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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday Afterschool Cartoons: Jem And The Holograms

When I was a child growing up in Ontario, Canada, I was lucky enough to have been born during a time in which cartoon shows didn't just air on Saturday mornings.

Whenever school ended for the day (usually around a quarter to three in the afternoon), all one had to do was turn on YTV to see a whole block of animated programming right up until the six o'clock news.

It really was a great time to be a kid. Lots of shows and cartoons for boys and girls to view.

So I figured that I would use this opportunity to talk about a show that was designed for girls, marketed for girls, and where the stars were all girls.

And you know what? I think there's a lot that this show can teach the men reading this blog as well.

It really wasn't until I rediscovered this show recently on video-sharing sites that the show really did share a ton of valuable lessons for both males and females. Men and women could really learn a lot from this cartoon. There were episodes that dealt with the subjects of teenage runaways, drug abuse, and illiteracy, and the whole cartoon series was based on the concept of four young women running a foster home that the parents of two of the women started up. These four women would later form a girl group that would have a string of hit singles, and where profits for each album went towards the maintenance of the house, as well as taking care of the dozens of girls who lived at the home.

Jem debuted on television in October 1985, four years after the debut of MTV. Like MTV, Jem blended together animated music video clips with storylines. It was considered to be a wild idea at first, but when the show debuted, it immediately garnered a lot of success.  People all over the world tuned in to see the adventures of Jem and the Holograms. Although the series ended in May 1988, cable channels still air the show today, and the show could still be considered as relevant as it was back in the 1980s. In fact, Christy Marx (the creator of the show) has said that she would like to bring the show back with all new episodes, though nothing has come out of these negotiations as of September 2011.

The main storyline of Jem details the creation of the all-girl group Jem and the Holograms and their rise to stardom, but there were other key details that held the show together.

The show began at the funeral of Emmett Benton, the CEO/owner of Starlight Records, and head of the Starlight House (a home for orphaned girls that his late wife Jacqui founded). When Emmett passed away, the responsibilities of managing Starlight House fell on his eldest daughter, Jerrica. As for the future of Starlight Records, it was left to both Jerrica and Emmett's business partner, Eric Raymond. But when Eric Raymond tells Jerrica that he wants full control of Starlight Records to promote his new band, The Misfits, Jerrica is left feeling betrayed.

At the same time, Starlight House is falling apart. With help from Rio (Jerrica's on-off love interest), as well as her younger sister Kimber, Jerrica does the best she can to keep the house going. Her childhood friends, Aja and Shana (who were two of the first girls living at Starlight House) also pitched in to help, and some of the younger girls started up an 'Honour Jar' to help buy a new refrigerator for the home. Still, money is tight at the house to keep up with the repairs, and Jerrica knows that something had to be done.  But with Eric refusing to let Jerrica take money out of the Starlight Records bank vaults to fix up the house, Jerrica was unsure of what to do.

So when Jerrica receives a present of red star earrings, at first, nothing is made of it. But during a thunderstorm, a strange event occurs. A purple haired woman (who appears as a holographic image) suddenly appears inside of Jerrica's bedroom and tells her to follow the instructions in the earring box. Shocked, Jerrica, Kimber, Aja, and Shana decide to follow the instructions to the Starlight Drive-In, an abandoned movie theater. After the woman instructs Aja to drive through the wall, everyone believes it to be a really ridiculous idea.  Still, Jerrica convinces Aja to drive straight ahead.  When they do, they find that the wall is not real, and upon entering find themselves face to face with a gigantic computer with buttons and synthesizers attached to it.  This happens to be the 'home' of the mystery woman.

The woman's name is Synergy, and she happens to be a super-computer that Emmett Benton designed.  Synergy could create images of objects, change a person's appearance and conjure up a double of someone by using holographic illusions.  Jerrica's red earrings acted as a communication device between herself and Synergy, and she could use the earrings to transform from Jerrica to Jem no matter where she was in the world.   

In addition, Jerrica discovers that her father had also left her dozens of other gifts, including a full wardrobe of clothes, musical instruments, and a brand new car.

Basically, her father had left her a Price Is Right showcase.

As it turned out though, Jerrica ended up coming up with a brilliant idea. What if they used the gifts that Emmett had left them to their advantage? With the clothes and musical instruments, they could definitely pull off the look of an all-girl group, and play like one as well.  Kimber played piano as a young girl, Aja could play the guitar, and Shana was a master with the percussion instruments.  In addition, Jerrica and Kimber's mother was a singer and songwriter, so music definitely was in their genes.  The idea of forming a band was almost a natural thing for the girls to do. 

But the band needed some sort of edge to stand out in a crowd. Having plain Jane nice girl Jerrica Benton as the frontwoman of a band would not qualify. The band needed a lead singer that was wild. A lead singer that was full of charisma. A lead singer that could dress the part. A lead singer that wasn't afraid of anything.

By day, she was Jerrica Benton. By night, she was Jem, the pink-haired, glamourous lead singer of the Holograms.

And they made their debut just as Eric Raymond was promoting his band 'The Misfits' in a Battle of the Bands contest.

Needless to say, Eric was not impressed that the crowd seemed to favour the Holograms instead of the Misfits. The Misfits were even more angry, as they didn't like having to compete (especially since Eric had rigged the contest to ensure the Misfits would win for publicity purposes).

The Misfits were comprised of Pizzazz (the spoiled rotten lead singer), Roxy (the tough-as-nails, no-nonsense gal), and Stormer (the sensitive songwriter of the group who unlike her band members was genuinely kind and appreciative towards other people). They saw Jem and the Holograms as a major threat, though they'd never admit their own insecurities. They were too proud to admit those. Still, the sudden appearance of Jem and the Holograms must have had some impact on Eric, because Eric immediately felt threatened.

And Eric didn't even realize that Jem and Jerrica Benton were one in the same.

It was here that Jem had decided to issue Eric and the Misfits a challenge. A redo of the Battle of the Bands competition between the Holograms and the Misfits.  A competition that was not rigged. With a wealthy benefactor backing the competition, the prizes were huge. A brand new mansion, a movie contract, and full control of Starlight Records. This was a prize that the Holograms definitely needed because with Jerrica in control of Starlight Records, they could then use all the profits to repair Starlight House and take care of the Starlight girls.

Their road to stardom was rough enough being a brand new band just starting out. But Eric made their battle all that much worse. He hired thugs to break into Starlight House to intimidate Jerrica into withdrawing from the contest. But in the struggle, the Starlight House caught fire and burned to the ground. While everyone in the house escaped injury, they were left homeless as a result, making the stakes even higher. They had to win at all costs, or the future of the Starlight girls and Starlight Records would be bleak.

Certainly, the road to success was a rough one. Jerrica had to deal with Kimber not feeling like a part of the group, as well as pranks and tricks caused by the Misfits to keep Jem and the others away from even performing at the event. Luckily, Jem and the Holograms make it in time, and win the contest, securing the mansion for the Starlight girls to live in, as well as control of Starlight Records.

There was one other prize that was offered. The chance to star in their own music-themed movie project. And that happens to be the episode that I actually want to talk about in this blog, because it really is a great episode. While the episode does a great job in showing how good can triumph over evil, it also provides a wonderful life lesson for all to take in.

Although I have found the three parts for this 90-minute episode, I am unable to actually post them onto the blog itself. What I can do is provide the links to each of these three parts. The episode itself is entitled Starbright, but each section is split up. We have Falling Star, Colliding Stars, and finally Rising Star. I'll wait until you watch each part. Go ahead. I'll go grab something to eat while you watch.

Have you watched it yet? Good. I'm under the assumption that you have. Even if you don't we'll discuss it anyway.

Everything was going well for the Holograms. They had everything set in place for the movie, and with help from their new friend 'Video', they were well on their way to having success with their movie.

That is until Pizzazz and the rest of the Misfits got jealous of all the attention that the Holograms were given, and she decided to use her father's money to buy the movie studio where the movie was being filmed and produced.

This meant that Eric and the Misfits forced their way into starring in the Jem movie, despite the fact that the Holograms had won the prize fair and square. To say that Jem and the Holograms were very angry with the Misfits was an understatement. Nevertheless, they attempted to make it work.

Unfortunately, the Misfits acted like real divas. They wanted more scenes than the Holograms, and they were determined to take over the production. With Eric justifying their nasty behaviour, it wasn't long before the director of the film walked off the project. That made Eric take over the whole direction of the movie, which caused even more friction between the Holograms and the Misfits.

Meanwhile, the Misfits continued to wreak havoc. Spreading lies about Jem and the Holograms to the make-up artists who worked on the set was bad enough. When the Misfits ended up taking over entire musical production numbers, the stress of having to deal with them proved to be the last straw for Jem and the others to take, and they walked off the set along with Video.

Fate had other ideas, however, and something would happen back at Starlight House that would make the Holograms reconsider their choice. Ba Nee, one of the Starlight girls was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition that if untreated would leave her completely blind before she reached her tenth birthday. There was a laser procedure that could end up saving Ba Nee's vision, but with the procedure costing a quarter of a million dollars, Jerrica knew that she would have to have Jem and the Holograms come back to film the movie, since Eric had previously drained the majority of money that Starlight Records had to promote the Misfits prior to Jerrica taking over.

So back to the production they went, where Eric and the Misfits delighted in making their jobs a living nightmare. When the word got out about the band only coming back to get the money to pay for Ba Nee's operation, Stormer at least showed some concern for the little girl. Pizzazz, Roxy, and Eric, not so much. This just made them even more obnoxious to deal with. By forcing Jem to take part in stunts without the proper safety precautions, and mistreating key staff members, their attitudes proved too hard to handle, and more staffers walked off the project because of it.

Despite all this, the project went on, and one of the film's scenes allowed Kimber to share screen time with the egotistical lead actor of the movie, Nick Mann. Although Nick acted no better than the Misfits, Kimber had a mad crush on him, and looked forward to the experience. The scene was quite a dangerous one to film, but with both Nick and Kimber having stunt doubles, it was supposed to have gone off without a hitch.

Unfortunately, the Misfits, along with a woman named Clash (who happened to be the cousin of Video) ended up distracting the special effects technician long enough to set off the explosives prematurely, putting Kimber in serious danger. Luckily, Nick's stunt double, Jeff, ended up saving Kimber's life in the nick of time, but this serious stunt caused Jem and the Holograms to walk off the project for a second time (and caused Kimber to rethink her feelings about Nick in the process).

This time, most of the crew joined Jem and the Holograms in walking off set, having had enough of the diva attitudes of the Misfits, as well as Eric.

The Misfits continued to wreak havoc on their own project, complaining about everything. They hated their make-up, they hated the costumes, they hated the set design. And the remaining staff members hated them and walked away from them, leaving them to try and splice together the footage they had to work with. Eric on the other hand had his own worries, especially after Video managed to get a video tape of Jem's accident to all of the studio unions (no thanks to Clash), causing a slew of fines to be added to the production costs.

As a result, the Misfits movie ended up being way over budget, and the finished project didn't really make much sense. Think of it as being ten steps below Spice World.

That's what selfishness can do. The Misfits were only interested in making a movie to get fame, and to overshadow the Holograms, and as a result were left with a project without any heart, soul, or staying power.

Jem and the Holograms on the other hand, showed just what a little respect and kindness could do. When all the staff members from the Misfits movie walked off, they agreed to help Jem and the Holograms film their own lower-budget movie. Jerrica owed it to Ba Nee to get the money needed to pay for her operation, and she really believed that a movie about a girl-group making it big was a message that could really strike a chord with their target audience.

And everyone was behind the Holograms all the way. They even agreed to work for free to see that the project went ahead as planned. The staff believed in the values and ethics that Jem and the Holograms had to give it their all...all because they treated them with the dignity, respect, and professionalism that they deserved.

The end result? A film that had heart and character. A film that was so good that people wanted to see it again and again. It didn't take long for the group to raise the money to pay for Ba Nee's operation, and one of the first things that Jerrica did was make sure that the Starlight girls got an advanced screening of the film.

You notice the difference here? The Misfits went about it the wrong way, and acted rather selfishly, and their end result wasn't worth the money they had spent. Jem and the Holograms, on the other hand, kept it simple, and treated their staff very well. They showed that they cared about the production, and had a very good reason for bringing the project forward.

Because they were people who cared.

People who care are people who share.  People who give so other people can live.

And really, isn't that a positive message that both girls and boys can take with them through life?

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