Last week on Jem Reviewed, we watched what could be considered the closest thing to a holiday special that Jem ever did. Oh, and Danse sustained an injury that nearly killed her career, but she got through it just fine.
It's Day #16 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, so let's see what this episode is all about.
Ah, Episode 39: Roxy Rumbles. Gee, I'm gonna take a wild guess here and say that Roxy is the focus of today's show. Which is good, since she's never had a standalone episode yet.
We're at a television studio where the Misfits are filming a promo for a music video show of some sorts, and the woman in charge is explaining that the script for the promo will be shown on a teleprompter. I didn't realize that teleprompters existed back in 1987. I thought they still used cue cards back then. You learn something new every day, I suppose!
There's just one minor snag. Roxy has a bit of a secret that seemingly only Stormer knows. Roxy is illiterate. Now, back in the 1980s, illiteracy was a huge problem, and this sparked lots of those "Give A Hoot, Read A Book" events to fight illiteracy. In fact, that seems to be the theme of this entire episode.
When it comes time to film the promo, Pizzazz, Jetta, and Stormer are on cue with their lines, and they do a really good job. But when Roxy takes her turn, she completely flubs the lines and announces the name of the wrong band!
And when Pizzazz and Jetta notice Roxy's blunder, they get into a fight on the soundstage! Actually, some might find that more entertaining than the actual promo itself. But either way, four Misfits in a pile on the floor doesn't make great television, so they're escorted out of the building while Jem and the Holograms film their own promo.
Oh, look...Jem and the Holograms are with Ba Nee, and they're filming a promo for their "Rock Out Illiteracy" tour! Told you this would be the main theme of the show! The only other thing of note during their promo - aside from Ba Nee being able to read better than Roxy - is the fact that the tour's first stop is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Back at Misfits Music, Eric is doling out the money for all the Misfits - minus expenses like Pizzazz's bedazzled rhinestone outfit. Seriously, Pizzazz...bedazzled rhinestones? Were you channeling Dolly Parton?
When it comes time for Roxy to get paid, she's upset that it's in the form of mere fifty dollar bills. Turns out that Roxy smashed a guitar that was worth $24,000!!! What was the guitar made of? Gold? Of course, Roxy's holding the bill upside down - but because of her illiteracy she can't understand why.
And Pizzazz and Jetta make jokes about Roxy being stupid because of her illiteracy, which really sets Roxy off. She decides that she is going to quit the Misfits and storms out of the building. Stormer proves that she's a friend to Roxy and tells her to come back, but Pizzazz and Jetta keep making fun of her. Part of me wishes Stormer would leave to find Roxy and start up their own band...this is cruel of Pizzazz and Jetta to hone in on Roxy's insecurities and bully her because of it. No wonder she turned out this way.
But this leads into what I think is one of the better songs in the series. Roxy takes a turn as a solo artist in the song "I'm Gonna Change", and it's a beautiful song and video that depicts the confusion and shame that Roxy is feeling about her inability to read. I also love the storyboard of the video which switches from black and white to colour. And, in this edition of Jem Trivia, Roxy's singing voice is done by Ellen Bernfeld - who also sings for Pizzazz as well. Though Ellen tweaks it a bit to make Roxy sound a little different from Pizzazz. Nice touch there.
As Roxy finishes her song, a bunch of leaves blow around her. But a strange orange piece of paper lands in her hair. Roxy pulls it out and immediately recognizes it as a lottery ticket. Now, part of me wonders how she could know that if she can't read, but maybe she's played the lottery before and knows what a ticket looks like.
Roxy goes to the lottery headquarters to see if her ticket is a winner. She hands the man the ticket and prepares to leave, but the man stops Roxy dead in her tracks when he announces that her ticket is worth one million dollars! Somewhere in Los Angeles, there's someone weeping...but Roxy is cheering and gives the man a huge hug! Wow, you know something...when Roxy is with the Misfits, she's cruel and vicious. Away from them, she's quite pleasant! Maybe that's why Roxy and Stormer are so close...they're both more similar than they think.
At any rate, with Roxy becoming an instant millionaire (which in 1987 would buy a lot more than a million dollars now), she finds the motivation to quit the Misfits for good, and to tell Pizzazz and Jetta a few choice words before storming out. They won't be pushing Roxanne Pellegrini around any more!
Naturally, Pizzazz pitches her own fit and storms out of the recording studio. But Stormer notices that Roxy is dropping money out of a big bulky suitcase and wonders where she got it all from. I'm wondering why Roxy would think it would be a good idea to walk around the streets of Los Angeles with a million dollars stuffed in a suitcase! But we've no time to think about common sense here. Stormer is worried about Roxy and she and Jetta follow her to see where she's going.
They follow her to a ritzy department store which Stormer describes as the richest store in town. Sure enough, Roxy has decided to drop some major cash on a shopping spree and a makeover for herself.
Now, in the video of Roxy's makeover, they reuse the song "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" from Episode 9 - but to be honest I think a better song would have been "Designing Woman". Either way, Roxy looks absolutely gorgeous. In fact, if you dyed her hair a little bit more pink, she could pass as a Jem lookalike! It's a wonder they didn't use her instead of Clash in that episode where Jem's reputation was being ruined.
So after Roxy blows a bundle on new clothes - and apparently a new sportscar to go along with it - I'm actually wondering if Roxy has any money left! The doorman of the department store tells Roxy to be safe going home or something like that. And this prompts Roxy to declare that she is going to go back to her hometown and rub her success in everybody's faces!
Oh, and look at that. Roxy hails from Philadelphia. Hmm...isn't that where Jem and the Holograms are kicking off their "Rock Out Illiteracy" tour?
Ah, yes...there's the Holograms now, with Raya handing out books to the people in the crowd. Um...it's a nice idea, but...if someone is illiterate, they wouldn't be able to read it. Still, at least they're trying.
But a glammed up Roxy doesn't really care about Jem and the Holograms. She's more interested in going back to her old crummy neighbourhood to rub her success in everyone's faces. To which I reply that Roxy only got that way through a lucky break and she's already spent a quarter of that million on herself.
She happens to come across her old friends, "The Red Aces", who are talking to Ba Nee for some reason. It seems as though Ba Nee is trying to convince them that reading is fun, but they blow off the little girl. Roxy approaches as soon as Ba Nee leaves and the leader of the Red Aces, Linc, is immediately attracted to her new look. I get the feeling that Roxy and the Red Aces all grew up in the wrong part of town, and it wouldn't surprise me if Roxy dropped out of school because the public school system failed her.
Anyway, Roxy has decided to come up with a way to get everyone in Philadelphia's attention. She's going to throw her own party in the streets. In fact, she plans on hosting it just a block away from the Jem and the Holograms stage so that she can steal all of the attention away from her. Yep, you can make a Misfit look like a fashion model, but she'll still be a Misfit.
Later that day, Jem and the Holograms and Ba Nee are trying to get back to their stage, but a huge traffic jam has blocked their way. When they try to figure out what the commotion is, they find this.
Welcome to the Roxy Rumble! It's a carnival in the middle of the street! There are free rides for the kids, free food for the adults, free T-shirts for everybody! Did I mention that everything is free? Apparently, Roxy has no idea about investments and saving, so she's been using her million dollar windfall to fund the whole thing. Why do I get the feeling that Roxy is going to be dealt a massive dose of karmic retribution?
I mean, yes...Roxy set out to do what she wanted to do...she stole all of the people away from Jem's concert. But given that the topic of the show is illiteracy, I wonder if Roxy gave any thought to acquiring permits to host the event, or making arrangements to pay the vendors, or making sure that she ordered enough stuff. I mean, one would have to know how to read to be able to plan an event this large, shouldn't they?
Sure enough, the Roxy Rumble hits a snag when people get a little carried away and start demanding more stuff. It's not long before the T-shirts and free food disappear and the people in the crowd start fighting with each other over the stuff. It's like an outdoor version of Black Friday!
The fights get wildly out of control, with people punching each other out, and booths getting destroyed, and the merry-go-round collapsing into a giant pile of wood and horses. I sure hope nobody got hurt!
Even Jem and the Holograms are caught in the middle of the crossfire as they dodge flying hot dogs and shredded T-shirts! It's a real mess. I wonder how long it will take for the Philadelphia police to show up.
Apparently not long. Well, okay, several hundred people got injured or covered in mustard before they got there, but still...they came.
And it appears as though Roxy is in a lot of trouble. She never got a permit to host the event, she signed contracts promising to repair any damages, and she signed contracts to pay off the food vendors, and Roxy is left wondering what she is going to do.
Now, one might think that Jem and the Holograms are doing a good deed for Roxy by stepping in and taking over Roxy's problems. And sure enough, thanks to Jem, Kimber, Raya, Shana, and Aja, all of the vendors get paid, the repairs get paid for, and nobody gets sued.
But Jem can't resist pulling the "I Told You So" card by rubbing it in to Roxy about how important it is to read the fine print in a matter of fact voice that makes Roxy tell her off. Jem just shakes her head and sarcastically accepts Roxy's gratitude. See, it's times like this that I wouldn't mind Roxy punching her in the nose. Jem's really gotten a huge ego this season, and it's not very pleasant to watch. But what is nice to watch is seeing the rest of the Holograms handing out information to the Red Aces about improving their literacy. After all, they got a first hand account of what not being able to read can do with the Roxy Rumble disaster.
And we get another rehash of the song "Open a Book". And if that song sounds very familiar - well, we just heard it five episodes ago. Oh, great, so we aren't even finished Season 2 yet and they're already reusing Season 2 songs? Well, look at it this way...what other song could they use?
Oh, and when the tax collectors come to take their share of the winnings that Roxy won (remember, in the United States, you have to pay taxes on everything that you win via lottery, game show, or Survivor - right, Richard Hatch?) - it leaves Roxy without a penny to her name! It's a valuable and expensive lesson for Roxy to learn.
Roxy at this point has hit rock bottom, and she looks as if she is about ready to puke. But this is where I think one of the sweetest moments of the whole show comes into play. You see, Ba Nee has watched the whole thing unfold, and has quickly figured out that Roxy is illiterate. So, Ba Nee approaches Roxy with a book, and gives it to her, telling her that it will help her learn how to read and that she can use it as a stepping stone in becoming more literate. Even more surprising and touching is that Roxy doesn't punch Ba Nee out or cuss at her. Instead, she takes the book and seems genuinely touched that someone would care enough about her to want her to succeed. I get the impression that there hasn't been a lot of people in Roxy's corner.
Of course, once Eric and the Misfits arrive, Roxy tells Ba Nee to go away. I guess even a Misfit can't be seen with tears in her eyes and love in her heart. Turns out that Roxy signed a contract with Eric prohibiting her from leaving the Misfits during the time that is listed on the contract meaning that Roxy is forced to go back to Los Angeles with the Misfits, and this essentially ends Roxy's millionaire status for good. Now, you'd think that this would be a sad ending.
But surprise, surprise...Roxy is actually reading the book that Ba Nee gave her. Sure, she's not reading it very fast, but she's making an honest effort. Of course, Jetta can't resist poking fun at Roxy because she's a genuine bitch in general, but Roxy throws her out, locks the door, and continues to read the book - determined to learn how to read once and for all and not letting anybody stand in her way.
Wow. This might be my favourite episode of the series yet. Season 2 is showing a lot more depth to characters that were previously one note. I was thinking that Roxy was an unapologetic sociopath who hated everything. But after this episode, I'm really liking Roxy a lot. She's clearly been hurt a lot, and built up a wall around people so that nobody can break through it. It took the love and caring of a little girl named Ba Nee to make Roxy see that not everyone is out to hurt her. And I love the fact that Roxy and Stormer seem to have developed a close bond. Maybe Roxy helped Stormer become more assertive while Stormer helped Roxy become softer.