Those of you who follow me on twitter have probably already gathered that I am a die-hard fan of the hit 80s animated TV show, Jem and the Holograms. So much so that I co-moderate a weekly live tweet of the series, along with my cohorts--Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds and Kimberly Renee of Reel Sistas (who's also my "Cinema in Noir" co-host)--Saturdays at 7pm EST. You could only imagine our excitement when it was announced on March 20th that a big screen live action adaptation is in the works. (Our tweets were filled with a lot of "!!!!!" that day).
But then came a more cautious approach to the news after we dug a little deeper into this so-called revamped production. Broadnax took the words right out of my mouth in this extensive article she wrote on her site. I'm cross-posting it here:
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. When the news broke on Thursday March 20th that a Jem and the Holograms movie was green-lit, my mentions were inundated with tweets. I received tweets from fans and followers of #JemLiveTweet as well as tweets from followers who have come to know and respect my affinity for all things Jem. I was excited. They were excited. We ALL were excited. The iconic 80s animated series Jem and the Holograms is now being made into a live action movie.
This is truly outrageous!
After receiving numerous tweets at once about the news, I clicked on the Hollywood Reporter article and read the piece. As I scrolled down, I noticed the producers of the movie had a YouTube video presentation about the new live action film. I instantaneously clicked play and to my dismay, I saw three guys Jon Chu, Jason Blum, Scooter Braun announcing they will be producing a live-action modern day reinvention of the 1980s classic Hasbro cartoon, Jem and the Holograms.
The video is unapologetically frank that this is a patriarchal production team spearheading this film. However, I’m not sure if many fans noticed, but the doll in Jon Chu’s hand during the video grasped at my sixth sense about this project’s motives.
I remember hearing several months back about the revamping of the Jem dolls by Hasbro. Hasbro teamed up with Integrity Toys to create “Hollywood Jem” based on a two-part episode of the same name. The Misfits dolls were also launched with the new Hollywood Jem doll June 27, 2012. Hasbro has had a long history of creating an amalgamation of their merchandise to their consumers. Jon Chu directed the film G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the sequel the G.I. Joe Hasbro franchise. G.I. Joe started as action figures, then Hasbro used an animated episodic TV series to help market the toys and even launched a comic book series to increase advertising momentum. This promotional cocktail was created to increase sales and garner loyal consumer support. Hasbro's G.I. Joe has its indelible print in our history as a team known as our real American heroes.
So where does Jem fit into all of this?
Hasbro wants to recreate the Jem franchise using the same means they used to create G.I. Joe by launching a live-action film to help advertise their new Jem doll line and perhaps sell future products with Jem insignia on it to new fans. Is this a far-fetched notion that the new #JemTheMovie is a feature length infomercial used to sell more Hasbro dolls? If John Chu wasn’t waving the doll in our faces during the announcement video, then perhaps Hasbro’s attempts would look a little less obvious. But I digress.
I know marketing and I totally get that the billion dollar entity that is Hasbro is in the interest of their bottom line. I’m actually very impressed by their ad strategies and Hasbro according to Forbes.com, values a net worth of 6.42 billion dollars.
This company knows how to make money.
*cue the O'Jays 'For The Love of Money'*
That being said, I’m okay with the fact that this movie is more about their bottom line than anything else. That’s totally cool. However, here is where things get very fishy for me like that rotten scent in Denmark. Jon Chu was asked to direct the new #JemTheMovie live action film. Jon Chu also directed the successful G.I. Joe: Retaliation film. Hasbro likely wanted to recruit Chu due to the success of the sequel over the first film (which many followers tweeted to me they disliked) and they established a rapport with him as a filmmaker. The next item that’s smelly is Scooter Braun. Scooter is all about “raising capital” as depicted by a Forbes article. He is an avid investor. Braun is in the business of making money and lots of it. He’s invested in Facebook, Spotify, and Tinychat. He’s also the manager of the popular Canadian we have all come to know and love Mr. Justin Bieber. His cash cow, who is also his business partner, has invested with him in other companies like Uber and Airtime. Finally there is Blum. Blum is the wild card here and a complete mystery to me, because I haven’t quite figured out why they appointed a horror film producer to create an 80s cartoon remake about girl rock band. So the jury’s still out on that one.
There is just one final detail to this trifecta of Hollywood nepotism.
Where is Christy Marx?
Christy Marx is the creator of Jem and the The Holograms. Hasbro did the same exact marketing strategy with Jem that paralleled what they did with G.I. Joe.
The Hasbro team hired Marx to create the series based on the line of dolls and the original concept, which consisted of the two girl bands, Synergy, the boyfriend Rio, and the Rockin' Roadster. Marx created the full character biographies and relationships, including the love triangle aspect between Rio and Jerrica Benton/Jem, Starlight Music and Starlight House, the Starlight Girls, the villain Eric Raymond and various secondary characters. Later, Marx was asked to develop new characters as they were introduced.
She was a hired hand by Hasbro and they owned the intellectual property rights to the animated series. However, Marx’s character development, narrative, and universe was all of her own doing. The character of Eric Raymond was even named after her own brother.
The video announcement on Thursday failed to show Christy Marx nor did they mention her name. An article from Fast Company published a statement from Marx which quotes the following:
"Many people wonder how I feel about it," she writes. "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."
Christy is not the only original production team member missing from this equation that was shut out of the project. The speaking voice of Jem, Samantha Newark who has participated with the BGN community in our weekly #JemLiveTweet events sent me a private message that she was also not asked to be a part of the new film. It doesn’t end there. I received another tweet from Britta Phillips, the singing voice of Jem who tweeted this below:
So we have three women who were instrumental in the creation of Jem and The Holograms and were the reason why we fell in love with the iconic cartoon in the first place. Samantha Newark travels all over the nation to cons and events signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. She’s been a longtime supporter and fan of other Jem fans since the show’s inception. Britta Phillips' iconic voice in songs like “Show Me The Way”, “Getting’ Down To Business”, and “She’s Got The Power” still resonates with longtime Jem fans till this day. Even if you’re not familiar with specific songs, most 80s babies are familiar with the opening theme.
And then there is Christy Marx, the woman who has not only written for Jem, but has also written for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Conan The Adventurer, and yes G.I. Joe, which is the very project that led her to Jem. Christy on her Facebook page stated and I quote:
“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?
Now, as far as not bringing me on-board, that’s the reality of franchise IPs. It’s their property, they can do whatever they want with it, and they have no obligations whatsoever to me. Was it a smart decision? You decide.”
The production team is crowdsourcing the casting, costume design, and feedback about the film to social media. So I have already made it up in my mind to decide that we need Christy Marx, Samantha Newark, and Britta Phillips on this production team to make this film happen. Where are the women? Why is a show that has empowered girls and represented cultural diversity so well have absolutely no women?
When I took a glance at the Hasbro executive board, I let out a disheartened sigh. Out of its eight executive board members only two are women and all are white.
If there is no diversity on the production team, what hope do we have for that to transcend on the big screen? I’m curious to know if the “crowdsourcing idea” was simply an innovative way to get fan insight or the fact that the current production team may be clueless about the universe of Jem and need some hints from the Jem fandom community. I don’t know what their motives are, but I will take their suggestion and let them know who I think should be a part of the movie. Not on-camera but behind the camera.
If you want Christy Marx to be a part of #JemTheMovie use their project hashtag along with #WeWantChristy. Let’s make sure we tell them that having no female voices in this reboot is not okay.
The concern is real. Anyone else fans of Jem? What are your thoughts on the upcoming film? Share in the comments box below.
(This piece was cross-posted with permission by Jamie Broadnax, from her site Black Girl Nerds)