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The Score: Mapping the Music, Style, and Everything Else of "Jem and the Holograms"

She was a prehistoric Beyoncé.

by Kathy Iandoli
Nov 6 2014, 7:06pm

A year from now, you will probably be sitting in a movie theater watching the human adaptation of the "Jem and the Holograms" cartoon. I’m being a good friend right now and giving you a year in advance to prepare for this blessed event, because chances are you're aware of Jem, but do you really know her?

Sure, you’ve seen the pink hair, you may have heard the theme song and even recited the “Truly outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous” lyrics, but Jem is kind of a big deal and so are her bandmates. So were the Misfits. And so are the fans who have spent the last 26 years championing for the cartoon even in its semi-faded descent into late night syndication oblivion. So before you go embarrassing yourself next year in the theater asking, “Who da fuck?” I have provided a well-constructed breakdown of everything involving this cartoon series. And there’s a lot. So grab your pink wigs (your Nicki Minaj one is fine, just feather the ends), spray some Debbie Gibson Electric Youth perfume, and let’s get this fucking party started.

The Premise
Okay it all started with a girl named Jerrica Benton and her sister Kimber. Their father is a do-gooder mogul type of guy who ends dying in the first episode. He leaves Jerrica and Kimber two businesses: Starlight House—a modern day orphanage that was way cooler than the one Miss Hannigan’s drunken ass was promoting in Annie—and a record label called Starlight Music. Jerrica’s dad knew this ambulance chaser named Eric Raymond who attempted to take over Starlight Music before Jerrica could even prove she could run it. Typical male. He even pretends to be nice to her at her dad’s funeral until Jerrica’s purple-haired babe of a boyfriend Rio Pacheco steps in.

Eric Raymond, Chris Hansen would like you to have a seat over there.

So Starlight House is in trouble financially. In the past, Jerrica’s dad used the record label profits to keep the House afloat, but Jerrica has no bubbling acts to fund it. Eric Raymond and his "To Catch a Predator" hairdo steps in like, “Oh I have a band called The Misfits and they’ll be super famous so then I can takeover Starlight Music because all you and your orphans can do is bang on pots and pans.” Frantic, Jerrica consults Kimber and their friends Aja Leith and Shana Elmsford (who also help run Starlight House) and says the House may have to close down. Just then, she gets a package containing two magenta star-shaped earrings. She thinks they’re from Rio, but his broke ass was like “or nah.” Turns out, Jerrica’s genius dad built a system called Synergy that could create holograms of anyone and anything. Anywhere.

Synergy on her 80s aerobic instructor steez.

Synergy knew some shit was about go down, so she sent Jerrica the earrings and a pink and gold Rolls Royce and had all of the girls show up to her Synergy cave to educate them on the power of the hologram technology like she worked at the Genius Bar. Synergy then informs Jerrica that with a shake of her magic earrings and the phrase, “Showtime, Synergy!” she can transform into a rock star named Jem, with Kimber, Aja and Shana being her backing band, The Holograms. They get a whole bunch of new instruments and a whole wardrobe. Jerrica’s dad was the dad of all dads.

Once they became Jem and the Holograms, they headed to some half-assed county fair where the Misfits were about to get their big break, and Jem and the Holograms start performing.

Shake an earring. Change your life.

Stars were born.

The rest of the three-year series takes you on the most bizarre adventures that are half possible and half ridiculous—all with the basic premise that everyone wants to know who Jem is. Still, Jem is badass and everything she does is awesome.

In other words, she’s truly outrageous.

The Fashion
Jem was animated by Japanese company Toei Animation, most notably known (outside of Jem) for creating Sailor Moon. Then toy company Hasbro had some deal with Marvel and Sunbow to create the show (and of course the toys). Since the show aired from 1985-1988, the style was a little everywhere. Back in the 80s, there was this futuristic perception of what the 21st century would look like. It’s the reason why the Jetsons had like floating cars—meanwhile we still can’t cure a cold (we’ve got Ebola down though).

80s swag on fleek.

Jemyonce and her group Destiny’s Hologram

We are a part of a Rhythm Nation.

So with Jem being about robots and holograms and shit, there was this “future” theme going on where the girls dressed like part metal hair band part android with hints of Japanese flair. Jem and the Holograms dressed more in pastels with soft (yet exaggerated) makeup. Meanwhile their rival band The Misfits were punk as fuck. They dressed like they were in Poison if every member of Poison was C.C. Deville. They also dressed like whores.

Jem and her friends were like the “good girls” or whatever, even though Jem/Jerrica had Rio convinced he was banging two chicks at once. Speaking of which…

Rio Thinking He Was Banging Two Chicks At Once

Hi Bae.

Jerrica never wanted Rio to know she was Jem. It was weird, and even when Rio would suspect it, Jerrica would beckon Synergy to create a hologram of Jem like running somewhere so Rio could see they were two people (kind of like how we needed this to know Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel weren’t the same person). The biggest problem was Rio was in love with both Jem and Jerrica, thinking he was in some lover’s triangle. Meanwhile it was the same damn girl. If only Jem/Jerrica allowed a Steve Urkel/Stefan Urquelle situation, they could’ve all lived happily ever after. But no. The secret must be kept. Whatever. Jerrica would only briefly entertain the fact that Rio was okay with cheating on her even though it was the same person. How confusing for anyone to watch let alone children.

Everytime she leaves, he keeps pullin’ her back.

And they never said it, but obviously Rio was banging both of them. There would be these cartoon kisses that were long and passionate but poorly drawn so it looked like Rio was tonguing Jem’s eye because #romance. Rio would say things like “I could stay the night and sleep in the basement” and Jerrica would be like “No no go home.” That was nice of them to do for the kiddies, but come on. There was no way Jem’s pink hair and Rio’s purple hair weren’t sharing pillows. One question Rio: Does the carpet match the drapes? Jussayin.

Speaking of sex, Kimber and The Misfits’ Stormer were totally getting it in.

Naturally, being the little sister of someone as cool as Jem, Kimber felt like Stephanie Tanner on "Full House"never good enough. Coincidentally, Mary “Stormer” Phillips of the Misfits was feeling the same way because her bandmates Phyllis “Pizzazz” Gabor and Roxanne “Roxy” Pellegrini were taking her for granted. Kimber and Stormer find each other, become friends, and then make us all suspicious like when Alicia Keys brought Queen Latifah on her honeymoon. They record an album and go Platinum (of course Jem and The Holograms help produce it and Jerrica A&R’s the thing), but then the Misfits beg Stormer to come back, so she has to break up with Kimber, but their love will live on forever. I just Googled “Kimber and Stormer” and there’s lesbian pulp floating around the internet about this “friendship.”

Scissor Sisters.

Diversity All Day
Out of everything awesome about Jem, the thing that tops the list is the diversity on the series. Jem/Jerrica and Kimber were white, Shana was Black, Aja was Asian. They later add a Mexican drummer named Carmen “Raya” Alonso after Shana takes a brief stint as a fashion designer (she later rejoins the group and they all look like a big Benetton ad).

Raya being great.

Jem/Jerrica is dating Rio who is Latino, and Synergy looks like she’s every race folded into one hologram. The Misfits weren’t as diverse (figures), but they do later add this sax player named Sheila “Jetta” Burns who is British. So there’s that.

There is also another rival band of Jem and the Holograms called the Stingers. They’re from Germany and their lead singer Rory “Riot” Llewelyn looks like he’s either the leader of some Midwestern sex trafficking ring or the head of a religious cult that worships Lita Ford. The other two girls Phoebe “Rapture” Ashe and Ingrid “Minx” Kruger are gold diggers. Fashion-wise, Rory wore terrifying ruffles and his two concubines dressed like the mannequins at Joyce Leslie.

Siegfried? Roy? But where are your tigers?

Because #Feminism

Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge the power player that is Jerrica “Jem” Benton. Not only does she work as a label executive by day, but she’s a rockstar by night. She even has her man acting like her roadie-slash-sound engineer. She is the Gloria Steinem of cartoons. She is the animated Riot Grrrl. She is a walking Think Piece. If she walked around for ten hours like that girl in that video, the catcallers would’ve bowed down one by one as she walked by.

She is a prehistoric Beyoncé.

She woke up like this.

The Music

Jem’s Theme Song is a banger, and if you don’t agree then you don’t have ears. From Jem’s soulful coos like she just left a church choir to the Holograms acting like the other members of Destiny’s Child, the song is catchy. And the opening credits? With Jem doing the Molly Ringwald bop to her making out with Rio and then winking on the cover of a magazine. Kimber spraying us with water like IDGAF, it’s just a kickass intro. Then those hatin ass Misfits come in on their bullshit wagon and you’re already Team Holograms. I need a church fan.

For the most part, both Jem and The Misfits made songs that directly applied to what was happening exactly at that moment in an episode.

"Only The Beginning" by Jem and the Holograms

"Makin Mischief" by The Misfits

"Music Is Magic" by Jem and The Holograms

"Who Is She Anyway" by The Misfits

There was this one episode where Jem befriends a girl named “Dance,” and she is (you guessed it) a dancer. Dance has the hair of the gods. Seriously, she invented ombre.

"When It’s Only Me And The Music" by Jem and the Holograms with their friend “Dance”

Jem and the Holograms would bounce back and forth between cutesy 80s Pop and sentimental ballads. The Misfits were the real MVPs though when it came to scoring the episodes, because they always sounded like they were trying to channel Sid Vicious and falling short, landing face first into a bitchier Spice Girls territory. They were the Regina George of music, while Jem and them were Cady Heron before joining the Plastics.

"She’s Got The Power" by Jem and the Holograms

Jem f. The Misfits

Also, shout out to The Stingers, who in theory could’ve been a kickass Krautrock band, but instead they chose to sound like fuckshit with some synths. Ugh.

The Stingers – The Stingers Theme

Now you know everything there is to know about "Jem and The Holograms." May you all shake your earrings and become the best versions of yourselves.

Kathy Iandoli can be found wearing neon pink wrap dresses with magenta obi belts in her bedroom with a pink wig on. Still. You can follow her on Twitter.

jem and the holograms