‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ author Judy Blume reminds Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that girls are going to menstruate despite ‘Don’t Say Period’ bill

(Illustration: Aisha Yousaf for Yahoo/Photos: Getty Images, Everett Collection)

The film adaptation of the often-banned book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret features girls discussing their periods, something Florida lawmakers are attempting to prohibit in schools.(Illustration: Aisha Yousaf for Yahoo/Photos: Getty Images, Everett Collection)

The poignant book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was controversial when it was released in 1970, for its frankness about menstruation, among other topics. And yet, as the film adaptation arrives in theaters more than 50 years later, books are being banned at an increasingly alarming rate and the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill in March that prohibits school discussions of menstrual cycles before the sixth grade. In many ways, the timing is perfect.

Not that author Judy Blume, who lives in Florida, is happy about that, and she’s made it clear as she promotes the movie that she disagrees with lawmakers who support the “Don’t Say Period” bill.

“I live in Key West. Although I don’t like to think of it as Florida, I have that governor [Ron DeSantis] and I have that legislature who is trying to control what girls can even say,” Blume tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I don’t know if he’s going to try to control what actually happens to them, because I have news for him: It’s going to happen whether he likes it or not.”

The gang from

The gang from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — actress Kathy Bates, writer Judy Blume, director Kelly Fremon Craig and actresses Abby Ryder Fortson and Rachel McAdams — pose on the set. (Photo: Dana Hawley/Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Star Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays Margaret, says she hopes the film inspires conversation.

“Knowledge is power,” the 15-year-old says. “And it’s always important that we talk about things like this. It’s kind of ridiculous that these topics are seen as something that we’re not allowed to talk about when a lot of people go through it. And especially at young ages, when, if you don’t know information, it can feel really, really scary. And you can feel really alone in the world, and it’s so important that you know that you’re not and that you have resources available to you, where you can just get useful, truthful information, as well as maybe a little reminder that there are so many other people who are going through the exact same thing.”

Actress Abby Ryder Fortson stars in

Actress Abby Ryder Fortson stars in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Photo: Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Producers Julie Ansell and James L. Brooks are more blunt.

“It’s crazy. It’s the most natural thing that happens to a woman. You get your period. Why is that something you can’t talk about?” Ansell says. “We need this movie because we haven’t talked about it enough. It’s sort of always been mind-boggling to us that you can’t talk about something that is happening to 50 percent of the world’s population.

Quips Brooks, “What can’t men say in Florida?” He adds that, “to make it unmentionable is to make it shameful, and that’s a real distortion of being alive.”

As readers already know, periods are discussed at length in the story. There’s a scene in the movie in which Margaret and her friend Janie (played by Amari Alexis Price) go to the drug store to procure period supplies, even though they don’t need them quite yet, and they face what appears to be a teenage boy at the cash register. Scenes like that, where the audience is allowed to see little girls together, being themselves, are not a frequent sight in film; like the book itself, they’re alternately hilarious and, because they’re brimming with nostalgia, heartbreaking.

Two of the young characters in

Two of the young characters in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, played by Amari Alexis Price and Abby Ryder Fortson, buy period products. (Photo: Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Actress Rachel McAdams, who plays Margaret’s mother, marveled that Blume’s signature title was banned in certain places when she was growing up in the ’80s.

“And imagine, all those people have had this amazing experience with her book, if that hadn’t been allowed to happen,” McAdams says. “It was such a cathartic thing. And you know, the women who come up to me still and say, ‘That meant so much to me,’ you know, they’re crying still. I mean, it’s really a powerful thing and it helped them get through something. Books have that power, and I just, I can’t even fathom if, if it was put in a vault and never allowed to see the light of day.”

Abby Ryder Fortson, Judy Blume and Rachel McAdams attend the

Abby Ryder Fortson, Judy Blume and Rachel McAdams attend the Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret premiere at Regency Village Theatre on April 15 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

Ansell is in the same place.

“They want to ban something about puberty? I mean, how is that a problem?” she asks. “How is it hurting, to understand it better, to help kids talk about it in school and go through it?”

— Reporting by Kaitlin Reilly

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret arrives Friday, April 28 in theaters.

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