by Keidra Chaney and Raizel Liebler
Keidra wrote an essay for Bitch Magazine in their latest issue (the Tough issue) about the Jem and the Holograms movie. And thank you to the Bitch donor that made their donation to shout out The Learned Fangirl!
But there is so much more to be said about Jem! So we’re starting a rewatch project of the first season of the show — starting right now!
RL: The show never lives up to the opening credit animation.
KC: I LOVED the original theme song and the Jem Girl theme song, featured in later seasons sucked. I have no clue why they changed it.
Our story starts with our heroes making a splashy red carpet entrance
at the BET Awards, which prompts Jem/Jerrica Benton to flash back to the entire first season of the show, starting with the untimely death of her father. Jem, her sister, Kimber, their friends Shana and Aja, and her boyfriend, Rio are there, along with Eric Raymond, who creepily pays his respects. (We’ll learn more about him soon.)
We learn that Jerrica’s dad left the girls (and by “the girls” we mean Jerrica) two inheritances: one of them is the Starlight Music company, the other is an orphanage. We also quickly learn that Mr. Benton sucked at running both of these because a.) the orphanage is in an egregious state of disrepair and b.) he “borrowed” money from the music company to pay for the orphanage, which CLEARLY he didn’t because the orphanage didn’t even have decent plumbing and electricity.
RL: Who has a music company AND a home for foster girls? And then leaves them directly to his early twenties daughter? Not in a trust? Jem’s dad stole money from his music business to support the foster house? So he WAS a horrible money manager!
KC: No, let’s talk about this some more. The housekeeper lady basically says like three MINUTES IN “hey your dad used to steal money from his failing record label to keep this failing orphanage afloat! you should do that Jerrica!”
Jerrica goes to Starlight Music, and gets all Paris Hilton on Eric Raymond, the acting head of Starlight Music, saying that she needs money from the company to pay for the failing orphanage like her daddy did and since she owns half of the company, Eric should just hand it over. Eric Raymond is basically like “Jerrica, this is a BUSINESS, not a charity.” Which is a perfectly reasonable response. OMG ERIC RAYMOND IS ACTUALLY THE HERO OF JEM.
In the middle of a meeting he announces his new band, the Misfits – Pizzazz, Roxy, and Stormer – who enter the meeting room driving guitar-shaped motorcycles. Because that’s what bosses do. They perform the first song of the show, “Outta My Way”
RL: And the Misfits get the first song.
KC: Because their songs are BETTER. I just wanna go back to the fact that Jerrica’s dad was an embezzler.
The Misfits act like obnoxious jerks, taunting Jerrica and boasting that they’re the best band out right now. Eric tells Jerrica that she has big plans for the band, including putting on a “Battle of the Bands” with some of the worst bands in town so that the Misfits are sure to win. Which… kinda makes sense. Except that if you’re going through all of the trouble to put on a Battle of The Bands, you might as well just fix the whole the whole damn show. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get some decent bands and then fix the show so that the Misfits look better than those guys? Because saying “Hey, The Misfits are better than that lineup of shitty bands I saw last night” is far from a ringing endorsement.
But never mind all of this. Eric basically tells Jerrica that he runs the company now and to get the fuck outta town with that embezzlement bullshit, and the Misfits (particularly the lead singer, Pizzazz) gets all in her grill.
RL: Jerrica, darling, even if you own 50% of the company, it doesn’t mean you can rest control away from Eric. How is the corporate structure organized? Who is on the board of directors? Other trust fund kids running corporations/badly managed non-profits? And how is it possible for the state to license Jerrica to manage a foster home?
After Jerrica goes back to the orphanage to bemoan her cruel fate (and honestly, things are pretty bad because the Starlight orphanage still doesn’t have working electricity at this point) she receives a package. It’s a pair of earrings! Who sent them? “I bet it was Rio,” says Aja. Which … no. Clearly not, ’cause he ain’t got no job, Aja! He’s always with y’all! Where would he have the money for some decent jewelry!? Jerrica puts on the earrings and the windows dramatically blow open! A mysterious pink-hued woman wearing purple workout gear appears.
“Jerrica Benton. I have come for you.” she says. She tells the girls to follow the instructions in the earring box and disappears. They haul into the band and follow the instructions to an abandoned drive-in movie theater. And for some reason they do this.
So they get to the drive-in, and the purple lady tells them to drive through the wall of the theater. “Things are not always what they seem,” she intones, and walks through the wall. It’s an illusion! Purple lady introduces herself as Synergy “a holographic computer designed to be the ultimate audiovisual entertainment synthesizer.” And apparently, Mr. Benton spent all of his time creating this computer rather than actually running his music company or non-profit. Synergy wows they girls with holographic tricks: turning the girls into each other and so forth. Appearently, Mr. Benton stockpiled other fabulous gifts only appropriate for musically inclined teenage girls, like a wardrobe filled with ridiculous clothes! And a room full of awesome musical gear! And a multicolored convertable roadster! WHY DID HE HAVE ALL THIS?
KC: Everyone is strangely cool about following an purple invisible woman to an abandoned drive in and driving through a wall. Also, have you noticed Kimber gets NOTHING? NOTHING! She doesn’t own part of Starlight music, or the fucked up orphanage, or get magical earrings? Did her dad hate her? Did her mom cheat on him and have Kimber so he secretly resented her? I have questions.
Either way, Jerrica is understandably inspired by the revelation of these wonderful gifts. She has an idea to save the orphanage! And for some reason that idea is not to sell all of these clothes and instruments and car and fancy holographic computer to the highest bidder!
Cut to the day of the Battle of the Bands. On stage is the Limp Lizards, singing “Broken Glass.” I am intrigued by the Limp Lizards because they seem to have a rough around the edges 90’s grrrl sound. Like Sleater Kinney, although they didn’t exist yet. Even as a kid, I kinda liked the Limp Lizards even though we only hear about 8 seconds of their song. I would love to see an alternate universe TV show that follows the Limp Lizards and their struggles as a C level band in the scene while The Misfits and the Holograms move on to become superstars. Anyway, the judging is about to take place, The Misfits are about to be handed the crown, but suddenly, they are interrupted! Why, it’s the new holographically created musical sensation Jem and The Holograms, with “Only The Beginning”!
RL: How did they put up an entire stage with gear and no one noticed?
KC: I HATE the fact that there is a prominent bass line in “Only The Beginning” and NO BASS PLAYER.
The crowd loves Jem and the Holograms, which of course pisses Eric off. Jem changes back into Jerrica, repping as Hologram’s manager and Eric challenges her and the Holograms to another Battle of the Bands in six months. If Jem and the Holograms win, he turns over his half of Starlight Music to Jerrica. If the Misfits win, Starlight Music is Eric’s. This is a horrible idea, obviously, and I have lost respect for Eric as a businessman. Then, randomly, a film producer named Howard Sands shows up to “sweeten the deal” offering a movie contract and a mansion to the winner of the contest.
KC: I dunno about you, but I have been to a few battle of the bands and I have never seen a movie producer skulking around with a movie contract and mansion to hand over to the shitty band that wins. Have you? Because if so, I need to get my band into one of these IMMEDIATELY.
Meanwhile, the Misfits have had enough of the bullshit and decide to steal and destroy the Holograms’ gear. You’ll see in later episodes this is on the more acceptable end of their list of criminal activity. The Holograms follow and Aja loses control of the car, which almost sends them over a cliff. Clever Jerrica uses her hologram-generating earrings to create a hologram of Jem to locate Rio for help.
RL: How does Rio know who Jem is? Didn’t she just introduce herself to the WORLD five minutes ago?
KC: Excellent question. I am going to assume that they met off camera, but honestly who knows.
Rio rescues the band and gets in the paper for his heroism, which of course gets extra publicity for the Holograms. Eric Raymond and the Misfits do not take well to this and in response, Eric hires a jack-booted thug to put a scare into the Starlight ladies. I have to say, I don’t understand why this was the response to the Holograms press coverage. Wouldn’t an orphanage getting robbed put them in the public eye again and only garner more sympathy? Eric really sucks at this.
Meanwhile at the orphanage, we learn that the girls are working odd jobs to buy a new fridge for the house and keep all of the cash in something called an “honor jar.” Now I am all for teaching kids responsibility but this is bullshit. THEY ARE ALREADY ORPHANS. Where did all of that money that Mr. Benton was stealing actually go? Why is the state OKAY with these parent-less children having to work to keep their house afloat? Someone needs to call DCFS on Jerrica. Ashley, one of the orphans is fed up with this shit and unsuccessfully tries to steal money from the honor jar. Again, I am not advocating stealing, but I don’t blame Ashley for wanting to do whatever she needs to to get out of that wack-ass orphanage.
Later that night, while the Starlight girls are sleeping, jack-booted thug breaks into the orphanage. Jerrica and the Holograms go downstairs to investigate and jack-booted thug (of course!) knocks over the oil lantern that Kimber is carrying.
RL: Why does Kimber have an oil lantern rather than a fucking flashlight or turn on the fucking lights like a normal person when they hear a noise in the house!
KC: So the house can burn down!
Because of course.
Stay tuned next week for our discussion of Episode 2 of Jem, appropriately named “Disaster.” Will the Starlight House burn down? Spoiler: Yes. Yes it will.