Jem and the Holograms, or, Why is Hollywood Messing With Me?

Jem and the Holograms was my favourite show as a kid. My absolute favourite. It wasn’t on that often, but when it was, I was completely enraptured. For those of you who are too young to remember it, or never caught it during its late eighties peak, here is what you missed:

So here’s what it was about, as best as I can remember. Jerrica is an orphan, her dad having recently died, leaving her in control of a record company. But, that record company isn’t doing too well, so, with the help of some magic earrings and a hot computer programme called Synergy, she becomes Jem – a huge amazing pop star! She has other orphans in her back up band, and they often went head to head in the charts against The Misfits, who were also signed to the record company I think? Anyway, it was all secret identities and cool songs and outfits and pink and sparkle. The songs were brilliant, and often were embedded within the show as real pop videos, complete with MTV style info in the bottom left of the screen. Glamour and glitter, fashion and fame. It was The Best.

So imagine my surprise when earlier today, I came across the trailer for the new Jem and the Holograms film:

Apart from the pink makeup… there’s not an awful lot here that looks like the cartoon I know and love. In fact, this film looks a little lame. Like a slightly more colourful lifetime movie about a youtube star who ‘blows up’ and maybe gets a little sidelined by fame? With a bit of romance? And Juliette Lewis being the Boss? Plus it all looks distinctly ‘small scale’ as in, no OTT music videos, no big style gigs, in fact, where is the music???

What I’m trying to say is: sure, this film looks ok. It’s probably completely fine. However it is most definitely not a Jem and the Holograms film.

Here’s what I think the producers et al have missed:

Jem is a freaking superhero. Ok, she doesn’t fly around the world solving crime or anything, but she does have a secret identity. Jerrica is Clark Kent, mild-mannered and tame, whilst Jem is Superman – the wild punk pop star. She’s aspirational. She represents everything an eighties child wanted to be, and after a few reruns, you could even sing along! She had a costume, and a slightly mystical mentor in the form of Synergy. She was my Justice League. She was my Avengers.

I suspect that everyone behind this film was so desperate for it to ‘make sense’ that they completely forgot what made the show fun and fantastic in the first place. But with the raft of superhero films out right now, would it have been so bad if the Jem film was more of a camp eighties throwback with killer hooks and killer heels? There’s room for it. Heck, if we can’t have a Black Widow film, then surely we can have a great one for Jem?

Here’s what I would have loved to have happened: Jerrica runs her father’s record label, which is sinking. She finds some magic earrings that unlocks her father’s top-secret project, Synergy. With the help of Synergy and the earrings, Jerrica finds that she can magically transform (yes, magically!) into the pop goddess Jem, who takes the charts by storm. She becomes a girl-powered viral superstar! But how can she balance all the glamour and fame with her business life and boyfriend? Can girlie have it all? Of course she can dammit! Plus The Misfits would be in there too, somewhere. Saving her father’s empire and inspiring millions, Jem becomes a camp cult classic, endearing and well-meaning, but also batshit crazy as hell. Imagine Lady Gaga with magic powers doing classic era Britney-style videos. And OMG the songs would be sensational – probably produced by Max Martin or something. Imagine the soundtrack. IMAGINE IT. Like, they would legit end up becoming number ones in the real life chart because they would be that good. The soundtrack would be the best selling soundtrack of all time, bigger even than the Romeo + Juliet one.

This is the film I wanted. And notice how closely it resembles the original cartoon? But of course, Hollywood didn’t ask me what to do with my treasured memories. They wanted to make something slightly grittier and real, about teenagers who have no idea what they’re doing with their life being manipulated by Big Business or something.

I wanted the glitziest, pinkest superhero movie ever to appear on an big screen. What we have appears to be something monumentally dismal and drab (but with a splodge of pink thrown in here and there for good measure). It makes me sad.

Come in Dazzler, you’re our only hope!

Dazzler by Byrne and Muthart 3