Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Truly Outrageous

When I heard they were making a live action “Jem and the Holograms” film, I was over the moon. Why? Because Jem is excitement. Jem is adventure! JEM IS OUTRAGEOUS!! See??

She squeezes her earring and she and her bandmates--who run a foster home for girls, because they’re that selfless--become technicolor marvels. Glamour and glitter, fashion and fame! And more! They take on bitchy “enemy bands” with as much panache as they do while taking on a God damn volcano!

They are superheroes in their own right--saving royalty from being unseated, foiling the plans of cheaters in the many, many battles of the bands, and bringing attention to important issues like world hunger. And they did it all while looking amazing and singing a song.

“Jem and the Holograms” was an amazing part of the 80s. So naturally everyone was excited when the news came out that there was a film in the works. And then the trailer was released.

What you just saw is outrageous for all the wrong reasons. It surpasses awful. It does not even slightly resemble the original canon. It looks like a Disney Channel movie. (And not one of the good ones. If only it could end up as great as “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century” we’d be okay!) They’ve completely changed the spirit of the original material. This is now a coming of age story about girl who learns about being herself and the real meaning of friendship and family. And that’s a great, sugary, cliche story that’s worth being told. Again.

And if it had been told as “Judy Smith and her Rocker Girlfriends!” I’d politely clap and say, ‘That’s very cute!’ But that’s not what’s happened here. What’s happened is director Jon Chu of Justin Bieber concert film fame and his similarly credentialed team decided they’d take something with a previously established following, use the names in order to bring along that built in audience, and wrote a completely unrelated story. It’s like fan fiction, except at least EL James had the decency to change the names of her characters.

But there’s more at stake here. Female superheroes have been facing an uphill battle for years. The fact that there have been how many superhero based movies (I’m not going to count them, just think about all of them though) and only one centered on a female lead is atrocious. And well, yeah, the movie was atrocious too.

 Execs gave in, (finally) deciding to do a Wonder Woman flick--and it only got greenlit after “Batman vs. Superman” and the “Justice League” films were picked up. Prior to that, attempts at getting a female superhero movie were shot down repeatedly.

‘But Jess! Look at the Avengers! Black Widow is a major character in the film!’ Yeah, well consider this: In the current hit “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Black Widow has a badass scene where she drops out of a moving plane on a motorcycle and proceeds to look badass while kicking many an ass.

But what happened when it was time to develop the toy? Oh, they gave the badassery to Captain Americain one version of the toy and Iron Man in the other version. There is no toy version with Black Widow.

How does this all relate to what looks likes to be a shitty “Jem and the Holograms” movie? It’s all symptomatic of this idea that girls can’t kick ass. They can fall in love, lose their way, turn their back on friends, realize that there’s no place like home, and have a group hug with the people who really matter, but they can’t save the day. They are capable of rom-coming. And that? That’s detrimental. It goes beyond pissing off a fandom. It becomes damaging to society. It’s pandering, it’s limiting, and it reinforces the idea that men are physical beings and women are emotional beings.

I hear what you’re saying. “Jess, you’re judging a movie solely based on its trailer! Isn’t that jumping to conclusions?” No, because the people responsible for that trailer wanted the public to come away with an idea about the movie’s feel and narrative direction. Look at that and tell me I wasn’t supposed to get a rom-com vibe. You can’t.

There’s a missed opportunity here; an opportunity to tell a fun, female led story with a kick ass message, wrapped in a color palette that hurts your eyes. And that missed opportunity? Well, that’s truly outrageous.


  1. I know nothing about Jem. You must have watched that one alone (do you blame me? I can still sing "Dressed like a dream..we're all dressed like a dream" in my sleep). But your writing and sentiment and POV is perfect and spot on. You are such a great writer.