What’s Really Missing From the Live-Action Jem and the Holograms Trailer
Last week the new live action Jem and the Holograms trailer dropped, and fans of the series were somewhat… upset.
Much has been made of everything wrong with the trailer when compared to the original 1985 cartoon. The most glaring omissions are the rival band the Misfits, the holographic AI Synergy, and holograms in general. What was a campy, 1980’s sci-fi, fashion adventure has seemingly been boiled down into Justin Bieber, the Girl Version. Much as I love the techno musical superhero version from my childhood, I could almost excuse the absent Misfits (their songs are better), if not for this one thing the new Jerrica lacks.
Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices, to quote Wikipedia. Women across all media lack agency in our favorite fiction, and it’s a bit of a problem when our female characters have no control over what happens to them in their own story lines. Sadly, in the live action Jem and the Holograms, Jerrica has been stripped of her agency completely. In the original cartoon, Jerrica’s father dies and leaves her 50% of a music conglomerate, a halfway house for girls, and a sophisticated computer that can project holograms through her earrings. To keep the evil Eric Raymond from taking complete control of the Starlight Music with his band the Misfits, and to keep Starlight House running, Jerrica takes on a holographic disguise to become Jem, lead singer of Jem and the Holograms. The live action trailer is… different. A young woman says she doesn’t like to be photographed. But she’s videotaped in secret, and her image is uploaded to the internet without her knowledge or permission. What’s that? Sounds like revenge porn? Haha, no. It’s the premise of the Jem and the Holograms.
So that appears to be the first time Jerrica has no agency. Putting her video on the internet was not her choice, the choice was made for her by someone else. But hey, the gross violation of her privacy it totes worth it, because they’re going to be famous, bitches!
Soon, she gets a recording deal and we meet Erica Raymond, the apparent CEO of Starlight Music. Does Jerrica own any part of the company, or have any power over it at all? LOL no. She’s just, like, a teenager who is along for the ride.
It’s Erica, not Jerrica, who creates the Jem persona. So once again, Jerrica has no power over her life, and has made no choice in the matter. She doesn’t choose to be Jem. Jem isn’t a means of escape or an alter ego for fun adventures like Spider-Man. Nope. She’s a mask to sell tickets.
Finally, the evil record company tells Jerrica that she should go solo. Rather than stand up for herself and tell them no way, she once again just lets everyone else dictate her life. The lame, bland, overused plot of every music group movie ever ensues. Girls just gotta be catty with one another, you know?
I’m sure the band eventually gets back together, and maybe the twist ending is that somehow Jerrica takes possession of Starlight or creates her own label.
Jem of the cartoon is a young woman in complete control of her life. She’s a young CEO, she runs a foster home for young girls, she invents an alter ego to headline a rock band.
Jem of the trailer is a young woman who just lets everyone else make her decisions for her, has no power, and no control. Maybe by the end she exercises some choice, but everything that got her to where she is was dependent on others, not on anything she did herself.
Jerrica’s missing agency is even more disheartening and disappointing than the lack of the Misfits. (Their songs are better.) The live action version, from what I can tell from the trailer, has stripped Jem of all her power, agency, and control.
Truly an outrage. Truly truly truly.