2/9/10

RVOD094 Molly Grows Up

(1953, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

It’s what the moon goddess demands.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


Nothing makes a father quite so proud as his daughter’s first menses.

Summary:

She looks forward to cramps, stickiness and mood swings.Thirteen-year-old Molly wishes she were more like her older sister, a thirty-something teenager who wears straw hats, make up and elephant-sized tampons. Most of Molly’s friends have already started their monthly discharges. Why hasn’t she?

Finally the big day arrives, inspiring lectures from her mother and school nurse about her bloody vagina’s natural beauty, as well as a list of things she should and shouldn’t do while on her period. Swimming’s okay, but only if she waits two or three days after the start. Also, she can dance, but not square dance? They don’t specify, but I’m guessing that breakdancing, the Lambada and Cirque de Soleil are out as well.

Her father walks in on the final mother-daughter lecture and creepily admires his newly be-womaned daughter.

Thoughts:

Your period makes E.T. weep tears of blood.I’m glad I’m not a woman. There. I said it, and I’d say it again if I had to.

With that out of the way, we can move on.

For a short from the fifties, Molly Grows Up is surprisingly direct about its subject matter. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen a film this age address sexual physiology without hemming, hawing or flinching. I don’t think anyone ever says “vagina”, but it does have anatomic diagrams, frank discussions about blood and mucus, and frequent repetition of the word “menstruation” (pronounced men-stru-ay-shun). There are a few oddities (e.g. the dancing thing mentioned above), but most of it is reasonably informative. I don’t mean to sound shocked, but educational shorts that actually educate are rare, and ones that educate about things, you know, down there are even rarer.

That’s not what makes the short funny, though. The weirdness factor comes into play with the bizarre way the school nurse, her mother and eventually her father react to her passage to womanhood. It's a combination of admiration and fascination that, to modern viewers, looks utterly creepy. There’s no mention of sex—it’s still a short from the fifties, and no educator/parent of that period would ever admit that such a thing had even occurred to them. To contemporary viewers, however, it looks someone’s working himself up to say, “Fire up the barbeque and get the neighbors over. Our little Miss Molly is now capable of intercourse and conception, and we just have to celebrate!”

Much of the commentary’s best humor has to do with this inappropriate fascination. When the nurse interrupts a school visit to ask Molly to return the gloves Molly’s mother left at her house, Bill says, “Dear diary, my plan to creepily involve myself in Molly’s life is going great.” When we see the giant brand-named tampon box in Big Sister’s drawer, Mike says, “Modess: now big enough for sasquatches.” Kevin interprets heavily during a physiology lecture with, “All that silly growing is putting your organs out of alignment.” The short strains towards “unintentionally creepy” anyway, and the riffers manage to highlight this without making it uncomfortable to watch.