Why you liked “Jem and The Holograms” when you were a baby gay

 
 

Perhaps it is elitist of me to feel badly for kids these days and the quality of television programming available to them, but I don’t mind being thought a snob. I am the older sister to much younger siblings (my youngest sister, Noa, was born the day after I went to prom), so I’ve been privy to experience everything from the best: Arthur and Spongebob Squarepants; to the worst: Pretty much everything else.

My sister is old enough to know better now, but i’ve got two young nieces to worry about and a whole world of pop culture to introduce them to. Thankfully, someone in power must’ve had a child, seen the abysmal choices and decided to do something about it. As of yesterday, I am so happy to say, I can share the greatness of Jem and The Holograms (and those hot bitches The Misfits) with a whole new generation. That’s right: Te entire three-season box set of Jem’s Truly Outrageous Series is now available to share with someone you love.

For those of you whose childhoods were robbed by either being born too late or having parents who “don’t believe in television,” let me give you a little run down. Back in 1985, when the Bears won the Superbowl and all was right with the world, Jem and the Holograms first made it to televisions across America. Jem is the super-secret rock star alter-ego of Jerrica Benton, whose father left behind a music company to run and the technology to turn her into a glam rocker. That’s right, she was doing the double-life thing way before Hannah Montana.

Jerrica’s main goal is to bring money into her company in order to provide for a foster program for girls in need. Female empowerment y’all! Unfortunately, Jerrica and her Starlight Music company have to compete against slimy music exec Eric Raymond, who runs a competing label and was once partners and co-owners of Starlight Music with Jerrica’s now-deceased father. He’s a troll and he also manages the hot nasty bitches, The Misfits. I’m not going to lie — actually I can’t because I’ve already admitted to it on AfterEllen.com before — The Misfits were my cartoon crushes as a child.

I know, backstory is so time-consuming and I could go on and on here but I won’t. The most important part of the series for me, was that it opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could be when I grew up. Jerrica didn’t let anything stand in her way and she didn’t need to be a cutthroat bitch to get it. She surrounded herself with a diverse group of girls, was a rock star, a record company owner, helped those who were less fortunate and hung out with a lot of flamboyantly gay men (this part they didn’t talk about, but just look at these guys). 

What I didn’t know as a child but that I find interesting today, is that the series was penned by Christy Marx, one of the only female writers for animated shows at the time. She was also responsible for two of my other favorites: G.I. Joe and Spider-Man. In a recent interview with MTV Geek, she explained that it seems to have made a big impact on children who ended up being gay later in life.

I’ve found that the basic sense of someone who has two identities… That resonated with a lot of the viewers. There was just something about that fundamental essence of figuring out who you are, and being torn between two identities – particularly, I would have to say for a lot of gay viewers. I think it struck a very, very strong note for a lot of young gay people who were struggling with their own identity at the time.

Looking back, I can’t say that was something that attracted me to the show, but I can see how it may have done that for other kids who maybe weren’t already so incredibly gay like I was in my youth. She also makes a great point about writing the show for kids but never speaking down to them.

Just because the show was for kids, I would never write down. I would write the kind of deep, rich story that I would like to watch – just trusting it would communicate to the viewers, and it did. The characters were rich, and deep, and had a lot of life to them, a lot of threads… It was like a big, grand soap opera for kids.

This is probably my biggest gripe with shows for kids today. Not only do they speak down to the kids watching the show, but they also turn the adults and teenagers into idiots. Kids are always aping the phrases and personalities of the characters they see on TV, which is why it’s so important to give them fictional role models they can aspire to be like and adults they can respect. Wow, I turned all elderly over here, didn’t I?

In any case, Jem and her gang were a big part of my childhood and I’m looking forward to introducing them to the kids in my life. I’m also fairly certain I now know what my Halloween costume will be this year.

 
 

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