Meredith Woerner over at io9 wrote a great piece today that articulates all of the growing discomfort I've felt every time I read something new about the Jem and the Holograms movie. Go read it right now - it's a quick read.
I'm struggling with this because I want to be excited about a Jem and the Holograms movie. Like many women my age, Jem was a huge part of my childhood. I didn't care about My Little Ponies or Care Bears, and while I liked Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, somewhere in there I had to know that those shows weren't made for me. Jem was made for me. It's a legitimately well-written cartoon that exhibits thoughtful continuity from week to week, an incredibly empowering message for girls and a kickass, if slightly tonally repetitive, soundtrack.
These are all of the qualities I appreciated when I rewatched Jem a few years ago and discovered, with no small amount of delight, that it totally holds up. But as a kid, I just knew that Jem was fun. Jerrica Benton had an amazing wardrobe, a rock star alter ego and a cool, important job (owner of Starlight Music and lead singer of the Holograms). Also she had a HOLOGRAPHIC COMPUTER. When I was seven years old, I honestly thought that hologram technology was the height of our potential as humans. What could be cooler than this?
Synergy is so, so rad.
I have hundreds of memories of watching Jem growing up - and shout out to every other girl who dressed her Ken doll in Jem's clothes and light-up pumps because they fit! - but it took becoming an adult to realize what a rare thing this show really was. The series was created and written by Christy Marx, and the fact that it's written by a woman is manifest in the very fabric of the show. All of Jerrica's friends are women, as are her nemeses, The Misfits, because no dude could possibly make a fitting villain for Jem. And Jerrica isn't just a record executive and a rock star - she's also the loving director of a foster home for girls called The Starlight House. Here's a character who's cool, smart, powerful, gorgeous and kind.
She's a superhero, alter ego and all, and that means with the Jem and the Holograms movie, we're finally getting our shot at a female superhero film. And they're just throwing our shot away.
It's mostly men on the creative staff behind the Jem movie. G.I. Joe 2's Jon M. Chu is the director. (He's also the director of Step Up 2 and Step Up 3D, so respect where due.) Jason Blum and Scooter Braun are producing. Here's the video where they announce their involvement and ask for fans' ideas for a "modern-day, live-action reinvention" of Jem. I can't say I loved it when I first saw it.
Look, it's not great that men are writing, directing and producing the thing. (Ryan Landels wrote the script in which "an orphaned teenage girl...becomes an online recording sensation. She and her sisters embark on a music-driven scavenger hunt — one that sends them on an adventure across Los Angeles in an attempt to unlock a final message left by her father.") Let's be honest - this show is one of the girliest properties of all time. Hasbro couldn't find a woman to write, produce or direct?
You may wonder where Christy Marx is in all of this, so allow me to tell you: she's left out in the cold. You can read her entire missive here, but below you'll find a disheartening excerpt:
I'll answer the obvious and most frequent question first: No, I had no inkling that the movie was being developed or had reached this stage until a couple of days ago...
Many people wonder how I feel about it. I don't think I can hide that I'm deeply unhappy about being shut out of the project. That no one in the entertainment arm of Hasbro wanted to talk to me, have me write for it, or at the very least consult on it. I wouldn't be human if that failed to bother me.
My other unhappy observation is that I see two male producers, a male director and a male writer. Where is the female voice? Where is the female perspective? Where are the women?
Where are the women indeed. Look, I know this is just how it goes. Creators get shut out of adaptations of their own franchises all the time. Women are scarcely hired to write or direct anything in Hollywood. But this week we learned that the film, which was just officially announced March 20, will shoot in three weeks. To quote Woerner:
THREE WEEKS? How is this possible? That is soon, too soon. Does anyone else feel like their precious Jem movie is just being slapped together last minute?
There was always a better-than-decent chance that a Jem movie was going to suck. Ask any fan of Transformers or G.I. Joe or probably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a few months. Your beloved childhood properties get turned into soulless box office fodder and there's nothing you can do about it. But at least those films had a chance. They had more than a couple of weeks to develop a script and they actually had a script instead of some half-baked crowdsourcing plan. The filmmakers and studios squandered those chances, but that's on them.
Jem isn't getting a chance. It feels like they're not putting any real energy into the project because they clearly don't expect any money to come out of it. And why is that? Because studio suits seem to forget on a daily basis that - hey! women make money now too! So they're throwing together this slapdash effort, excluding the creator and any female filmmakers (save the DP, Alice Brooks), and they're crowdsourcing the fans rather than taking the time and money to develop a real screenplay.
Well, if you want this fan's feedback, here's some. Bring Christy Marx in, at least as a consultant, for Synergy's sake. Take a couple of months to write a screenplay concept that doesn't include the words "multitasking, hyperlinked social media age." And stop throwing us a fucking bone. If we get a hankering for some Misfit action, we'll just queue up the original series for the dozenth time.
But hey, at least I finally know how you TMNT and Transformers purists feel. Now we can all cry together about how our childhoods are being raped.