Friday, June 4, 2010

Come on and Be a Whim, Uh, Jem Girl

by Chris McGinty

I spoke with my brother today, as he and my sister are down for the weekend. He’s been strolling down memory lane recently by watching cartoons of the 80’s. In some cases, he has found himself wondering what the hell we were thinking. In others, he’s found that the shows do still hold up reasonably.

We discussed “Jem and the Holograms.” This is just one of those shows that you either get or don’t get. I got it. At least for a while.

We discussed Christy Marx who wrote much of the series. The reason why she was relevant is because for a while some of the shows were pretty good about listing the writers of individual episodes. Christy Marx wrote some episodes of GI Joe (my brother said five) and they were some of the best episodes.

I first saw “Jem and the Holograms” as part of this odd Sunday show that was half an hour long, and showed three cartoons in eight minutes segments. It was odd because it rotated out what cartoons were shown, so one week it might have Jem, but the next it might not. And the shows were not self contained. They were all continuing storylines. I think the idea was to see what did well, and what didn’t, before doing a full season. Full seasons of Jem were made, and like The Simpsons and Tracy Ullman, I believe Jem outlasted the show it launched from.

Jem for me worked in three distinct phases. Let me first say that if you didn’t watch the show in the 80’s, you probably won’t get the appeal. The writing style, and some of the dialogue and gimmicks, of 1980’s cartoons were enough to make us cringe even then. The show for me was best in the first phase, when they were a struggling and somewhat unknown band. It was still ok when they were superstars. But it jumped the shark when they changed the theme song to include the line, “Come on and be a Jem girl.” A quick note, later there is a link that is to one of the shows. It's called "The Beginning," but as I remember it it was when it became a full series and it used older footage. It has that line in the theme.

The odd thing about the show was that, according to my brother, they set out to make it boy friendly at first. Boys watched more cartoons according to some studies, so if the show was to survive they needed a male audience. The toys sold to girls though, and as the show was geared from the outset to sell toys, I guess they thought it made sense. But even the writing experienced some quality loss, and I stopped watching.

My brother having done a lot of reading showed me some videos revolving around the two voices of Jem (the lead character): the voice actor, Samantha Newark, and the singing voice, Britta Phillips.

Samantha Newark – To start with here is an interview for DVD bonus features. Next, is a song that she did as a nod to the male fans called “Jemboy.” It falls into the category of enjoyable, but not destined to be a pop classic.

Britta Phillips – Again we’ll start with her interview for the DVD. She talks about being in a band called Luna as bassist and backing singer. I'm not sure if she appeares on that track, but there is some information in the video summary. Finally another project she’s involved in with her husband who was also in Luna. I do like these songs.

I’m sure there is a lot more I could say about the show and its surrounding history, but I’m going to leave it at that for now. There is plenty to watch, and I have written a page here. Not that I have a limit, but you know, I don’t have many more thoughts and don’t feel like reading right now. Maybe when I get a chance to research, I’ll do a part two.

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