Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This is Totally Outrageous: Erika vs Jem and The Holograms episode 1

Does anyone else have to use the disclaimer "I remember liking this thing, but I watched it a long time ago so who knows?" because I have to do that. A lot. I'm going to be very honest with you. I have a terrible memory. I usually have to get people to jar my memory on movies I've seen more than a year ago. So it should be no shock that I remember very little about Jem and the Holograms, a show I remember watching as a little kid. I remember that they're totally outrageous, I'm pretty sure there's a keytar and some Hanna Montana identity switching going on, and as I kid I freaking loved it. That.... That's about it. I remember questioning why protagonists were always blond women and Jem and the holograms being one that really made me question that, which is strange because I also remember at least one of the Holograms is black.

So let's all go on a journey together to see how the bounty of Netflix may potentially traumatize me. I mean, Netflix thinks I'll love it (5 entire stars!) but their algorithm is questionable at best.

Episode 1. Titled, creatively, The Beginning. It opens with the girls pulling up to some red carpet event with excited fans chanting "Jem" and then one by one introduces us to the girls. First out of the car is Aja, whose name we know instantly because the crowd starts to chant it. She smiles but does nothing exciting, so I assume she's more subdued or shy. Next up Shana, and again, crowd starts to chant her name. She poses and fluffs her magnificent afro (if I am incorrect in calling it an afro someone please correct me) and her pose screams "confidence" to me. She and Aja then pull out Kimber, who does a flip and is met with the same excitement. I'm assuming she's the spunky one? I am pointing this out because it's actually kind of brilliant. Each girl poses in different ways as they get out of the car which tells us a little about them as well as their names, and since they're chanted small kids have a chance at remembering them.

Lastly Jem gets out of the car, the crowd loses their collective shit, microphones of questionable physical possibility hover around the frame as she's pelted with questions about who she really is, is there another album, how does she like being famous. There is then a narrated line of "I remember how it all began. With the unexpected death of my father" and then BAM we're in a cemetery and it's raining and what is going on. This tone change was so sudden and dramatic that I'm kind of losing it over here. This is amazing.

We get about a three second scene of her by her Father's grave where a man named Eric Raymond stops to check with Jerrica (also establishing the dual identity of Jem) to ask if there's anything she needs and to tell her he's there if she needs him. Her--I'm assuming boyfriend? I think Rio is her boyfriend, I don't remember her having a brother--tells him off because she has all the help she needs.

How is that a remotely appropriate response to someone trying to offer your (I'm like 90% sure girlfriend) comfort or help as she is burying her father. There is no mention of her mother, so I can only assume Jerrica was in fact hatched from an egg her Dad found.

Jem, rather than asking Rio what the shit, apologizes FOR him as Rio drags her off angrily, and insists he means well to Raymond.

I do not like Rio.

Jerrica then tells us that her Father left her two inheritances: she inherits a foster home for girls and a record company. Both called Starlight. Her Dad either let her name everything as a child, had a strange sense of branding, or just hated thinking up names. Either way, the foster house needs money so Jerrica is off to do what her Dad did, take money from the record company! That... seems like it might have some questionable tax laws. I mean, there are donations, but it sounds kind of like he didn't donate it, just... took it.

She dodges past the security guard (rather than... wait seven seconds for him to call ahead to Raymond, or tell him who she is) because... I have no idea how old Jem is supposed to be. She seems to have a lot of agency, so I'm assuming she's not a teenager, but she's certainly acting like one. I assume all this is to establish "hey, Raymond is probably a villain messing with her dad's company and he replaced the nice security guard with this doody head" but maybe it's to show off Jerrica's infiltration skills and to hint that she might SECRETLY BE A SPY.

Slips past the new secretary, Raymond keeps calling her "darling", tells her she's just a kid (HOW OLD IS SHE WHAT THE WHAT) and insists that this is a business and he shall MAKE IT THE MOST POWERFUL RECORD COMPANY EVAR!!! And introduces his new band, The Mistfits, who ride in on fucking guitar bikes.

Pictured: The three women of the band "The Misfits" on fucking guitar motorcycles.

This is everything I have ever wanted out of life and more. Raymond has no issue with his new weirdly similar-looking girl band having apparently driven their guitar motorcycles into his office building, taken them up the elevator, and now into his office. Jerrica however is deeply offended to see her Father's office misused this way and tells them to stop ripping up the carpets yo. This leads to them laughing at her because NO ONE TELLS THE MISFITS WHAT TO DO (she just told them she owns half the company, so I have questions) before launching into a music video number where they, through a series of carnival games, throw Jerrica all over the place and I have so many questions. How are they summoning these? Do the bikes only fly during musical montages? Can they always fly? Why would you ever go anywhere that wasn't flying if that was an option?

Jerrica is now angry and starts pulling some "How dare you use MY FATHER'S COMPANY to promote this trash?!" which, naturally, the Misfits are unhappy about. I'd be pissed if someone called me trash right after I performed a whole musical number for them, complete with some weird special effects. Raymond just says "Well there's nothing you can do so neener" and she storms off.

Again, I have questions. As has been said repeatedly in this like, two minute scene, Jerrica owns half the company. Couldn't she just...go to a board meeting, get like one person on her side and outvote him? Or if she owns half the company, that means she gets half the profits--if she's so desperate for money for this foster home, why not just... take it out of the presumably huge chunks of cash she's getting from the company? Maybe it's locked and she can't access it until she turns a certain age? HOW OLD IS SHE?

It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. She gets hologram earrings and and AI named Synergy brings her to her Father's secret underground music base to show her all the clothes and car and musical gear he left for her (as well as a super high tech holographic music synth AI). Why did he hide this? Is this all tax evasion? Either way, the girls realize what they must do. Crash the battle of the bands and DEFEAT THE MISFITS. THEY MAY HAVE MAGIC HOVER GUITAR BIKES BUT WE HAVE HOLOGRAMS YO. Holograms that Jerrica's earrings can project from anywhere.

So they crash the battle of the bands. Raymond is OUTRAGED THIS CONTEST IS INVITE ONLY and Jem says "But she invited us" and with the help of her holo-earrings is then Jerrica. A deal is struck. If in six months if Jerrica can make Jem more popular than the Misfits, she gets the company. If the Misfits are more popular, she does. She takes the challenge and then out of nowhere some guy is all "Oh hey, let me get in on this. Winner gets a movie deal AND THIS SWEET MANSION."  No really. He legit offers them a mansion the same way Bob Parker says "A NEW CAR".  It's amazing.


The Misfits then straight up steal their instruments, and rather than press charges, or call the cops, the girls all pile into their car and chase the van. The Misfits see this and their van mysteriously has no back door and is just... open, and start heaving their stuff. This causes the Holograms to swerve and get hung up on a cliff.

The solution? To use Synergy to project Jem to get Rio's attention.


Okay. I mean, flagging for help makes sense, but, how does Rio know who Jem is? He wasn't at the battle of the bands that we saw. Did the girls on their way out stop to introduce them to his own girlfriend in disguise? Either way, it all goes well and there's some media coverage about Rio being a good dude and the girls being a band.

So, they don't call the cops on the Misfits FOR NEARLY KILLING THEM or smashing their instruments. Something Raymond points out when he's annoyed. The Misfits, like well adjusted musicians, respond to this with a song called Winning Is Everything. I'm going to be honest, the three songs we've gotten so far? They're not good. They're super repetitive. I vaguely recall not loving them as a kid either. I will admit that the singers aren't bad (Jem is actually pretty good) but it's not enough to save them.

So Raymond starts to make preparations to win the company. Like using his superior budget and connections to book the Misfits on tours, getting TV and radio play--hah, just kidding, he hires someone to break into Starlight house to scare Jerrica into being non-functional. The girls find him robbing them, he dashes off, knocks a lantern over (they currently have no power) AND OH NO THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE.

That's the end of the episode. It ends with TO BE CONTINUED

I did not realize how much I miss 90s cartoons until today. I'm kind of loving how over the top this is and hoping the song writing gets better. I've got nothing critical or insightful to say here. The group of girls is diverse (even if they all have the same body shape) and seem to have agency? Rio is around to help a lot but generally the girls seem to be doing as much or more than he is, as well as being the ones to parent the younger girls in Starlight House. It's hard to think of anything in depth to say when all you can think is "THOSE ARE FUCKING GUITAR BIKES OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING".

I do have some questions though. Are there no police in this world? Are they just really ineffective? How did no one ever accidentally lean on that wall to find out it was fake and find Jerrica's dad's secret holo-base? Why did her dad keep Synergy a secret from his business partner and Jerrica, but arrange for it to hunt her down after he died? Will we ever find out about the secret spy training she has, or will it just be alluded to over and over again? Where are all the lawyers in this world? What was this house made of that it caught fire so quickly? If Jerrica can project holograms, can she send Jem to go call for help? Why do we park in driveways and drive on parkways?


*I make no promises to answer any of these questions but come back next time anyways because it makes me feel loved.

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