Monday, August 1, 2011

Jem is truly outrageous, truly, truly, truly outrageous!

TRULY outrageous.

This entry might make me look like a big sissy, but I'm an 80s nerd, so humor me.  During the late 80s when Jem debuted, I was forbidden to watch it because it was all about "rock and roll" and of course, that was not something my parents wanted me having any part of.  I think if my parents sat down and watched Jem, however, they would have realized that half the TV shows my younger brother and I watched had more violence, "adult" content, and "adult themes" than Jem.  That said, the only place I could watch this cartoon was at friends' houses.

I'll skip the long storyboard and just cover the essentials.  Jerrica is a well-to-do music publishing mogul, an early 20's American dream come true.  She not only owns a music company, but also moonlights as the pop superstar Jem in "disguise" for some reason, so she enlists the help of a super computer (named Synergy) created by her father, who left it to her after dying of cancer.  With the computer's help, Jerrica can quickly "change" into Jem via Synergy's ability to create the holographic illusion that Jerrica is then Jem, along with other illusions.  Keeping this secret, of course, becomes the central theme of most of the show, along with Jem's rival all-girl rock band, the not-so-cleverly titled Misfits.  Sidebar: how do you suppose they avoided a lawsuit with the punk band that had been around 10 years prior to the show's debut?  In any event, these 2 plot points intersect frequently, with both the Misfits and their manager Eric trying to discover the secret identity of Jem all the time.  Of course, her bandmates know it's Jerrica, but Jerrica's milquetoast-yet-loyal boyfriend Rio doesn't know, presumably for his own safety and that of Jem and the Holograms.

The central question is this: if Jerrica is this rich girl who owns this big music publishing company, and has this powerful super computer at her disposal, why doesn't the group become this big sensation and tour the world?  One must conclude that it's because that would be harder to base a weekly Saturday morning cartoon after.  Why do the Misfits have it in for Jem and the Holograms so much?  Is it because they're "bad rocker girls" or just because they're snotty brats who never grew up?  So many questions, no real answers.  But then, such is the joy of Saturday morning cartoons designed to brand products and sell stuff to parents who will buy it for their kids.

All in all, though this was designed as the girls version of G.I. Joe or the Transformers (both of which I loved as a kid and still enjoy to this day), it had enough appeal to cross over somewhat, and I enjoyed watching it when I had the opportunity.  Kudos to the TV channel "Hub" for picking the show up again, despite the somewhat storied licensing issues (which is why the show doesn't have a complete DVD release yet).  My wife and I have enjoyed watching Jem again, despite the utter lameness of it all.  Perhaps that's why we like it so much.  I mean, I can't stomach the Smurfs after all these years, and Scooby Doo is only passable.  But for some reason Jem lives on, and is still entertaining at some level.  But then it's better than half of the schlock that passes are cartoons these days.

Jem has seen a resurgence in popularity of late, partially due to the recent re-syndication of the show, but also because there are some Jem fan-sites popping up on the Internet, but also because a show like Jem with the big hair, wild clothes, and over the top 80's fashion is SO perfect for the cosplay crowd it's downright scary.

You only wish you were this cool.

There's even a "Jemcon" apparently happening in Holland this year (it started in 2005 in Minneapolis, of all places), so I'm guessing there will be a gaggle of Jem-obsessed fans dressed in their best Jem and the Holograms or Misfits (or Stingers!) custom outfits and costumes, parading around enjoying their cartoon that lasted all of 3 seasons.  But then I shouldn't complain: G.I. Joe was "technically" only on the air for 2 seasons before the made-for-TV movie aired and derailed the series, until 4 years later when the plot-line was resurrected for a series reboot.  But for Jem fans, it appears that the Internet has been a good thing.

Here's the interesting/confusing part: there's now a relatively new pop star who goes by the name "Jem", and unlike her fictional 80's glam pop/rock counterpart, this Jem is a pop-star of hipster proportions, with music that combines snarky pop, trip-hop, and other elements to make an interesting and enjoyable modern pop sound.  Not sure whether or not the choice of stage name is based on her real name, or whether it has anything to do with the 80's cartoon, but it's an interesting correlation nonetheless.  Apparently her music has been featured in a lot of TV shows already, so apparently she's already making good on publishing deals.

All of this rambling to say that I'm glad Jem is back on TV, and my wife is glad as well because it's a piece of our childhood we get to relive as adults and enjoy a little mindless fluff entertainment after a hard day of work.


narcispy said...

Really.... Jem? I always thought that show was more aimed at females. Is that Dee Snyder in that bottom pic there?? LOL

MetalFRO said...

True, the show was targeted primarily at pre-teen girls, but when I was a kid it had some crossover appeal to me and some of the other boys I knew. Besides, it's lame fun :)