‘Turning Red’ Already Had Folks Pearl-Clutching Over Menstruation, ‘Baymax!’ Responds With More Tampons
We shouldn't have to keep normalizing the normal.
Today is the premiere of Baymax! on Disney+, a series that stars everyone’s favorite, inflatable healthcare provider, Baymax from Big Hero 6. In six short episodes, Baymax sets off to help those in need, and as he works to cure physical ailments, it often leads to conversations about more mentally taxing things going on for each person. It’s a pretty wholesome series that usually ends on some kind of “love yourself/take care of yourself” note, but one episode in particular already has some treating the series like the fifteenth coming of Satan.
The day before the series premiered, someone shared a clip of Baymax at the store, looking at a shelf full of tampons and pads. Despite Baymax’s extensive database, he has no idea where to start, so he asks for advice. Suddenly, several shoppers begin giving recommendations, including a trans person and a father shopping for his daughter. The scene, to me, is a fantastic showing of three things: 1) there are multiple kinds of people who get periods, 2) this should be a thing we’re comfortable talking about, and 3) there’s an overwhelming amount of options, so it’s no wonder Baymax was lost.
Of course, not everyone feels this way, as Turning Red taught us when folks started freaking out about Mei’s mom thinking her daughter had started her period. To these viewers, it was bad enough that Mei drew hardcore fanfiction of her crush, and the movie had cranked it up to NC-17 levels of content because … a teenager may have been starting their period. The horror.
The person who shared the clip took the tired, predictable stance of complaining that Disney is promoting some hellish agenda, especially since one of the characters offering Baymax advice is trans, saying, “It’s all part of Disney’s plan to re-engineer the discourse around kids and sexuality.” Or, perhaps, Disney and other forms of media have a lot of catching up to do in regard to having conversations about our bodies and portraying a variety of people who … actually exist in the real world? That’s never the takeaway from people like this; it’s always talked about like a piece of terrifying content that’ll give your kids nightmares—never mind the fact that Big Hero 6 is a film where the main character’s brother dies in an explosion. No concerns about children with that detail, huh?
I much prefer the retweet of the clip, which says, “OP needs to shut up because this clip makes me so happy. There’s no talking around the topic and using substitute words, there’s a dad who’s unashamed to help his daughter, the trans character is comfortable, and everyone is supportive. More of this please.” Yes. More of this, please?
What happens in the episode
After giving a demonstration at a school, Baymax finds a young girl named Sofia in the bathroom freaking out about starting her period. Always the helpful, huggable bot, Baymax goes to the store to figure out what to buy. He comes back with bags full of options thanks to a group of helpful shoppers, only to discover that Sofia has decided to live in the bathroom forever. It’s not because she’s grossed out by her period; it’s because she’s not ready for what she’s been told getting her period means.
At one point, she laments that she’s not done being a kid yet, and getting your period is usually when you’re told that you’re growing up and things are about to change. Baymax reassures her that she’ll always be herself no matter how much her body changes. Also? She’s 12. She’s still a child.
Why this matters
I remember getting my period when I was 11 years old. This was back in the ’90s, and the first person I told was my dad, since I lived with him and my stepmom. He freaked out, shooed me away, and sent me to go talk to my stepmom. At the time, I didn’t think much of it because, back then, a lot of the media I saw told me that men were supposed to think that this is gross. My stepmom handled it much better, and so did my mom when I called her and told her.
Years later, when I was in college, I remember going home to visit my dad. He asked me to go out and get a pack of cigarettes for him, and I said how much I hated doing that because folks would sneer at me for buying them at such a young age (at the time, the legal age was 18). He then told me how he used to go out and buy my pads when I was younger and how much he hated doing it. When I was 11, I didn’t say anything to that “yuck” mindset. At 18, I’d learned better. “Those aren’t even the same thing,” I said. “When I buy your cigarettes, everyone thinks they’re for me and they judge me. No one thinks those pads are for you. If anything, they applaud you for being a dad who goes to get this stuff for his daughter.” He agreed with me on that one.
The reason I’m telling this story is because it happened back in 2001, so I’m always kinda floored when I see folks still in this “addressing menstruation is the most taboo thing ever” mindset in 2022. It’s astonishing to me to see adults on social media treating a thirty-second clip like something off of an x-rated site that’ll give your computer a virus. It’s disappointing because this episode of Baymax! addresses menstruation in such a nice, comfortable way. Having a trans person in the crowd will help build a better understanding of our bodies and how this isn’t just something that women experience—something that sorely needs to be talked about in today’s climate. Disney isn’t “promoting” the idea that men can have periods; this is simply stating a fact—which, by the way, is completely in character for Baymax.
The episode also shows how overwhelming menstruation is, not just from a standpoint of “ugh my stomach hurts,” but it’s hard to figure out where to even start when it comes to what you need. As with the other episodes of the show, it doesn’t stop at Sofia’s physical needs but extends to her worries and fears, as well. I remember getting the “you’re becoming a woman” talk, which is a hell of a talk to get when you’re an 11-year-old with a Mickey Mouse phone who has to make sure she’s in the house before the streetlights come on. I know what folks are trying to say when they spin it this way, but I felt the same way Sofia did. Was childhood over? Would I not be able to pretend I was a Power Ranger at the playground anymore? When Baymax looks at her and plainly states that she’s 12, I heard that 11-year-old from 1994 whisper thank you.
Having a series aimed at children telling them that their body is changing, but they are still themselves, is so important. I hate that it gets treated like this toxic substance that shouldn’t be seen by the very audience that would benefit the most from it. To be honest, children already have an idea about what menstruation is. When I got my period, I knew what was happening; I just needed some guidance on what to do next. When Sofia gets hers, she knows what’s going on, too, so much so that she knows that there’s a machine in her bathroom that has tampons—it’s just out of stock.
I hate that adults are treating menstruation like this thing kids can’t know about, because they’re the ones that children are most likely to go to for advice. That’s why it was so nice to see a group of adults come together and casually talk about menstruation, including a dad—the very person who, once upon a time, looked disgusted when I told him my period had started. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to keep normalizing the normal.
(featured image: Disney)
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