RockJem.com / Index / What it's all about / Defining Jem
Uploaded: September 19, 2022
What ingredients are important to Jem fans about Jem? What should companies creating new interpretations consider?
If it's the Jem brand you are interested in, you need to understand what makes it Jem. The original people behind the success of a brand of course know this, and the fewer of them involved in a new interpretation, the more it comes down to what we longtime fans like. So continue reading if you're curious.
Jem fans are not hard to please. While it's the original Jem we became fans of, updates and changes are inevitable, and most of us realize this and are very positive about new interpretations.
Here are some things to consider about Jem. And what preferrably not to do.
This is Jem
Any longtime Jem fan can probably describe the brand by keywords. Like music, dolls, cartoon, female role models, band, colorful hairstyles, fashions, positive messages... and that's a good start. Still it's hard to put the heart of Jem into words, but here are some of the most obvious characteristics. And the reasoning behind it, aswell as suggestions about how things can be changed and updated.
- Original people behind Jem An amazing mix of people, and many have gone on to long careers. Jem fans are very big fans of and proud of them all, and many have taken part for years in Jem communities. The inclusion of people behind Jem, in new interpretations of Jem, will add depth and credibility to any new product. Christy Marx is one of the most important people to Jem fans, as she was the main writer for the Jem cartoon and developed alot of what is Jem. And she wrote a writers "bible" for the cartoon in the 80's, for the Jem writers to understand the characters. She was probably the first of the creators behind Jem to interact with Jem fans online, as early as already in the mid 90's. Other key roles of the cartoon are the other writers, artists, song writers, voice actors and singers.
- Names Except for the names most characters go by, some of which are actually nicknames, many main characters in Jem have full names. A first name and last name. Most of these full names appeared only in the cartoon, and not on merchandise like the dolls. Some of these names represent their connection to each other, like being sisters (Benton) or cousins (Montgomery), or origin (Alonso).
- Characters The main character is Jem, who is infact a secret identity created by Jerrica. The Holograms: Kimber, Aja, Shana, is the band behind Jem. A very important character is Synergy, which is not just a computer, but has a female body in holographic form aswell. The Misfits: Pizzazz, Roxy, and Stormer, are the main rivals of the Holograms, and created a tension for the cartoon. Rio is the main male role as the boyfriend of Jerrica, and sometimes even for Jem. The Misfits manager, Eric Raymond, is a big part of the story in the 80's cartoon. Raya (also part of The Holograms) and Jetta (part of The Misfits) joined their bands later. Then there are friends and relatives. I made a character classification list to classify the order of importance.
- Music The music was almost the main thing about Jem, and it was extremely well written! The genre was referred to as "rock" back then, but is perhaps leaning towards what we today refer to as "pop", but also included lots of different music styles from time to time. It could be lighthearted and cute, but was often quite deep and mature. Jem song writers Anne Bryant, Ford Kinder, and Barry Harman did an absolutely amazing job in creating the unique sound of Jem. The beautiful and extremely talented singing voices Britta Phillips (Jem), Ellen Bernfeld (Pizzazz), and Gordon Grody (Riot), among several others, hold a very special place in our hearts.
- Band Jem and the Holograms is a band, the dolls came with very well made specific instruments, and the characters actually play their instruments in the cartoon. A few of them switched instruments in the cartoon aswell as in later interpretations. They are not simply a group of dancers!
- Origins Jem characters have many different origins, which is part of who these characters are.
- Haircolors The characters are very associated with their haircolors. And despite the unusual colors, the characters had a very clean look, with full and even colors, rather than just streaks or sprayed on colors. Jem's haircolor is bright pink, and not peach nor dark pink.
- Dual identity Like Superman, He-man or Hannah Montana, Jerrica had her own secret identity, Jem. It was a big part of the excitement, especially since it was a secret to most characters. Synergy was considered so futuristic and powerful that she could be used for dangerous things in the wrong hands. Synergy's existence, aswell as Jerrica being Jem, was even a secret to Jem/Jerrica's boyfriend, which added another level of excitement and made a love triangle possible between Jem/Rio/Jerrica.
- Holographic projections This was an ingredient that took Jem beyond a typical girl cartoon, as it added a sci-fi element, and allowed for alot of excitement and action, and saved Jem in troublesome situations. It also enabled Jem to sometimes do fun and practical things like change clothes more easily. There were limitations to Synergy's holographic projections though, written by Christy Marx in the "Jem bible", to set some kind of realistic rules, and Synergy was not an overused "toy" for Jerrica. And on top of that, Synergy never helped Jem improve her singing or anything else that would pose a negative example.
- Female role models The female perspective is needed because the main characters are female! Of course there were great male writers too for the cartoon. Jem wasn't a constant damsel in distress, she ran a company as Jerrica, and was highly in control of her life and a good leader. Jerrica was even the boss over her own boyfriend at Starlight Music. The female characters in Jem were intelligent, knew their way around technical equipment, did physical activites like sports, and could really stand up for themselves. And the bad girls were quite dangerous.
- Personalities The characters had specific personalities and characteristics in the cartoon, and that's what Jem fans consider to be their true personalities. The personalities seen in the 80's books/comics are very different, also the ones in the IDW comics and live-action movie are different in many ways. Not bad at all, just different. The Holograms are the good guys, the Misfits the bad guys. But they all also have individual personalities. Some examples: Jerrica is torn between her two identities, Kimber is slightly less mature and known for her catchphrase "truly outrageous", Aja is technical and logical, Shana stands up for herself and is a fashion designer, Raya is shy and caring but can also really defend her loved ones, Stormer is the "nice" Misfit and kinda friendly with Kimber, Pizzazz is the leader and determined to be an adored star, Roxy is streetsmart and the baddest of the Misfits, Jetta is clever and exaggerates alot and even lies, Minx is great with technique like instruments and extremely flirty, Riot has an almost magical charm, Rapture makes up mystical stories about magic and such.
- Relations Who is related to who, who gets along with who, who dates who. Some of this changes from time to time.
- Music videos These were very artistic. Very well planned. The showpiece of each episode. Some music videos would tell parts of the story of the episode in a more artistic way, some would exaggerate the stories in sometimes humoristic ways, some would go in depth about the characters' emotions, some would have complete over the top imaginary scenes, some would just have very artistic camera perspectives of the characters in different angles or fashions, and some would show them play their instruments like a stage performance. None were funny chase-scenes like Josie and the Pussycats, nor goofy singing and dancing around like the Archies, nor silly cheerleading highschool girlgroup dancing.
- Genres The lyrics to the Jem theme say "glamour and glitter, fashion and fame", but Jem was alot more! It was perhaps first and foremost drama, adventure, romance, but also a whole lot of action, morals, and sometimes humor, a little mystery, and even alot of activities like sports and travelling. They were not princesses (usually), highschool students (usually), they don't have talking pets, there's no robots/mutants/cyborgs/monsters nor magic nor vampires. Infact read this article to find out what was great about Jem compared to other cartoons of the time and of today.
- Hairstyles Jem characters had big hair! Partly because it was the 80's, but also because they were dolls with combable hair. The hairstyles varied alot in the cartoon already in the 80's, and can be changed for different occasions and releases.
- Fashions Jem had 80's styles aswell as timeless styles. Jem fans love the main fashions of the original Jem dolls, aswell as many of the ones made for the cartoon. Jem fashions always renewed themselves with all kinds of new styles. Each character had preferred colors and personal styles in the cartoon.
- Target audience Jem was a doll line, but in the 80's cartoon characters weren't required to be in the same ages as the audience in order for them to relate to them. Most Jem characters were a bit into their adulthood, ran companies and had responsibilities. Jem wasn't a silly show that talked down to its audience. The Jem show figured out a formula that would continue to be interesting to its audience regardless of age.
- Jemstar earrings Jem has red star earrings, that project holographic images by the help of the computer Synergy. These stars have seven spikes, not five. Jem fans like these earrings and associate them alot with Jem. They are worn constantly by Jem to allow her to use them for holographic projections in stories, although she can change their look aswell with a hologram over them.
- Makeup The makeup in Jem certainly had it's own style, and each character certain colors. But it would change at times depending on situation in the cartoon. The new comics by IDW Publishing (2015-) aswell as the live action movie did lots of great examples of looks, and the commemorative dolls by Integrity Toys (2012-2017) heavily toned down the makeup.
- Logo The 80's logo is very recognizable, with the rainbow colors and star. It has changed a bit in different interpretations though.
- Morals The Jem cartoon included alot of good messages about morals and how to treat each other, although it was barely noticable, and wasn't the main focus and didn't ruin the fun. All characters are somewhat realistic and no character is always entirely evil, especially not without some kind of motive. Even the good characters had bad days.
- Bodyshape The 80's dolls had a more realistic and bigger bodyshape than Barbie, although this was a reason the doll line failed in the 80's because it was too different in size to share most doll clothes on the market. More traditional shaped fashion doll formats have rather proven quite popular among Jem doll collectors when the differently sized commemorative Jem dolls were released from 2012-2022. Jem fans are big on doll collecting, and like to display and pose their dolls. Poseability was a notable feature from Hasbro in marketing the Jem dolls, and appreciated among collectors. This made the dolls stand out compared to Barbie who had mostly been released in the same stiff bodysculpt since 1966 at the time.
- Vehicles Old cars are never out of fashion, and the Rockin' Roadster is a very classic design, seen alot in the cartoon aswell as released twice in the 80's doll line. Also the Misfits had their own car, a very 80's looking van. The Rockin' Roadster unfortunately disappeared in the new comics aswell as the live-action movie, and many fans didn't even mind (I like the roadster alot though).
- Accessories Jem fans loved commemorative accessories added with the Integrity Toys dolls, which were recognizable especially from the cartoon.
- 80's Jem was created in the 80's and was bound to have some styles from that decade, and lack of later trends and technology, but Jem was in no way made to celebrate 80's style, and is certainly not limited to the 80's. Jem works in now-time perfectly, it just needs to be figured out how Synergy's capabilities would interact with new technology like the internet and maybe even social media.
Here are some things that are not Jem.
This is generally about not changing too much, not dumbing it down or turning it to something too far away from what it was. Some examples:
- All fans of Jem are not fans of similar doll bands, cartoon bands or real life girlbands. Certainly don't make Jem resemble the Spice Girls, Josie and the Pussycats, Barbie and the Rockers, The Archies, or any other animated or real life group. It would not be very appreciated by those brands anyway. Rather try to understand what differs Jem from these.
- Don't ruin Jem's hair! She doesn't need to suddenly have short hair or shaved off hair on the sides. And don't water down Jem's trademark pink hair to blonde. Jerrica is already blonde. And there are enough other female lead characters in the Jem brand with blonde hair.
- Don't overlook the importance of the music, because it's carries the whole thing, the reason for them being bands. Music is the theme! Don't dumb down the music style or lyrics.
- Don't keep Jem and the others always in one and the same recognizable outfit. They're not Smurfs, nor She-ra or Rainbow Brite, they should wear different outfits depending on what they're doing.
- Don't put some self-proclaimed Jem expert in charge of the whole thing. Nor as your source of information. Some fans are extremely niched in certain areas of Jem, and have their own personal ideas and sources for their ideas, which might not work for all fans, but will rather be controversial for other fans. Preferably accept contributions of original material, like art, from several sources of fans. Or even a team of Jem fans from several completely different sources.
- Don't remove the band thing and make Jem and the Holograms simply a singing and dancing group.
- Don't remove or ruin Synergy and her holograms! That technology is still futuristic today, and is not very common in stories as a main ingredient. Don't change Synergy's looks too much or make her a magic fairy or something.
- Don't ditch the Misfits! They add tension between the bands, and are very liked characters on their own.
- Don't make the Jem characters into something completely different like: crime fighters, princesses, superheroes, wizards or vampires. Well those things aren't bad, but it could turn out really silly for the Jem characters.
- If a new cartoon is created, don't re-invent the animation-style so it comes out looking too unique, too weird and or stiff. Like was done for all the re-inventions of Ducktales, Thundercats, and She-Ra.
- Don't create only new characters, overlooking all from the cartoon and doll line. Especially if you need a dancer, why not use Danse?
- Don't overlook all the original people behind Jem! Include as many as you logically can.
- Don't use bad grounds for how the characters look. Don't just look at one screen capture of the cartoon, which is perhaps off-model. Nor refer only to a source like the 80's dolls packaging art, which had a look of it's own but doesn't resemble what most of us recognize as Jem.
- Don't make all characters into copies of each other, with just different colors of hair and makeup.
- Don't make the characters too different in body size, if they're going to be able to sell as dolls and exchange clothes with each other.
- Jem isn't all about getting to a concert in time, and beating the Misfits, there are more stories to be told. So don't just watch the first five episodes and write a hundred stories just like that.
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