While developing the upcoming WGBH film Let’s Talk Menopause, the filmmakers conducted an experiment. They approached random pedestrians on a busy city street and asked, ‘What do you think of when you hear the word menopause?”
The answers? Words like “grumpy,” “forgetful” and “angry.”
“Someone said ‘old angry face’ — while anecdotal, these views are representative of the average perception of menopause,” says Laurie Donnelly, WGBH executive producer of the one-hour film that will premiere on August 23 at 11am.
This lack of understanding leaves many women filled with dread and woefully uninformed about this natural phase of life, she adds. No woman can avoid it; in fact, about 65 million women right now are experiencing menopause or perimenopause — just about the same as the entire population of France.
“A lot of women think that menopause means their life is over,” says Donnelly. “This special may change their minds.”
Hosted by gynecologist Tara Allmen, author of Menopause Confidential, the WGBH film aims to equip women — and the men in their lives — with information that will improve their menopausal experience.
“Providing factual information about health and wellbeing to the broadest audience possible is one of the core values of public media,” says Donnelly.
“I've always felt that health programming is really important for us to take on,” she says. WGBH has a rich history of taking on complex health issues, such as the recent Blood Sugar Rising film about diabetes, NOVA’s The Truth About Fat and Can Alzheimer’s Be Stopped? among many others.
The film features three women’s experiences, reviews the myth and realities of menopause and ultimately delivers a positive message.
“You're not in this alone, and you can seek help,” says Donnelly. “You'll get through it, and this next chapter of your life can be a positive one.”
The taboo surrounding menopause is so strong, she says, that it was difficult to find women who would go on camera.
Donnelly has worked on a variety of health films and series, including the 1980s PBS series Bodywatch, eight half-hour shows touching on stress, exercise, nutrition and sex.
She is still influenced by the way the host of that show, Dr. James “Red” Duke, understood the health mission of public media.
“He used to say, ‘our goal is to take doctors down off their pedestals and lift patients up off their knees, so that they can just talk to each other,” recalls Donnelly.
“I think WGBH can be the facilitator of that, and give people the confidence to be able to ask questions about their health and improve their lives.”
See the promo here. Watch the film on WGBH 2, August 23 at 11am, August 29 at 1pm or September 6 at 2am.