Jem Watch 2015

Okay, so yesterday the long anticipated trailer for the live action Jem and the Holograms movie was released. Yaaaay! Said throngs of fans awaiting the much hyped event, that is until they watched the it, when the internet cried out with a great collective “Really!!??”.

For those of you not in the know, Jem and the Holograms was a cartoon series aimed at viewers between the ages seven to twelve (and up. Let’s be real.) The story starred a young girl named Jerrica Benton who tragically looses her father and inherits the music company Starlight Music and the foster home for girls, the Starlight Foundation. She also is given information which leads her to a secret underground room, revealing the large computer A.I. called Synergy. Through the magic of technology, Synergy had the ability to project a hologram onto Jerrica allowing her to become Jem, the truly outrageous pop star and lead singer of the band, Jem and the Holograms.

Of course one of the CEO’s of Starlight Music, the dastardly Eric Raymond, wants nothing more than to unseat Jerrica Benton and take over the music company for himself. He did this by coming up with various schemes involving his own star vehicle, the Misfits (Their songs are better). The resulting show consisted of wonderful chemistry between the Holograms and their enigmatic leader, fighting to keep her company while raising money to keep the home open for the poor orphans, against the archvillians the Misfits, the self centered fame hungry starlets.

Add to that the, secret identity aspect of Jerrica and Jem as only very few know that they are in fact the same person. It was Hannah Montana before Miley was even born. There was her somewhat confusing relationship with Rio, who had no idea that they both one and the same. It always made me wonder why Jem/Jerrica never had a problem with the idea of him cheating on her with herself. But it made for good television, so whatevs.

But the secret identity thing was a huge part of the show. Huge. It created tension which drove the story. Several episodes consisted of the ‘will she make it in time’ plot line in which one girl is expected to be in one place while the other has an engagement across town, or even better, when they are both expected to be in the same place at the same time, leading the viewer to wonder, what will they do??? (It’s showtime Synergy!)

Skip ahead about thirty years. We are presented with this:

Of course, this is just the trailer, and it could be misleading. But right off the bat, there are SEVERAL things very, very wrong.

One: Jerrica is an ordinary girl living a most unexceptional life. As of yet, there is not indication of any tragic backstory other than a veiled reference to absent parents. She lives with her aunt (who seems fairly attentive and caring) along with her various foster sisters in what appears to be an ordinary house (not any kind of foundation for girls or anything so high-falutin’). When Jerrica’s music is discovered, they are flown to a very L.A.-esque city (I’m assuming) to be transformed into Jem, her famous alter ego. Thing is, EVERYONE KNOWS THEY ARE THE SAME PERSON!!!! This takes away a key element of dynamic tension within the show. The relationship with Rio can now be classified as Boring McDullsville because there is no more “Who does he actually like?” The specifics of Jem/Jerrica being at odds with herself is being internalized creating a very angsty vision of the character, completely different from the confident, dynamic Jem of the original cartoon.

Two: Erica Raymond, gender flipped and played by Juliette Lewis, will probably turn out to be more evil than what this trailer hints. In the original cartoon, Eric Raymond had known Jerrica’s father as they worked together at Starlight Music. His ongoing plans to foil Jerrica’s inheritance made him that much more dastardly, as his actions betrayed the legacy of Jerrica’s father because he was his former associate. In the live action trailer, it appears that Erica is simply a regular old evil record producer, with no familial connection to the Bentons. Also, Starlight Music does not seem to be in anyway affiliated with the Benton family name or the foster home. I could be wrong. Time will tell. Removing this element of the story takes away from Jerrica’s drive to keep the foster home open and to run Starlight Music. The original Jem showed that girls could aspire to be shrewd business women and philanthropists (as well as drenched-in-pink fabulous pop stars).

Three, where the heck is Synergy? The early eighties represented a time when the nation was on the cusp of a technological boom. The dawn of the computer age presented us with dreams of new possibilities that previously had seemed impossible and magical. It was the representation of magic through technology that allowed Jerrica to turn into Jem through the use of a pair of computerized earrings. This device allowed her to communicate with the super computer Synergy and transform herself into Jem. In the trailer, there is a very brief scene in which she touches her earring and whispers the famed line “It’s showtime, Synergy.” Time will tell what that is referencing, but so far it just seems as if she is a girl with a haircut and a change of clothes. The magic has literally been eradicated from the story.

Four, where the heck are the Misfits? Every hero needs a bad guy. Batman has Joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. Jem and the Holograms had the Misfits. You can’t have one without the other. This trailer indicates the equivalent of Superman roaming the streets of Metropolis wrestling with his inner turmoil of “Who am I, Clark Kent or Kal El?” That does not make for an interesting movie. The conflict has gone from Person vs. Person, to Person vs. Self. They are going to lose the supposedly targeted audience if they haven’t already.

At the end of the day, the movie may end up being scads better than the first trailor indicates. I would hope. If not, then what they have done is taken a beloved story with many appealing and empowering messages and story lines, and they have completely gutted it. They have attempted to make a movie for today’s tweens and preteens and I’m assuming girls. Problem is they have failed to recognize what today’s girl wants, a good story. I was ten when I watched the original cartoon. I knew then what a good story looked like. Today’s ten year olds have not been given as much credit.

Truly outrageous. And I don’t mean that in the good way.

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