Mining childhoods for Jem will be a disaster

Mining childhoods for Jem will be a disaster

LOOKS LIKE DISAPOINT: Stefanie Scott and Aubrey Peeples in Jem and the Holograms, which will be in theaters in July to crush your childhood memories.

I do not really give a crap about Jem and The Holograms. There is no doubt whatever about that. However, I have nothing against it, either. I am Jem-der neutral. The cartoon was an equal counterpart to the toy commercial cartoons of my childhood; all were poorly written and remembered as being better than they really were. GI Joe, He-Man, Transformers, Thundercats, Silverhawks, BraveStarr, Max and the Wheeled Warriors, MASK, Challenge of the Go-Bots and so forth were squarely aimed at boys; girls got Jem and She-Ra. Jem at least had going for it that she was an original creation and not aping a boy's line.

A number of girls I've known over the years have loved Jem with a passion, and thus I've picked up a bunch of Jem trivia. In 1999, just before DVDs were really the thing, I sourced a full set of the Jem series on VHS from a seller on ebay for my girlfriend's birthday - along with some home-packaged CDs of all of the music ever played on the show. Thus, I have seen a lot of Jem and find myself truly, truly, truly outraged, at least sympathetically outraged, over the upcoming live-action film adaptation of Jem and the Holograms.

Sometime around 1984, Sunbow Productions hired a woman named Christy Marx to create a series of 65 episodes around their new toyline. There was no story, no concept, only a set of dolls for two girl bands, a boy doll named "Rio" whom one presumes may have danced on the sand, a spacey character called Synergy and a Rockin' Roadster vehicle.

Marx created the entire plot of Jem, which is basically as follows: Jerrica Benton is the owner of Starlight Music but uses a holographic supercomputer built by her father to take on the persona of Jem, the lead singer of The Holograms. Her Jem persona is projected by her earrings; it's a hologram. (Yes, I know, but this wasn't meant for us. Suspend your disbelief for a moment.) The earrings can also project other holograms and she uses them to get out of all of the dangerous situations girl bands typically find themselves in.

The Holograms have two bands of enemies: The Misfits, whose songs are better, and later The Stingers, whom I think were moonlighting Dreadnoks from GI Joe.

Jerrica/Jem had a semi-androgynous purple haired boyfriend Lois Lane character in Rio; Marx added an evil manager named Eric Raymond who handled the Misfits and wanted nothing more than to see Jem and the Holograms … well, dead, it seemed.

Anyway, like it or lump it, it was a very imaginative and original concept which was one of the first mass market toylines that didn't treat girls like idiots without imagination. Most toys aimed at girls, to this point, had only stretched girls' imaginations to living in a dream house and acquiring possessions through your boyfriend Ken. Jem and the Holograms didn't need men, they were adult women making their way in the business.

Now, the film that's currently being made is about a girl who is found on YouTube and goes glam after a makeover from Juliette Lewis. No computer. No imagination. Just a bunch of girls in a band. I honestly think the horrid, abysmal Josie and the Pussycats film was as close to a Jem film as this.

I'd say this outrages me on a geekdom "And Then They Came For Me" level, but they already came for me. Michael Bay has made a series of incomprehensible, useless films based on the Transformers. The GI Joe films were closer to the mark, but still pretty awful. The Masters of the Universe film was… well, OK, I liked that, but that was made while the show was still around basically. (Masters of the Universe also spawned the "Masters of the Universe Power Tour" which is one of the best things that ever happened to children, besides the polio vaccine.) Even Star Wars was… well, refer to Simon Pegg's opening of season two of Spaced for the ceremonial burning of our collective childhood memories.

But all of these things at least gave their audiences credit for not being morons. For having the imagination and, yes, suspension of disbelief that allowed us as kids to accept the wild and convoluted premises of the stories.

Now, audiences do not get that much credit. Perhaps this has to do with the destructive effect of the Children's Television Act, which stated that a certain percentage of all children's TV be educational. If you tune into kid's TV today, a great deal of it is just… kids, in school. Maybe one of them is a mermaid, but they're just… kids in school. I can't imagine me, as a kid, having ever given a crap about other kids in school; I saw that every cursed day of my elementary school life.

If they'd rebooted Transformers the same way, it would've been a bunch of guys who built fighting robots in a club at school while learning the true meaning of friendship. The guys from the rival school would've built their battlebot Megatron, but in the end the good guys would win and the nerdy girl would take off her glasses and somehow be magically beautiful.

As Werner Hertzog said recently on Twitter, "No, I do not want to watch any more movies about teenage vampires, werewolves, zombies, or anything, really, involving teenagers."

So, fans of Jem and The Holograms, we feel your pain. I even think they're doing worse by you than they've done by us — if a Star Wars trailer had looked this bad, there may have actually been an armed uprising. We have had our childhoods mined for franchise gold for a couple of decades now, to the point that the snake is beginning to eat its tail and we're getting reboots of the reboots. There's only one thing you can do about it: don't go. Don't watch it on Netflix, don't watch it out of morbid curiosity. Buy the DVDs and be truly outraged in your own homes.