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Y'all, they are making a Jem and the Holograms live action movie. If ever there were a time to squeal like music fans animated in the mid-80s, it's now.
I'm actually terrible at going to the movies. I average one in-theater experience every year or so, sometimes less if there isn't a Peter Jackson/Tolkien thing happening. But I will have my butt in a seat for this -- even though I'm a little nervous, actually. I mean, my excitement doesn't change that this movie is being led by three dudes. And Christy Marx, the creator of the show -- who also wrote more than half of the original content in the 3-season run -- has been shut out of the development.
That's extra ominous when you consider that the three men behind the movie are crowdsourcing a ton of the creative work, including casting, which they ran via Tumblr auditions. (The website of the movie is actually a Tumblr-style blog.) It kind of sounds like they recognized a hot property but have no real idea what to do with it. Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE crowdsourcing. I'm just not sure how I feel about it when it comes to the creative direction of a film.
Especially since "Jem and the Holograms" was actually kind of a complex show. I know some of you are laughing, but give me a minute and I will explain. Because in anticipation -- granted, far in advance, probably premature anticipation -- of both the Jem movie and the Jem conversations I want to be having until it comes out, I have started rewatching the series.
I'm doing it Saturday morning cartoons style, though I'll admit I'm more likely to be putting makeup on as I watch than eating cereal. This weekend, Ed came out of the bedroom to find me and the dog on the couch, Jem on the TV, and makeup everywhere. It was, dare I say, a tiny little bit outrageous.
This isn't my first rewatch. In 2000ish (I'm bad at dates and I don't have that version of my passport handy), I was in New Delhi, India, visiting my dad -- he was there to build a golf course. The afternoons were long and hot and there were frequent power brownouts that meant AC was iffy on some of the hottest afternoons of my life.
I spent those afternoons with my fingers crossed. But it wasn't so much for the AC. Keeping power meant an hour of 80s cartoons that I hadn't seen since the actual 1980s. Danger Mouse and Jem and the Holograms both aired. It was my summer vacation and two of my favorite shows were being given to me like a gift.
The first episode opens with fans lining a red carpet, chanting the names of each band member. Shana, Aja, Kimber, and Jem appear one by one, all of them glammed out and marvelous. Reporters shout questions, because I guess that kind of thing works, right? And then the flashback begins.
It's kind of like a "How I Met Your Mother" framework, only Jem probably isn't actually telling the reporter all of her secrets -- because, as I had to explain to Ed, Jem is totally a secret identity.
So basically she's a super hero.
We're treated, if a funeral in the first two minutes of a cartoon can be called a treat, to the funeral of Emmett Benton. This is where we actually meet some of our characters and get acquainted with the world.
Some people are saying the storyline of the original cartoon is confusing -- but, really, it makes more sense than "True Blood," OK? Just suspend your disbelief for a minute and trust that the internal logic will be consistent.
The Holograms were originally a 4-member band (Raya comes later) and we meet them first. Jem ( who is actually Jerrica Benton), her little sister Kimber, and their adopted sisters, Shana (who is black) and Aja (who is Asian), who joined the family as foster kids. Emmett Benton, in addition to running a music company, ran Starlight House, a foster home for girls. His wife, a singer who died in a tragic airplane crash (I mean, seriously) founded Starlight House, so the girls all grew up together. The dead wife thing comes up later in the show, too.
He, uh, also invented a computer that projects holograms -- Synergy. She's also "designed to be the ultimate audio/visual entertainment synthesizer." So, you know, that's cool.
We see a lot of the current batch of foster kids -- there are a lot of subplots involving them throughout the show. In the first episode, new girl Ashley steals from the honor jar (they're all saving up for a new refrigerator) and the other girls decide her punishment is to earn the remaining money they need. Thirty bucks in 1980s money wasn't entirely chump change but the other girls were mowing lawns and washing cars so they figured Ashley needed to chip in.
We also meet the only two men who are constants from the beginning of the show and who feature heavily in the storylines. Rio Pacheco is Jerrica's loving boyfriend, but he's got a temper and no tolerance for lies or deception. Which sets up the inevitable romantic triangle between Rio, Jerrica, and Jem (who really is Jerrica). And then there's Eric Raymond, Emmett's old business partner at Starlight Music. He's kind of a giant douche in the way that music industry folks in the 80s were portrayed.
He's also the source of the initial conflict that sets everything off -- Jerrica goes to Eric and asks for money from the business for Starlight House. And he refuses because he's determined to make Starlight Music a huge hit machine. Starting with the Misfits, who make their entrance on guitar shaped motorcycles.
Jerrica calls the Misfits trash. And an epic cartoon rivalry is born. Because Jerrica, as much good as she does and as hard as she works, is a stereotype of a naive and privileged white girl. She's not 100% sympathetic is what I'm saying.
The Misfits (with their own mixed bag of privilege and entitlement) are an all-girl arena rock band. They're the total opposite of Jem's power pop. Neither of the bands are perfect (in the first episode, they steal the Holograms instruments) -- but they all stick up for each other; they are each other's constructed families, no matter what.
That -- even more than the glamour and glitter, fashion and fame of the theme song -- is what has stuck with me. This idea that families are made totally resonated with me as an adopted kid, and still does now that I'm all grown up.
Now, of course, the Internet means no 80s cartoon gets left behind. And that's magnificent. But back in the proverbial day, I sat on the floor in front of the television in my dad's apartment in New Delhi and watched those cartoons with the same enthusiasm I watched them with the first time around.
Jem and the Holograms aired (for the first time) from 1985 to 1988. That means I would have been 7 or 8 years old when I first saw the show. That I have such clear memories of watching it kind of amazes me, because I don't have a lot of clear childhood memories.
Here's hoping the movie lives up to all of that.
Were you obsessed with Jem and the Holograms? What do you think about the upcoming movie?
And do you want to do a Jem and the Holograms rewatch with me? I warn you, the songs are way catchier than I remembered.