When I was in high schoo,l back in the day when Britney Spears, Blink 182, and the Backstreet Boys ruled the pop charts, we had something called “80s Dress Up Day” during Homecoming Week. Tenuous to the top 40, I pieced together whatever I could to be a very Catholic-School-Friendly-Madonna-Wannabe. Of course, I also brought my Glitter and Gold Jem to represent my childhood. “Is that hooker Barbie?” a rambunctious Joe Strummer wannabe from my English class asked me. “No, it’s Jem. She was really big in the 80s!”
Jem, even to this day, bears a soft spot in the nostalgic minds and hearts of 80s children. The Hub has been re-airing all 65 episodes. This is a dream come true for many Jem fans who have been wanting to introduce Jem to a new generation. The Jem fan community is niche, yet still going strong. Jem Con still attracts collectors and 80s children to their events. Even at Bot Con 2011, a few of my toy collecting buddies and I were reminiscing about Jem.
I originally had planned to do a rebuttal vlog to Nostalgia Chick’s so-called retrospective on Jem. The Chick critiques the lack of a Jem fandom. However, even in the late 90s, there were fan campaigns to bring back the show on Cartoon Network and a mailing list wherein writer, Christy Marx, have had been active on. Toy collectors still swap and try to find some of the missing oddities like the fluffy pink llama. Cosplayers have had graced the halls of comic conventions in their homemade Jem costumes. Voice actors have also made guest appearances at conventions and fan podcasts reminiscing about the behind the scenes work on Jem. The fans are still out there and are still rockin’ like it’s 1987 all over again.
With that said, I think 2012 is the perfect time to bring back a Jem revival. This also means having a new line of dolls, merchandise, and television series. Though I doubt we would see a live action movie feature, there actually is much more potential in doing a Saturday morning style cartoon series. The success of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” can attest that children of all ages (yes, this also means you, 80s children!) can appreciate great writing and strong female protagonists.
The Story and The World
A business woman by day that moonlights as a pop singer can still work in 2012. Shows like “Sex and the City” and “30 Rock” have solidified that women in the business force can be just as fierce, yet still feminine. There is so much going on in the music scene in 2012, you would think that Jem and her multicolored (and multiethnic) haired friends would fit right in. Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga have sported some fabulous fashions and funky hairstyles and sing about fashion, relationships, and fame.
We also have our bad girls of the pop charts. I was joking around at Bot Con that I would love to see Ke$ha as a Misfits wannabe. Someone also pointed out to me that we still have the bad girl / angsty girl rock to the likes of Paramore. If Occupy Wall Street is an indicator, we still have the Eric Raymonds of the world.
Popular music is totally diverse today than it ever was. I do not think that a 1980s rap group would have been on Jem back when it first aired, but I can see some caricature of Drake, Kanye West (ooh…the rapper with an ego that Jem has to teach the value of humility), LMAFAO (animate the shuffle bot!), and perhaps Beyonce (a missing relative of Lena Lerner?). In the past decade, we also have an influx of Latino pop music from the likes of J.Lo and Enrique. Not to mention a mix of Asian Americans in the music scene such as Bruno Mars (I’d like to see Jem do an intervention!) and Far East Movement. We have much more diversity in musicians and there are plenty genres of music to play off today as there were in the 1980s.
Let’s not forget the movies. Jem and the Holograms encapsulates all areas of pop culture. I was joking around earlier today that a Jem revival would also include some mention of “Poltergeist Aliens: Prometheus.” Going further, music and rhythmic games are also huge money makers in the entertainment industry. How about an episode of Jem where they have to promote their version of Rock Band or adventure RPG?
Is it me, or can I also see Shana as a contestant on some sort of parody of Project Runaway? She would have to leave the band for a period of time to be on the show and deal with the ego that is Tom Magnum before she learns a lesson that it’s better to be with the devil you know. Fashion has always been a huge part of our culture. Gwen Stefani and Tokidoki have introduced Lolita and Tokyo Street Style to the masses. Rock and roll and fashion have always gone hand in hand. “It’s as if Angelic Pretty barfed on Snoop Dogg,” said a friend when she described Katy Perry’s “California Girls” video. Lady Gaga’s “The Fashion of His Love” is tribute to the late Alexander McQueen. Kreyshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” is self explanatory. Fashion and pop music still have that marriage.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is dealing with the changing face of telecommunications, or the lack of MTV…you know, when they played music videos. Does that mean Starlight Music has to set up their own YouTube so that their first music video goes viral? Or perhaps Clash is a snarky Internet reviewer jealous of her sister’s success? We still have the gossip shows – TMZ, Extra, Entertainment Tonight, or whatever is on the twitter feed – etc. There’s a ton of ways to talk smack on cyberspace (unfortunately). One of Jem’s signature aspects of their TV series was the music video breakout scenes. I wonder how Hasbro or any writer would figure this out. Would they just click into YouTube to check out the music video or Starlight’s official website? Or would we just break out into song like in Glee or the earlier Kids Incorporated? Or maybe set a montage like in The Idol Master animation? Things to consider.
All in all, today’s pop culture can appropriately set the backdrop a world made of glamour, glitter, fashion, and fame. There is plenty to play off of here in a story where it is about an altruistic business savvy woman who sings to make the world a better place.
The Characters (and Cameos!)
Though I briefly touched up on it in the previous section, the main cast of Jem still seem like they can fit in with today’s world. The only thing that seems out of date is Ba Nee, the Amerasian orphan. Because of the US’ current conflict with the middle east, I can see perhaps an issue of a young father being deployed to Iraq played out in a revival. Compared to its peers in the 80s, Jem was pretty ballsy for a kids cartoon to talk about Amerasian kids from the Vietnam War. Or perhaps Jem can have a Starlight Girl (or one shot character) that is questioning their sexuality. Of course, for a kids show, it’s not going to show anything X-rated. Perhaps it’s about a boy who wants to dress up like Jem for the costume party and he’s getting bullied by his peers for dressing up like a girl. Considering that Jem has a huge queer following and the writers were ahead of their time, this would be a pretty cool story to have in 2012.
As mentioned above, the main Holograms’ love for fashion, hair, music, and altruism fits in today’s pop culture scene. Lady Gaga is very much involved in sheltering homeless LBGTQ youth. Greed and self entitlement are very much rampant today, which is why Raymond and The Misfits’ schemes and motivations are hardly outdated.
Moreover, little girls are always seeking that positive female role model. While I do have issues with “strong women” archetypes (ie: look at me!I can kick any boy’s butt because that’s my only personality trait!), it usually boils down to writing. I suppose you could say I’m more about having empowered characters than women having to sacrifice femininity for male traits. An example of empowered female characters done well in the modern day would be “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” proving there are many different ways of being a girl, and there really is no one right way. Because the Holograms are diverse in culture, this also gives people of color to have a positive role model. Recently, companies like DC have been under scrutiny for having a lack of female protagonists and diversity. Jem and the Holograms has the perfect opportunity to present itself to a new generation of fans and appease the old.
Let’s face it. GI Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony, and Jem were half hour long commercials to sell toys. For the first time, the B Girl got a run for her money. Jem brought some real market competition. It was the battle of bands…with dolls! The Rockers versus the Holograms! Even today, Barbie presses her six inch pink heels into the competition.
However, I credit Mattel’s Monster High for bringing an alternative fashion doll to the market. Monster High has a set of girls in funky proportions in some really kooky, yet stylish fashions. Even so, dolls based on pop culture have been doing well. One of the best aspects from the original Jem doll line were the movable joints and versatile poses. Considering that there is a community for articulated figures and dolls, Jem on the collectors market would fare well. As far as the market for little girls, I can see Jem doing well too. However, a few changes need to be considered.
The problem with the Jem doll line in the 80s was that Jem was too two dimensional. There was an article published in the 90s to make Jem’s accessories and toy lines to compete better on the market. Jem could have a line of toys where they are super heroes in the latest movie they are doing. Think of the Misfits villains set! Jem could also have fancy outfits to celebrate a premiere or a masquerade ball event. Having toy designers with a vast imagination to create playsets and themes would be very helpful in the success of a Jem doll line. Though cassette tapes are out of date, how about adding a usb stick shaped like a guitar that contains a few songs? There are thousands of ideas here that can still have Jem keep her music career, but explore different avenues of glamour, glitter, fashion, and fame.
Jem having more versatility in her toy line would make her very compatible on the market and in little girls homes. Girls would also let Jem and her friends interact with Barbie so that they can all go to the fairy ball or have a real battle of the bands.
I think Jem would do very well in the 2012. Many 80s children have been waiting for the light of day to be shed on a new Jem series. If GI Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony can have their revivals and reclaim to their glory days, why can’t Jem? We need writers like Christy Marx, Lauren Faust, Paul Dini, and others to write a show about empowered and fabulous women that everyone can enjoy. If we can have Jem make a big comeback, then that would be truly, truly outrageous.