By Rachel Stewart
In 2015, Universal Pictures released a “Jem and the Holograms” film that was far from outrageous. Instead of appealing to its target audience – women in their late 20s and early 30s – the director and studio tried to appeal to a much younger demographic and failed to capture the fame, glitter, and glamour of the beloved 1980s cartoon. I was one of the few people that slunk out to the theater opening night in sequins in hopes of a pseudo-nostalgia trip. By the time the end credits rolled, me and my girlfriends had unofficially RiffTraxed the film to death and were stewing over the lost opportunity of Kesha as Pizzazz. (The other standout moments were limited to cameos by original JEM stars Samantha Newark and Britta Phillips.)
Enter ChickBait with their YouTube video “JEM reacts to the ‘Jem and the Holograms’ Trailer”. Dressed as classic Jem band members including the Holograms, the Misfits, and even the Stingers, Jem and her friends are confused over what they watched and want to get creator Christy Marx on phone to figure out what went wrong. That video spoke to thousands of JEM girls and boys that wanted a sparkly, fun movie about a pop star and her friends. Soon after, ChickBait launched a Kickstarter for a fan film, and here we are – with a film truly worth its title: TRULY OUTRAGEOUS: A JEM Fan Film!
Here are my top five fave things about the new film – SPOILERS follow below, so do yourself a favor and watch the film first. (Seriously, what are you waiting for?! It’s SHOWTIME SYNERGY!)
1.The music video format. JEM served as a kid-friendly version of MTV for girls like me, and I collected my JEM cassettes the same way I did for real singers of the time period, including Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul, and Madonna. The fan film kicks off with a music video to let you know that yes, this is the JEM movie you wanted all along.
2. The pop-up character titles. While the 2015 film took two hours to badly explain the concept of Synergy, the fan film puts it all together, introducing characters with logos similar to the ones that appeared on the doll boxes and other merch. They trust the audience to pick up the concepts quickly, much like the original audience did in the 1980s. It’s also helpful for any newbies who might be watching and not sure who’s who (or those that haven’t watched the cartoon series in a hot minute.)
3. The easter eggs for mega-JEM fans. This film is made by fans, and it shows EVERYWHERE. From the colorful 80s-influenced costumes (all made by Shana like in the original show), to the episodic plot points (Kimber and Jem fighting! The Misfits making mischief! Kidnappings! Rio being unable to figure out Jem and Jerrica are actually the same person!) it felt like a classic JEM episode come to life, complete with confetti-filled commercial break bumpers and “To Be Continued” cliffhangers. There were moments where I was screaming with laughter – the off-handed remark about the JEM star earrings being made in China now (from the episode where Jem had to find her real earrings in a sea of knockoffs) to Kimber telling Stormer “I’m okay” (referencing their infamous duet when they quit their respective bands and became a duo for one short episode). The best meta moment of all though? When Jem says they’re “getting down to business” and a character and runs in and stops them from singing because they don’t have the copyright for the cartoon song.
4.The over-the-top drama and good-natured humor. When you’re a kid, episodes of JEM make perfect sense, but when you watch them as an adult, they are campy as hell – and in the best way possible. (I mean, Eric Raymond BUYS A MOUNTAIN because he doesn’t want Jem skiing on it in one episode. That’s 1980s excess to the max, man, and it doesn’t make a bit of sense AND I LOVE IT.) The dramatic moments and jokes are present throughout the whole film and you can tell the creators really worked hard to replicate the episode format through and through.
5.That “G.I. Joe” crossover moment. C’mon, if you were watching JEM in the 80s, you were most likely watching G.I. Joe, too. And if you had the JEM dolls and G.I. Joe figurines in your tox box, there was most likely a guest appearance by Baroness, the baddest member of Cobra, when you were playing. Considering both shows are Hasbro properties with similar animation styles, it feels like a natural crossover and the type of after-credits scene Marvel movies have made famous.
I’ve never really understood why the “Jem and the Holograms” series has been overlooked for so long – and then given the less-than-stellar treatment in an era of 80s-influenced pop stars like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. If we never get a proper reboot (I’m looking at you, Universal and Hasbro) I can rest easy knowing that some fans took matters into their own hands and gave JEM her moment in a glitter ‘n gold spotlight. Thanks, Chickbait. (When can we Kickstart the sequel?)