Cartoons, TV

Jem Jam: “The World Hunger Shindig” and “Adventures in China”

2015 marks the 30th anniversary of Jem, the beloved 80s cartoon series. Jem and the Holograms have never been bigger, as 2015 will also see the release of a live action film based on the show, a new comic book series published by IDW, and a continuing line of collectible fashion dolls from Integrity Toys. To celebrate the original series, WWAC is watching it from the very beginning. It’s showtime, Synergy!

“The World Hunger Shindig”Jem and The Holograms

Written by Mary Skrenes

Kayleigh: “The World Hunger Shindig” is our first really topical Jem episode, in which the band joins a charity concert to help fight world hunger. (The Misfits, of course, are eager to sabotage them and take their place in the show.) This episode premiered in 1986, very shortly after supergroup Band-Aid and singles like “We Are The World” famously raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Jem‘s songs are very “very special episode”: well-meaning but schmaltzy takes on a serious issue. Worse yet, the people Jem and the Holograms are trying to help aren’t even real characters in this episode, only smiling, generic Africans who are basically just window-dressing while a rich white woman sings. The episode’s overall message of charity and empathy is good, but it’s also a cheesy, dated, and tone-deaf mess.

Anyway, we’re also introduced to British teen idol Sean Harrison, who is attracted to Kimber’s inner Disney Princess and used to have a romantic history with Pizzazz. (I would totally be down for a flashback episode about Pizzazz and Sean’s punk days in London, but that’s another story.) This leads to one of the best songs in the series: “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” is an ode to greed and selfishness, and it’s the antithesis of Jem’s “Share a Little Bit of Yourself,” but it’s so damn fun. Pizzazz sneers, “Don’t expect no gratitude, the only thing I give for free is attitude!” and I live, dear reader. I live.

Jem cleverly use Synergy’s holograms to escape trouble, first by creating a fake flash flood to scare away their kidnappers, and then to escape another kidnapping with the help of a holographic cobra.

Favorite Outfits: The Misfits’ punk country (puntry?) outfits, complete with fishnets and neon zebra print vests, are legendary. If Pizzazz threw a burger at me in that outfit, I’d smile too.

Favorite Music Video Moment: Jem and the Holograms have their own international take on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band album cover, though Kimber’s hair is colored light pink. Oops.

“Adventure in China”Jem and the Holograms

Written by Beth Bornstein

Kayleigh: The Holograms travel to China to perform a concert atop the Great Wall, but the Misfits (always lurking behind them) notice Jem’s reluctance to take off her Jem Star earrings at the airport’s metal detector and steal them. Of course, without the earrings, Jem can’t perform, and Jerrica and the Holograms race against time to find them, encountering a factory of knock-offs as well as a lookalike pair inexplicably on display at a museum full of Ming Dynasty artifacts. If message boards existed in 1986, they’d probably be full of questions like, “What does Jem do when she has to go through a metal detector?” and it’s nice that this episode touches a bit on the cartoon science of Synergy’s holograms and their limitations. It’s also surprisingly canny of the Misfits to notice how important the earrings are to Jem, though of course the show would be over if they ever guessed their true significance.

Aja also gets a nice moment of character development when she wants to brush up on her Chinese language skills, but unfortunately this episode assumes that every person in China speaks fluent English. Jerrica luckily rediscovers the Jem Star earrings when she notices Lin, a young girl bravely standing up to bullies. Lin and Jerrica bond over the fact that they were both given the earrings by their fathers, and it’s a genuinely sweet moment. Positive relationships between women—be they sisters, bandmates, or a singer and her young fan—are the lifeblood of Jem and The Holograms. The earrings are returned, The Misfits are foiled, Jem sings a song about harmony and togetherness, and Lin is cheering in the front row. Yay.

Favorite Outfit: Jem’s striped pink bathing suit, complete with pink sandals and a matching robe.

Favorite Music Video Moment: In “You Can’t Catch Me” the Misfits crash a parade, then lead the Holograms on a bicycle chase—in those outfits!