The Jem Movie: Universal Got What They Deserved

Jem and the Holograms 2015 had the third-worst opening in box-office history. That’s a pretty hefty price tag and epic fail for Universal, and my response is: They deserved it.

As a woman in my 30s, I was delighted to hear they were going to make a movie of my beloved childhood idol. You see, I was obsessed with Jem and the Holograms when I was a girl. I had the dolls, car, outfits, cassette tapes and books. My mom and I dressed up as them for Halloween.
As an adult, I have even watched a few episodes online. They are not as appealing now, but my taste in music has improved and I expect more. However, I still enjoy them.


That is why I refused to see this movie after the trailer was released. Jem’s story was not a heart-felt, coming-of-digital-age story. The original Jem series was about glam, fashion, music, and relationships. There was drama, adult themes, mild cartoon violence, and flawed heroes. It was an 80s cartoon! These cartoons brought real-world issues to kids in a fun way. They were not politically correct. They did not try to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Many 80s cartoons simply taught kids how to deal with conflict.

Instead of rebooting the cartoon into an animated feature or sticking to some of the original story, Universal decided to modernize – aka bastardize – it. I will never see the movie, so I’m going to have to bash the trailers. Here are my biggest problems with the movie and why it failed:

  • A YouTube star. Because the world needed or wanted that? No.
  • It was a teen story. Jem and the Holograms and The Misfits were not teens. They were adults. They partied, had adult relations, and experienced adult conflicts. The cartoon showed kids how to deal with mature problems and relationships.
  • Universal chose the wrong audience. Who was the audience for this movie? It was women between the ages of 30-40 and possibly their moms. This age group is nichey, but there are roughly 157 million women born between 1980 and 1990 (US Census Bureau). That was the audience. As someone in that audience, I can say that a movie made about Hole vs. Babes in Toyland would have been more accurate to Jem and catered to the audience.
  • The music was awful. Again, audience. My generation still listens to Joan Jett and Guns N Roses. We still love hairbands and bad-A chicks. Not pop stars.
  • Identity crisis. Jem did not have an identity problem. She knew who she was. She was a rockstar superhero with a secret identity. She was not a troubled teen trying to find herself or hide and from the world. You would think with the superhero trend right now, Universal would have been smart enough to make that angle work. Here’s an idea: A female Scott Pilgrim-type movie. That would have been gold.
  • The costumes. If you’re going to “modernize” an 80s cartoon/movie, how does it make sense to have them play a keytar? The makeup and costumes looked like a Hunger Games rip off. In fact, I get a very Capitol feel from Juliette Lewis’ character and Hollywood from the trailer.
  • Synergy was Eve from Walle. And a projector that played home movies at that. The original Synergy was an 80s supercomputer built to alternate reality. She created holograms – hence the name – and could change their appearance. Synergy transformed reality, allowing them to have a different identity.

And there you have it. I accepted a live-action movie, and for a moment, was excited to see what Hollywood could do with my childhood idol. When I realized I could not relate to the story and characters, and they butchered it, I vowed to never see it. I would not watch this movie if it was my only form of entertainment. I will never support it. And Universal should pay close attention because 157 million women apparently felt the same way.

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