Disney+'s newest series Baymax! launched on June 29, and it's already causing quite a stir— mostly because of one small (but meaningful) scene in the episode titled 'Sofia,' which tells the story of a girl who has just gotten her first period. In this scene, Baymax is shopping for menstruation hygiene products, but has no clue where to start. He turns to a woman in the aisle and asks for advice. She gives her thoughts, and soon, other shoppers begin to chime in, including a man wearing a trans flag shirt offering his own advice— that he gets the pads with the wings.
This is a huge moment for trans representation as well as representation of menstruation on television, making both a part of normal life. It's already taboo to talk about periods in mainstream media (and in society too), let alone talking about a trans man having his own. Plus, when Baymax returns to his patient, who is waiting in a school bathroom, we see a shot that this bathroom also happens to be an all-gender restroom.
When period talk it does come up in television, it's usually as the punchline of a joke, and while this episode of Baymax! is full of humor, it never treats Sofia's period as a joke. Baymax!'s matter-of-fact treatment of periods as a completely regular thing—just like Aunt Cass's sprained ankle in the previous episode, is pretty revolutionary. Sofia (voiced by Lilimar Hernandez) is less calm about the situation. She has a bit of an existential crisis, to which Baymax responds, "It is common for people to feel embarrassed, fearful, or uncomfortable with the subject of menstruation. But it is just biology. It is nothing to be ashamed of." Though that is not exactly the issue that Sophia is dealing with, it's incredible that this statement is there for kids, many of whom are taught that periods are shameful and taboo, to hear.
Sophia's actual issue, that she isn't ready to stop being a kid, is also an important one to chat about, and the show handles it well, not downplaying her emotions, but also pointing out that her life and childhood isn't over just because she has started her period. It also helps that her male friend/yo-yo partner is not weird about it at all, which is refreshing and quite different from what is normally shown of boys reacting to conversations about periods on television.
Beyond 'Sofia,' the rest of the show looks delightful. Each episode (around eight minutes long) follows a different central character who is dealing with a health issue that Baymax attempts to fix. Like in life, oftentimes there's a deeper emotional issue linked to a character's reaction to that health issue or urges them to deny care. As screenwriter Cirocco Dunlap points out, “There are a lot of reasons we might avoid treatment in real life,” she says. “We’re scared, we don’t want to face reality, we can’t afford the consequences—the denial runs deep. And Baymax—since his goal is to make you healthy—doesn’t pause to let you catch up or prepare if his programming says getting better faster is the ideal outcome.”
Our relationships with our bodies are complex, and Baymax seems to be a show that really deals with these issues with nuance, honesty, and kindness, with an eye on starting conversations that are important for kids (and adults) to have. This is the kind of kids programming that changes lives for the better, and it's very exciting that it exists for kids now.
You can stream all episodes of Baymax! on Disney+ right now.
If you're a fan of kid's TV, check out this Popverse piece about how Steve from Blue's Clues is the hero no one knew they needed.