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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Makin' Mischief with the Misfits

I think at some point in our lives, we’ve all known a group of self-confessed “bad girls”.  I know that at my high school, there were several girls who could be considered “bad girls”.  A 2004 film starring Lindsay Lohan capitalized on the phenomena known as “Mean Girls”.  Even the late Donna Summer had a huge hit in the late 1970s with a song called “Bad Girls”.

There are a lot of stereotypes that are associated with bad girls.  Bad girls are mean.  Bad girls are easy.  Bad girls swear like George Carlin.  Bad girls smoke three packs a day and down an entire bottle of Jagermeister in one sitting.

In a lot of cases though, the so-called (and sometimes self-dubbed) bad girls are merely misunderstood.  If one were to really get to know these bad girls, they might find that they’re not quite as bad as they claim to be.  In fact, a lot of these bad girls may really be some of the nicest girls you could ever meet.  It’s hard to pinpoint one specific reason as to why good girls turn bad, but it appears to me that these girls have one thing in common.

They all seem to have had something happen to them that completely changed the course of their lives, and are determined not to let it happen again.  They may build up emotional walls, or they may compensate their loneliness and frustration with a damaging hobby, or maybe they simply lack the self-esteem to stand up for themselves.

We’re actually going to study a fictional girl group who by all accounts were made up of bad girls.  They were stuck-up, they had inflated egos, and when pushed too far, they could even be dangerous.  And yet, each member of this band can’t be considered absolutely evil, or a complete write-off.  All of these girls had serious emotional scars that for whatever reason never healed, and as a result affected them negatively.

Way back in September 2011, we had a discussion on the cartoon “Jem and the Holograms”, which aired from 1985 to 1988.  That entry focused mostly on the title group, and how their bonds together and generally positive attitude helped make miracles happen.

But Jem and the Holograms had serious competition from other groups, as most musical artists do.  It wasn’t uncommon for Jem and the Holograms to go toe-to-toe with several popular artists of the day.

And their biggest rival band happens to be the subject of this blog entry.  Why don’t we listen to one of their songs, shall we?

Yes, we’re going to take a look at The Misfits, the rival group of Jem and the Holograms. 

Initially, when the show began, the group was made up of three members.  There was lead singer, Phyllis “Pizzazz” Gabor, bass player Roxanne “Roxy” Pellegrini, and keytar player Mary “Stormer” Phillips.  Midway through the series, a fourth member was added, the English saxophone player, Sheila “Jetta” Burns.

And these Misfits were the antithesis of Jem and the Holograms right from the very beginning.

Whereas Jem and the Holograms sang light and fluffy songs about dreams, love, positivity, and being truly, truly, truly outrageous, the Misfits style was more...edgy.

A typical Misfits setlist would include songs about making mischief, scandalous behaviour, selfishness, and other raucous behaviour.  A lot of their songs followed this theme, which made sense given that their manager was the sleazy, egotistical, and unscrupulous Eric Raymond.

And then there were songs that surprisingly had a positive message behind it.  Take this one below.

Okay, okay, so the Misfits abused and threw shoes at Jem and the poor shoe salesmen in the shoe store (no wonder Al Bundy hated working at a shoe store).  If you listen closely to the lyrics of “Designing Woman”, the song actually encourages women to take the steps and change their lives to make them stand out and be noticed.  The song was one of the few that contained a positive message from a group that was formed on the basis of a con, courtesy of Eric Raymond.

(Oh, yeah, in case you wondered, Eric formed the Misfits to rig a Battle of the Bands contest, which Jem and the Holograms ended up winning.)

But that was true to each of the members of the Misfits as well.  Sure, they appeared to be bad-ass and looked as if nothing could tear them down.  But all four of these women had serious battle wounds which definitely explained why they ended up the way they did.  Some of them took steps to change who they were, while others remained stuck.  Nevertheless, why don’t we take a look at each of the Misfits in detail to see what made them turn bad, beginning with the newest one.

Jetta joined the band in the episode “The Talent Search”.  Right around the time that Jem and the Holograms recruited Raya to their band, The Misfits discovered Jetta in a seedy rock club.  Jetta was thrilled to join the band, and Pizzazz and Stormer welcomed her with open arms.  Roxy and Jetta, on the other hand, clashed like water and electricity.  Nevertheless, Jetta fit in well with the Misfits, and she wowed Pizzazz and Stormer with her tales about growing up in the British aristocracy and her privileged life.

It’s just too bad that Jetta made it all up.

You see, Jetta was embarrassed of her background.  She grew up in a working-class family in London, where her parents made a living as con artists.  It makes sense, given that Jetta was known to pickpocket and lie to get what she wanted.  In some aspect, Jetta was a victim of how she grew up.  Because her parents showed the example of lying and stealing to get through life, Jetta did the same thing.  She also ended up developing her stuck-up and antagonistic personality as a result of this upbringing.  Interestingly enough, once Jetta joined the Misfits, she blended right in with the group, and even though the Misfits eventually deduced that Jetta lied about her whole background, they still stayed her friend.  So, I guess in that sense, the Misfits helped Jetta become a better person.  Weird how that worked out, wasn’t it?

Jetta was particularly close with Pizzazz, who will be the next subject to look over.  All Pizzazz really wanted was to be noticed.  Pizzazz probably had the biggest desire to become a star, even more than the other Misfits combined.  She was determined to have her name front and center no matter what.  It didn’t matter to her that she grew up privileged with everything that money could buy.  She wanted to be famous and she wanted attention.

And the reason why this was the case was simple.  She felt that she was abandoned by her father.

Certainly, her father provided for her monetarily, even buying her a movie studio in one episode.  But emotionally, he seemed to be incredibly distant.  I’m sure that in Pizzazz’s father’s mind, he was providing for her as best he could.  But with him spending more time in business deals than spending time with her, it becomes painfully clear as to how Pizzazz ended up so screwed up.  She throws herself at any man that catches her eye, she throws a fit when she doesn’t get what she wants, and she often gets her feelings hurt whenever people turn away from her.  Pizzazz may very well exhibit an aura of confidence whenever she is on stage, but it was all smoke and mirrors.  When the lights dim, and the music stops, we see that the real Pizzazz is still very much an angry, self-loathing girl who just wanted attention from anybody.

Roxy could easily be the Misfit member that could be described as the most dangerous Misfit.  She’s got a rather cool personality, and she never seems to crack a genuine smile.  She treats everyone as if they are the enemy, and she is the one Misfit who actually could be charged with attempted murder with the number of tricks she has played on Jem and the Holograms.  But beneath that tough as nails exterior that Roxy built up over a lifetime lay a devastating secret.

Roxy dropped out of high school, and took off to the West Coast when she was barely eighteen.  As a result of this move, Roxy never learned how to read.  She managed to fake it for a while, but at a television appearance, Roxy failed to read a cue card, earning the wrath of Pizzazz and Jetta.  This prompted Roxy to quit the band.  Coming into a convenient large sum of money, Roxy hosted a huge party in her hometown to upstage a Jem and the Hologram benefit concert for, ironically enough, literacy awareness.  But Roxy’s plan failed due to her inability to read the contracts, and she ended up losing all her money to pay the fines.  But, there was a glimmer of hope.  When one of the Starlight Girls (the orphaned girls who lived in the Starlight Mansion that Jem and the Holograms owned) discovered Roxy’s secret, she handed Roxy a children’s book for her to learn how to read, which seemed to cheer Roxy up.  And at the end of the episode, Roxy studied the book, determined to right the wrong that she created all those years ago.

Finally, we have Stormer.  And Stormer is one of the most complex Misfits of the whole band.  You see, Stormer’s personality directly clashes with the other Misfits.  Whereas the other Misfits were brash, loud, and occasionally cruel, Stormer was none of those things.  She’d often take part in Misfits mischief making, such as spraying seltzer bottles on party guests, or flipping over tables.  But the real Stormer was sensitive, kind, and loving.  Stormer was very reluctant to cause Jem and the Holograms any serious harm, and even foiled a couple of plans by the Misfits to protect others.  Stormer also happens to be the main songwriter in the band, and while she was forced to write the hard, edgy lyrics that the Misfits were known for, she longed to write more meaningful, heartfelt songs that were emotionally charged and had a more upbeat message.

As a result of this, the other Misfits sometimes took advantage of Stormer, and often bullied her into submission.  Stormer tried her best to please the other Misfits, but for whatever reason, the others never appreciated her, or took her seriously.

So after the Misfits made fun of her songs and music one time too many, Stormer made the decision to leave the band to go it alone.  As fate would have it, Kimber from Jem and the Holograms was also feeling a little disenchanted with her band as well, and ended up crossing paths with Stormer at a club.  At first, Stormer and Kimber traded barbs with each other, and refused to get along.  But after the owner of the club encouraged Kimber and Stormer to perform on stage together, they found that they made a great team.

Kimber and Stormer made a vow to record an entire album together, and as they spent time in the recording studio, they found that they had a lot in common, and soon became best friends.  Of course, both the Misfits and Jem and the Holograms tried their best to get Kimber and Stormer to return, but neither one seemed interested. 

Eventually, the Misfits realized that they were nothing without Stormer, and they eventually came to the decision that they wanted her back.  Sure, the way they went about changing Stormer’s mind was to buy her off, which was very Misfit like behaviour.  And for poor Stormer, she ALMOST bought into it.  But Stormer also had the noble quality of loyalty, and her friendship with Kimber was strong enough for Stormer to come back to Kimber to finish the record.  As a result, Stormer also grew closer to Jem and the Holograms (since Eric Raymond refused to promote the record, Jem agreed to help Kimber and Stormer out). 

The record was a huge hit, and Jem actually encouraged Stormer to leave the Misfits to join the Holograms.  But, as I said before, Stormer’s biggest quality is that of loyalty, and when the Misfits made one final heartfelt plea to Stormer to return to the Misfits, Stormer couldn’t refuse. 

However, Stormer made it very clear that she was not going to let things go back to the way they were.  Stormer insisted on being treated as an equal, and she found the backbone to stand up to her bandmates.  In the end, Stormer ended up with the best of both worlds.  Not only did she earn a little more respect from the Misfits, but she kept her friendship with Kimber and the rest of the Holograms as well.

So, you see?  All of the Misfits had qualities that made them bad girls.  Jetta grew up with a con artist upbringing.  Pizzazz was spoiled rotten.  Roxy hid her illiteracy behind a wall of fury and bitterness.  And Stormer was a victim of bullying by those who were supposedly closest to her. 

But as Stormer proved (and to a lesser extent, Roxy and Jetta), there is a way to step away from the ‘bad girl’ label and become a better person.

Maybe if the show had continued, Pizzazz could have found her way too.

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