish,' here are 28 of the most important period moments onscreen.
The movie's iconic massacre could perhaps have been avoided if Carrie's classmates hadn't tormented her for getting her period in the shower. This scene, while revolutionary for existing, also contributed to the stigma around period blood, suggesting it's something to be afraid of or disgusted by.
Although they don't talk about it in too much detail, Rizzo tells Marty in Grease that she has "skipped" her period, indicating that she might be pregnant.
When two shipwrecked teenagers played by Brooke Shields and Christopher Atikins are left to figure things out for themselves on a deserted island, there's a bit of confusion when Shields' Emmeline discovers she's mysteriously bleeding. Luckily, it's just her period.
As a tomboy who loves sports, Darlene is understandably worried that her period will affect her ability to play. Thankfully, her parents explain to her that she can still do all the "things boys do" even if she's menstruating.
When Rudy gets her period for the first time, Clair is set on having a "women's only day" to bond with her daughter. Instead, Rudy relies on her friends for information and solidarity, only to end up coming back to her mom at the end of the episode, having learned that sometimes moms really do know best.
After getting her period for the first time, Blossom struggles to talk to her dad and yearns for her mom. She even dreams of waking up to Clair Huxtable being there for her, just in case you were wondering how iconic that Cosby Show episode really was.
In this classic coming of age movie, Vada (Anna Chlumsky) gets her period for the first time and is convinced that she's hemorrhaging. Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays her dad's girlfriend Shelly, sits her down to have "the talk" and convinces her that she's not dying.
Luke Perry's Dylan takes his little step-sister Erica out surfing on Beverly Hills: 90210 only to have to cut the outing short when she gets her period. Not knowing what to do (and because there were never any adults around otherwise), Dylan takes her to Casa Walsh, where Cindy gives her all the support she needs.
In what just might be one of the most cringe-worthy and unrealistic series premieres of all time, Lucy's father gets weepy and congratulates her for getting her period. Later, he goes out to mark the occasion by buying tampons for her and then takes the whole family out to dinner to celebrate her "becoming a woman." Watch at your own risk.
Alden calls an ambulance for Sharon because she thinks her menstrual cramps are appendicitis (same) while they're out rollerblading on a date. She's embarrassed about the incident at first, until her friends tell her that it's NBD.
Emma shuts down the haters who tease her for a period stain on her white skirt by saying that it's "perfectly natural." Because, well, it is. And Degrassi made a point of normalizing the experience for so many young millennial women who were watching back in the day.
It's sort of hard to believe that Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe didn't talk more about their periods, but alas, there's only one real mention of periods throughout the whole series. It's on "The One When Rachel Has A Baby" and Monica does some quick "period math" to figure out when she and Chandler should start thinking about procreating.
From the point of view of a teenage boy, periods are still "gross." They're so gross, in fact, that Jonah Hill's character Seth turns the word into a verb when a girl gets blood on his jeans while dancing with him.
The relationship between Hank (David Duchovny) and his daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin) was always one of Californication's strengths, and when Becca first gets her period on the show, he handles it deftly. Hank Moody was a lot of things, but being scared of periods wasn't one of them; in another episode, he even tells a woman he's sleeping with that period sex is "dirty in a good way."
Fanning's character Cherie Currie gets her period while out with her sister — in a miniskirt, no less. After dripping a little blood onto the pavement, she runs into a gas station bathroom to get some toilet paper for a makeshift pad.
In No Strings Attached, Kutcher's character Adam makes a "period mix" for Natalie Portman's character, Emma, just after mansplaining menstruation to her and her friends. "Even Flow," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," and Frank Sinatra's "I Got The World On A String" top the period playlist. Not a bad idea, right?
When a cookie-selling Girl Scout informs him that she just got her first period and asks to use the bathroom, Larry swears that she's "come to the right place." He awkwardly talks her through using a tampon for the first time — very confusing! — and then later worries that his actions might have been inappropriate, even though all he did was say "vagina" and offer a hygienic product.
While most young girls would be totally embarrassed about getting their period on a camping trip, Sue is thrilled that she's "matured" and no longer has to lie about it to her friends.
When 14-year-old Sansa learns that she's "flowering" on Game Of Thrones, she's immediately terrified that she will have to marry and bear children. For good reason, too, since that's exactly what the men around her, who are twice her age, were planning for her.
After rebuffing her mom to stay in the city with her dad, Sally Draper thinks she's all grown up — until she's humbled by the appearance of her first period while on a date to the museum with Glen. She runs home to Betty, who shows her nurturing side for once, setting her daughter up with fresh pajamas, a hot water bottle, and a snuggle. There's nothing like the shared experience of cramps to bring a mother and a daughter together.
In an episode titled "Menzies," Jess is "sabotaged by her baby box," and pretty accurately describes the wild ups and downs of PMS.
Going to the bathroom around a new beau can be stressful for some women, and when you add a heavy period to that, it can be even worse. In Trainwreck, Schumer's character frets about throwing out a tampon at her new boyfriend's house, lest he accidentally see it and be grossed out.
Abbi and Ilana use raunchy period humor to great effect during this two-episode story arc about them going on vacation. First, Ilana is able to sneak weed through security all because a male TSA agent just can't deal with period blood; later, the girls try to hunt down a tampon on a packed flight.
Many people have strong opinions about period sex, for better or worse. But only Bloom could set those thoughts to a catchy tune.
During the riot, Gina reaches down into her pants and then smears blood on her face to fool a guard into letting her think she had been hurt. Graphic? Yes. But it's also a very on-brand way to normalize the fact that women bleed. After the previous season of OITNB was centered around the prisoners not having enough affordable pads or tampons, viewers shouldn't have expected anything less.
In this period adaptation of a Margaret Atwood novel, a motherless Grace wakes up in the middle of the night, terrified after seeing blood. Her friend Mary explains the logistics of menstruation to her, helps Grace make a pad, and assists in scrubbing the blood out of her clothing and sheets in the morning. It's tear-jerking display of friendship as well as a stark reminder of just how uncomfortable menstruation was before disposable hygiene products.
After getting her period on a field trip (in white shorts, of course), Jessi enlists a male friend to find her a tampon or a pad and then gets a lesson on female empowerment from Lady Liberty herself.
Instead of being scary or mysterious, Diane's first period was a chance for all the women in the house to come together and celebrate femininity, complain about cramps and clueless men, and wonder when society will get around to respecting women. You know, girly stuff.
To this day, both women and men have trouble talking about periods, insisting on using code words or cutesy nicknames to describe the monthly biological occurrence. Greta Gerwig's Abbie was not having it in this movie, reminding everyone at the dinner table to just say it "not like it's scary, like it's normal." Because it is.