More than five months have passed since my initial post about the Jem and the Holograms movie and now. The movie has since been released, and is bombing worse than even I thought it would.
(I promise the nest installment of Alys-is-a-masochist (better known as the Grey recaps) is coming up soon. I’ve been busy with house-hunting since we are trying to buy, as well as a gown commission. Those posts take me a good four or more hours each. Posts like this are much faster.)
Between then and now, my anger has managed to grow. The more I’ve had time to reflect, the more I’ve realized the effect that Jem had on little girls back in the 80’s. She was more than a mere role model. In the 80’s, little girls were still sent the message that we were to be damsels in distress, and college was merely a way to pass time after high school until we married, have a couple kids, and stayed home, and what we wanted didn’t matter since that was the way of it. (I’m not slamming at-home moms–I am one myself, and I love it.) Jem was the first to tell us little girls that we didn’t have to stay at home. That was HUGE in an era when women were losing legal ground in the workforce and pay disparity was increasing along. Sexual discrimination against women wasn’t even outlawed until 1986! Men were the bosses of us, whether they were bosses at work (presuming we could even get hired) or our own husbands that we were expected to have when we grew up. We all had one correct path.
Jem showed us something different. It doesn’t matter that the show was created as a means to create interest in a line of toys. What matters is we saw a woman who wasn’t bossed around by men, and who both worked while also taking care of children. Shana even went on her own path for a while, and became a bona fide fashion designer, and it wasn’t all sequins and glamour. She struggled, but made it her own.
I’m so furious that all that was stripped out, and, rather than putting Eric Raymond in his place, the young women, now made into young teens, are made submissive to Eric-turned-woman, and are dependent on Eric(a). I found out something else very disturbing. Jerrica/Jem’s love-interest, Rio, has been left as a young adult, but also made into Eric(a)’s son, and, despite being an adult, is still lusting after Jem even though she’s a minor (he also knows her identity, as does everyone else).
The movie added in the twist of Rio coming to own Starlight Records, making Jerrica, rather than an owner, an employee of a man, which is something the original series wouldn’t have stood for. For Jerrica to be owner at all, she now must marry Rio and hope there’s no pre-nup. Take the studio from the women, give it to the man, and make the woman who should own it into a mere employee. Let’s add salt to the wound: Rio’s the one who, as owner, decides they’ll be called the Holograms. Can’t let the wimminz decide…. Rio ends up becoming the hero by saving the band by ousting his mother, who wanted to Jerrica to become a solo act. So much for Jem and her band being in charge and pretty much always saving the say. It’s insulting to the nth degree.
I guess Jon Chu heard the critics to some extent. Chu did some pick-up shots just a few weeks ago with the Misfits! Don’t get too excited. Their entire role is after the end credits. They walk into a club, even though they don’t interact with anyone who matters. It was more or less a, “You want them? We’ll give them the most token of token parts that isn’t even integrated into the movie.” How offensive.
Rio’s ownership of the company that employs his underage girlfriend also creates an issue of authority dynamics. Did I mention underage girlfriend? In most states, their relationship is illegal, but don’t count on Chu to identify the problems with that, nor with putting Jerrica and her friends in a position of career submission to a young mane who could destroy them if Jerrica breaks up with him before he wants her to.
For someone who claims to be a fan of Jem, Chu really doesn’t get it. He’s said that this was a “superhero origin story,” but he completely ignored that Jem and Kimber’s origin story was an important part of the original series. We saw their childhoods. We saw Shana and Aja come in as foster children. We saw their parents raise them, and understood why it was so important to them to make sure the foster girls in their care were loved and provided for. If Chu was a true fan, he would have honored the original series instead of deciding to completely destroy absolutely every single thing about it. And now he wants to make a sequel. He wants to make a Jem/G.I.Joe/Transformers cross-over.
For many real fans, loving Jem is about more than just being a fan. It’s personal. She opened us up to the idea that we would do so much more than society was telling us we were allowed to do. Chu didn’t have limits placed on him for his sex. Lucky him. Too bad he showed us how little he gets it by turning Jem into a dependent, angsty teen whose whose road to stardom was started because she was disrespected by her sister.
At the end of the day, the fact that this supposedly-girl-power movie was put together entirely by men, from script to directing, is disheartening. This isn’t so unlike a film aimed at empowering black people that’s produced by an all-white cast after telling black people their input isn’t desired, or a film aimed at empowering gay people produced by all straight people who are telling the gay people to leave the building. A film about empowering girls and women should involve girls and women in the production process, let Chu & co. explicitly locked all women, including the creator of Jem, out of the process. We get girl power through the eyes of the privileged group that doesn’t know what it’s like to watch as our rights are used in the political arena as bargaining chips. Re-read the paragraph on Rio coming to own the company, and think about how that is seen as girl power. It’s clearly through eyes who have no idea how offensive this movie is, especially when compared to the source material.
While Chu works on new ways to destroy nostalgia, role models, and messages that today’s girls still need, I’m going to be eagerly waiting for Jem and the Hologram: Only the Beginning, a fan film currently in production.
Photo from the fan-film Facebook page