Saturday, April 3, 2010

SMCS Companion Piece #10: Jem

This week on the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show DJ Muppet and I explored Jem, a cartoon I watched just as much as anything else as a kid. It never occurred to me at the time that it was specifically for girls. Oh, how time makes fools of us so!

Created in 1985 Jem was a three-way production between Hasbro, Marvel Comics, and Sunbow Productions who also collaborated to make The Transformers and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Action Force can eat it!). If you’ve never seen Jem before but have seen the other two cartoons you’ll notice the similar (human) character design and animations style. I call this particular art style “Outdated Eighties Crap” or the “Tacky Period”. Of all three shows none seem to represent the look and feel of the eighties more than this one with the terrible hair styles and questionable clothing choices. Also keytars!

One of these things is not like the other

The show is about a group of spoiled musicians who probably never had to pay any dues of any sort as a band. Specifically the heroic “Jem & The Holograms” as we see them rise to the ranks of the world’s most beloved band while putting in the least amount of work a band who is not owned by Disney can get away with. Jerrica Benton is, or was rather, the daughter of the co-owner of the record company “Starlight Music” which was left to her upon his death. In addition she was given control over a foster home for girls because this is the 80’s and this type of plot device is standard. She’s lucky she didn’t also inherit a failing ski resort. Anyway Jerrica soon realizes that in addition to being boring running a foster home is also expensive and attempts to get some funding for the record company she now owns. Not the one she works for the one she OWNS. For some reason her fellow co-owner, incompetent business man Eric Raymond, denies her the money, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure he can’t legally do that, and starts bragging about the new group he just signed, an all-girl band called “The Misfits”.

Those are some ugly chicks

Because she’s a spineless wimp Jerrica returns home to her three best friend, Kimber, Aja and Shana, in defeat. But look: a living hologram soon summons the four to its lair where she informs them that its name is Synergy and that Jerrica’s father built it (A highly advanced computer designed to be the ultimate something or other) in his spare time. Synergy can produce extremely realistic holograms. What do the four decide to do with this advanced piece of technology? Why they start a rock band, of course! After publicly humbling the Misfits the now titled “Jem & The Holograms” begin their journey to be the best band in a world clearly devoid of actual music.

Pictured: Clearly Not Jem

This cartoon is really weird and I’m not sure what I saw in it as a kid. It makes such little sense it’s almost insulting. I have so many concerns over this plot that it literally hurts my brain. First of all Jerrica decides that she needed to have an alter ego in order to be in the band. Why on Earth would she need that? To keep her personal life out of the spotlight? Well seeing as her best friends, none of whom have secret identities, are well publicized as the members of the Holograms and she herself is rarely around when Jem is seen I assume that everyone pretty much assumes they’re one in the same anyway. Everyone except maybe her boyfriend Rio who is about as intelligent as a lamp post. In fact not only does Jerrica not share the secret with him, proving herself to be a terrible girlfriend, but Rio is extremely attracted to the mysterious Jem. D’oh!

Pictured: Clearly Not Jerrica Benton

This is the problem with secret identities. If I may compare to superheroes the main reason secret identities exist is to protect loved ones from the criminals who might try to harm them in retribution. However I never got why guys like Spider-Man and The Flash (Not including Wally West who is too awesome for secret identities) felt the need to constantly lie to those very same loved ones they wanted to protect in the first place. This especially true if that loved one is a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband. In this show Jerrica, who doesn’t fight crime, has no reason to not let Rio in on the whole scam, but eventually develops the suspicion that he would hate her over it since he despises lying liars who lie and all forms of deception.

Of course this doesn’t include sneaking around behind Jerrica’s back with Jem. Sure, Rio is all about that hot side action with the Rock Star with no last name which of course makes him a damn hypocrite. Then again Jerrica is aware of it the whole time (Because she is Jem!) and in a way she’s kind of playing around with him. I have no idea who I dislike more. No wait, yes I do: Rio.

Rio's Motto: "Chicks are like Twix Bars; two for me, none for you"

The Misfits are the rival band, of course, and they confuse me just as much. Why do they care so much about getting Jem? If the put in half as much energy into making their music half-way decent as they did trying to murder her than they’d probably easily top the charts across the world. Yes, I said “murder”. The Misfits only operate in two modes: 1) Mischievous and 2) Homicidal. When not wrecking up concerts and stealing things they are seen attempting to run Jem off cliffs or running her over with construction equipment or some other act that would leave Jerrica dead should they succeed. Think about this for a minute: Does anyone remember back in the day when the terrible band Limp Bizkit tried to start a feud with equally terrible band Creed? What if, instead of just talking smack about them in interviews, Untalented Slob Fred Durst had cut Scott Strapp’s brake lines or poisoned his food backstage? Someone would be in jail right now. But since Jerrica is a doormat she NEVER CALLS THE COPS. So realistically one could say The Misfits win every single episode just because they stay out of prison without even calling a lawyer.

"I can't go down for this, fellas. I won't last two days in the joint."

Also why would Eric Raymond get so upset about the existence of Jerrica’s band? If he were a real record executive he’d probably just give her the money she needed for the foster home in exchange for signing the Holograms to a low ball deal, which she couldn’t morally refuse. He would have become filthy rich at the expense of the artist, which is how the record industries make that fat cash money.

Great theme song though.

For a less biased description of Jem click here.

For the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show’s blog click here. For the podcast click here.

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