4 ways 'Jem and the Holograms' totally shaped my life
With the live-action Jem and the Holograms movie in the works, I am feeling incredibly nostalgic for the show, and I’ve been reminded of its lasting effect on me, even as an adult. My mother used to shake her head as I sat glued to the TV, singing along to all of the songs and getting swept away in all of the Holograms’ “truly outrageous” adventures. I understand her disapproval now—after all, many of the Misfits’ antics were blatantly illegal, Jerrica’s boyfriend Rio was cheating on her with Jem (I suppose it’s not technically “cheating” if they were the same person?), and there wasn’t anything particularly intellectual to the show, nor educational value to any of the stories.
. . . Or was there? I am still adamant that Jem and the Holograms had a hugely positive effect on the person I’ve become. Here are the four reasons why.
1. They taught me the importance of self-expression.
I was watching Jem and the Holograms way before I was watching music videos. Each episode included at least a couple of mini Jem “music videos,” with a catchy song featuring Britta Phillips’ incredible voice, and with the girls wearing funky, show-stopping (and yes, incredibly 80’s) outfits. I didn’t know it back then, but I was learning about the importance of self-expression through fashion and music. The writers brilliantly made Shana a fashion designer and Kimber a songwriter, and in several episodes you see the two girls being inspired to create, or channeling their frustrations into their art. Although they might seem a little dated and over-the-top now, I still marvel at how incredibly well thought-out the girls’ fashion was and how fun the songs were.
2. They taught me that it’s cool to be a minority.
I’m Asian, and growing up in the States in the 80’s and early 90’s, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me on television. In fact, I grew up in a pretty white town, so I didn’t see anyone who looked like me anywhere. But then there was Aja, the Asian guitarist for Jem and the Holograms. Never mind the fact that in one episode, they had Aja translating Chinese, and in another episode, they had her dressed in a kimono, flying through the air on a Japanese flag! The confusion of Aja’s ethnic background aside, I was excited to see her on my television screen. Young girls are quite impressionable, and it has an effect on us psychologically when we grow up not seeing anyone we resemble on television. What we see in the media instills in us a belief of what is the norm and what is beautiful. In addition to Chinese-or-possibly-Japanese Aja, Shana was black and Raya was Latina, and I’m sure that I’m not the only minority who was positively affected by seeing such diversity in the Holograms.
3. They taught me about confidence.
In several episodes, various characters struggle with overcoming negativity and being confident. In one memorable storyline, when Jem and the band are looking for a new drummer, they introduce the character of Raya. She is initially shy, unsure of herself, and hesitant to audition, but her father convinces her that she has the talent to make it. During Raya’s audition, the girls break into an “impromptu” anthem about believing in yourself and not giving up when people tell you “no.” It’s corny, it’s repetitive. . . it’s fantastic! And of course, Raya and her fantastic pink hairdo get the gig.
4. They taught me about kindness and loyalty.
The Misfits commit some truly heinous acts against the Holograms throughout the series, but in the end they never come out on top. The show doesn’t glorify bad behavior or cheating—if anything, by having the Misfits be so conniving and ruthless, it highlights Jem and the Holograms’ willingness to play fair, work hard, and support one another. The show goes a little overboard sometimes—Jerrica is basically a teenage, blonde Mother Teresa, raising a house of orphan girls—but generally, the stories contain good lessons about kindness and loyalty.
Once the Jem and the Holograms movie comes out in 2015, we’ll have a whole new generation of young girls being exposed to the awesomeness that is Jem! Here’s to hoping that whether the movie is good or not, it will pique their interest enough to get them all turning to Netflix to watch the original series.
Jewel Suzuki is the proud owner of two of the most useless degrees known to mankind: one in Comparative Literature, the other in Applied Linguistics. She abandoned academia to start making Japanese paper and puzzle jewelry for fun-loving people, which can be found on her Etsy. She spends her days dreaming about the perfect man: a combination of Gilbert Blythe, Patrick Swayze, and Ronald Weasley.