Bizarre Disney short

Most people associate the Disney studios with full-length animated features and family-type films.  Throughout the years, especially in the 1940`s and 50`s, Disney also made many educational films for schools and the armed forces.  One of the most bizarre examples of this genre is The Story of Menstruation(1946), which was made in partnership with Kotex and  shown in school health classes for decades.   Though well-intentioned, this animated short (easily found on the Web) is often, let`s say, confusing.

It begins with a tasteful shot of falling flower petals and some opening narration about how “Mother Nature” provides  us with “glands”-  specifically  the pituitary gland, star of puberty.   This quickly leads to a strange-looking infant in a pink crib, our sample future menstruator in her early life.  The narrator goes on to say that during the female child`s journey from “blocks to dolls to books” (because hey, who`d let their daughter play with toy guns or action figures?), many important changes occur.   We then switch from external to internal  views as several clinical-looking diagrams  of the uterus and ovaries appear.

The tone becomes quite scientific as the narrator launches  into an overview of how  “maturing hormones” help produce eggs in a female body.  Things get vague when the fate of the eggs is discussed.  There`s no mention of sex or how pregnancy actually happens.  Instead, the narration  goes directly to how expelled ovum produce  the “flow known as menstruation.”

Also, there really isn`t a smooth transition between the biological info in SOM and the subsequent application to the average “girl” and her monthlies.  All of a sudden, one gets  perky, upbeat advice on how to deal with things.  Now I`m not saying that a good attitude  here was not  needed-this was way before the cultural openess of the 60`s- but the film does not always address  certain problems in an entirely accurate way.

For example, the short mentions that  one may “feel a twinge” during this time. Anyone with debilitating cramps can tell you that  it`s WAY more than that- and defintely not psychosomatic.  Problems with having “less pep” may also occur. I guess this is a good time for a girl to notify her pep club that she just can`t be as strenuous on certain days.

The viewer also gets  some nifty tips on health and hygiene. A cheery little Donna Reed-esque character rides a bike AND  a horse and does exercises, vigorously disproving those old myths about menstrual inactivity.   All cynicism aside, SOM has a healthy psychological attitude toward its subject.  It`s the biology, hampered by restrictive mores  of its day, that`s tricky.  Though hilariously dated and pretty darn sexist, it`s an educational time capsule which still amuses.


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