Monday, September 19, 2011

Truly Truly Truly Outrageous

One of my more recent charity shop finds and one that I was particularly delighted with was a VHS tape in a battered case with a special offer sticker from days gone by half peeled away. But not just any tape, for this was in fact the all-singing all-dancing ninety minute extravaganza that is the first five episodes of Jem. Girls born in the Eighties, brace yourselves.

I watched it on Saturday afternoon and can confirm that it is exactly as cheesy, sparkly, demented and brilliant as I hoped it would be. It was a bucket of glittery nostalgia being thrown in my face, interspersed with one minute music video segments and I LOVED it. The outfits are bitchin', the hair is enormous and multicoloured, the pop songs are insanely catchy and the storylines are utterly bonkers. Just to recap, Jerrica (Jerrica? Seriously? Not even a real name) Benton's father dies and she inherits half of his record company and a house full of orphaned girls. As you do. She then receives a mysterious gift of earrings that lead her to a supercomputer called Synergy, designed by her late father. The computer can project holograms and transforms Jerrica into pink-haired pop sensation Jem.

Look at the SIZE of that hair! The sheer weight alone would be enough to snap any normal person's neck.

Jerrica's makeover and an evil music executive trying to take over the company then results in the formation of Jem and the Holograms, comprised of Jerrica's redhead sister, the Eighties-tastically named Kimber (who doesn't seem to mind that her dad left her fuck all in the will) on keyboards and their friends, blue-haired guitarist Aja (who I thought was Eastern European from her accent but is actually supposed to be Asian) and purple-haired Shana (who immediately hooks up with the only other black character in the show) on synth drums. Synth. Drums.

The rival band in the show, and the one I remember best from my childhood are The Misfits. They're the punky, brazen and mean counterparts to Jem and her do-gooder Holograms, led by the perpetually snarling and scheming green-haired frontwoman Pizzazz. The rest of the band is made up of white-haired bassist bitch Roxy (who seems to display slightly sociopathic tendencies, as she very nearly steamrollers Jem and the Holograms to death just for the hell of it at one point) and my favourite character from when I used to watch it, blue-haired keytar player (KEYTAR!) Stormer, who is actually the only nice member of the Misfits. Although watching it as an adult, I realised that she's actually a total pushover and could do with copping the fuck on and not putting up with Pizzazz and Roxy's bossy bullshit.

The Misfits were my strongest memory from the show, which may be partly due to their magnificent entrance in the first episode. They smash into the record company office on not-at-all-unwieldy GIANT GUITAR MOTORBIKES and threateningly circle Jerrica, bursting into their first song. Incidentally, their songs are far better than those of the Holograms. While Jem's numbers simper over love and friendship, the Misfits sing about causing trouble, winning at all costs and other assorted divilment. The music videos in the show seem to provide either an opportunity for a montage or even better, actually just reuse footage from previous episodes and videos, often completely irrelevant but shoehorned in nonetheless in what had to be cost saving measures. Needless to say, eight year old me didn't notice at the time. Twenty seven year old me was most amused by it all.

Giant guitar bikes. The only way to travel.

An aspect of the show that seemed to go over my head as a child is the love triangle storyline between Jerrica, her boyfriend Rio and Jem. Winning the award for most oblivious boyfriend ever, Rio has no idea that Jem and Jerrica are the same person, even though the only difference is their hair and a bit of pink facepaint. However, he seems happy enough to cheat on his girlfriend girlfriend in disguise, shifting the face off Jem at every given opportunity. Which isn't really cheating at all, but HE DOESN'T KNOW THAT. If he'd just get his dopey horn under control for all of five minutes he might realise that his beloved Jerrica is inflicting the biggest mindfuck of all time on him.

Anyway, once I had finished the video and was searching the internet for pictures for this post, I realised that there were TONNES of episodes I had never seen. Later into the series there were even new band members added to both the Holograms and the Misfits. Raya, a Latina drummer temporarily replaced Shana, who later rejoined the band and Jetta, an obnoxious Brit sax player with a brilliant Adam Ant style lightning bolt across her forehead was added to the Misfits line-up.

And, AND as if that wasn't enough of a surprise (for me anyway) there was A WHOLE NEW BAND introduced to the series in the form of The Stingers (supposedly based on German metal band The Scorpions), led by frontman Riot with a head of hair that would outgay both Siegfried and Roy, accompanied by Aryan hotties Rapture and Minx.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! At one point Kimber and Stormer, both feeling unappreciated, temporarily leave their respective bands, record an album together and embark on a tender and exploratory love affair. Alright fine, I made up that last bit but that would have been an amazing storyline.

I don't know about you, but the picture on the left screams "INTENSE SEXY LADY LOVE!" to me anyway.

Other new developments to me include Clash, a Misfits groupie and henchwoman with bloody MARVELLOUS hair who uses disguises to sabotage whatever Jem and the Holograms happen to be up to at the time.

There's an 11 disc Jem boxset due to be released in October, which I'll be most unsubtly dropping hints about in the run up to the C word. (Christmas, not cunt. In case you were wondering.) But for now, I'll leave you with some shots of the outrageously ferocious Eighties explosion that is the fashion from the series. Leggings and side-ponytails a go-go!


  1. Must. Form. Jem. Tribute Act.
    See you at practice, I'll bring the giant can o' hairspray.

  2. Without the slightest hint of irony I want to have all of their clothes and hairstyles. I mean wow! Really enjoyed the article but am now sad that I'll probably never have a boyfriend with purple hair.

  3. @ eleventy - Awesome-o. I'll bring the facepaint.

    @ Charlene - The clothes and hair are flipping terrific. And the stars and lightning bolts drawn on their faces are AMAZING. But if you did have a boyfriend with purple hair there's the risk that he'd cheat on you

  4. Have no idea what this is. You and your bbc

  5. Go on outta that Tess, sure I didn't have the channels either! I think I watched it in my nanny's house or on rented tapes. So there.

  6. AMAZEBALLS. And I actually have a really strong memory of The Stingers!

    *Makes mental note about boxset - epic news.*

  7. I hugely enjoyed this post and have to now scour the interwebs for a copy of my own. The bit I remember best is the Misfits song. I also used to have a pink speaker that opened up into...I want to say a changing room. And a Jem doll, obvs.

  8. @ Lynnie - That's mad, I couldn't believe that there was a whole other band I'd never heard of. I must have only seen a handful of episodes as a child, but it obviously left enough of an impression!

    @ Emma - Brilliant! I was so excited to discover that a boxset is coming out. It's going to be on a lot of 80s girls Christmas wish lists I reckon.

  9. O....M....G

    this brings back so memories!

  10. I love the eff out of this post.
    Almost as much as I EFFING LOVED The Misfits. Totally forgot about them. '
    Literally the most amazing post I've seen on the interwebs in a maybe ever. Tanks!

  11. Kitty, you MUST watch Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors (I think) as its kinda in the same vein (its not really but its deadly as well). Them were the days, bit of Jem, followed by Ulysses then Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors - you cant bate the old 80's 'toons.

  12. I don't remember watching Jem as a wain. I wish I did as I just watched the first episode and fecking love it. Jerrica is so committed to the fashion cause that she keeps her outfits on mannequins and sleeps with a pink bow in her hair! AND HER BOYFRIEND HAS PURPLE HAIR!!

    And, and, and, the bad guy looks like a character from that film with John Travolta who's name I can't remember.

    Why in the name of god did I just get a cute Zoeey Deschanel cut in the hairdressers when I could have gotten huge pink hair?

  13. And I'm pretty sure the Starlight house would not pass health and safety regs. Didja see how fast that fire spread?


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