John Oliver’s latest find: How ‘Breaking Bad’s’ Mike misled teens about menstruation
On “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver has shed light on urgent yet underreported problems, from the epidemic of food waste to crumbling infrastructure.
But in Sunday’s broadcast, Oliver and his research team uncovered something truly unexpected: the role Mike from “Breaking Bad” has played in the sexual miseducation of America’s youth.
Say what? Allow us to explain.
The episode’s main report episode focused on the country’s inconsistent and, as Oliver argued, inadequate sex education practices.
“We tried this week to find out what sex ed looks like in America right now but that turns out to be a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Now in the past, depending on how old you are, sex education may have been little more than watching films like this,” Oliver said, setting up clips from grainy, hilariously bad sex-ed films from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
One particularly baffling film (with the amazingly to-the-point title, “Linda’s Film on Menstruation”) featured a young woman named Judy whose bowling abilities improved dramatically after she got her period for the first time. What, you’ve never heard that old stereotype about “that time of the month” and bowling a 300?
“That is some incredible misinformation. Menstrual blood is not like some uterine HGH that makes you amazing at bowling,” Oliver said. But even more incredible was the fact that her dismayed male companion is played by a young Jonathan Banks -- better known to TV fans as Mike Ehrmantraut, the grizzled former cop turned fixer on “Breaking Bad” and its prequel, “Better Call Saul.”
“If that video does not provide the basis for the prequel to ‘Better Call Saul,’ I’m going to be extremely disappointed,” Oliver joked.
But as Oliver discovered in the course of his investigation, menstruation as performance-enhancing drug was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the misleading or potentially damaging information being taught to teenagers across the country.
In his view, the practice of comparing non-virgins, particularly women, to chewed-up pieces of gum or used toothbrushes -- imagery commonly invoked in abstinence-only programs -- is not only sexist but also hurtful to survivors of sexual assault. (To prove the point, Oliver shared a moving clip of survivor Elizabeth Smart speaking about the effect these kinds of metaphors had on her.)
Another negative effect, Oliver argued, was a lack of clarity on the meaning of sexual consent -- an issue raging on campuses nationwide.
“There is no way we’d allow any other academic program to consistently fail to prepare students for life after school,” Oliver said. “And human sexuality, unlike calculus, is something you actually need to know about for the rest of your life.”
With that in mind, Oliver gathered some celebrity friends, including Laverne Cox, Kristen Schaal, Megan Mullally and, yes, Jonathan Banks, to create a sex-ed video that’s informative, non-judgmental and (intentionally) amusing.
You can watch the entire report here.
(And if you’re really feeling brave, you can watch “Linda’s Film on Menstruation” to catch the Emmy-nominated Banks in all his early-'70s glory right here.)
Follow @MeredithBlake on Twitter.
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