“You're internet famous. That's like the second best thing to being actually famous.“ – Kimber, Jem and the Holograms
YouTube has been a big part of the online world since it hit big in the mid-2000s. Anything could be found there. Some of the earliest webseries were uploaded to the site. Many conspiracy theories can be found by searching the YouTube basement. There are also music videos galore. That’s where this week’s movie comes into play.
Jem and the Holograms was based on the animated series Jem from the 1980s. It followed a girl named Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples) as she became a popular recording artist with her sisters as her backing band. The whole reason that she was discovered was because a video was posted to YouTube of her singing and playing guitar in her bedroom. Record producer Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis) saw big money in the mysterious Jerrica and prepared her for stardom. Along the way, Jerrica would find the traits within herself that would make a great role model to her fans and keep her grounded.
There were many problems with Jem and the Holograms. The acting wasn’t the greatest and the story left a lot to be desired. Some of it had to do with the relationship between the four sisters. Well, two sisters and their cousins who were like sisters because they had all lived together from a young age. They would bicker like siblings and make up because they could all sing. Three of the sisters wanted fame while Jerrica only got into music to deal with her feelings. The rapid rise to fame was unbelievable in a movie that attempted to ground itself in the YouTube fame world. It reminded me of a similar movie, one which I watched a couple nights later.
What I want to write about this week are the similarities between Jem and the Holograms, and a movie from fourteen years earlier, Josie and the Pussycats. At their core, the two musical tales told similar stories. Young musicians quickly rose to fame and found that they needed their connection to each other more than any other part of their musical careers. Josie and the Pussycats attempted other things within that story though. These parts helped strengthen the movie to a level that Jem and the Holograms could never reach.
But before I get into the deeper portions of the movies and how they line up with one another, I need to give a warning. There will be spoilers for both Jem and the Holograms and Josie and the Pussycats throughout this post. Certain key plot elements between the two movies line up and will be discussed because of their similarities as well as how they diverge. To start things off, I will have to go to the beginnings of both movies.
Rise to Fame
The ways in which the characters rose to fame differed in each movie, though they had similar intentions. Each of the bands were given a record deal based on their looks and based on the people in charge wanting to make money. That’s quite the superficial way to go about things, but it’s fairly true to what I know about the business. I’ll give the movies that much for realism. The exact circumstances of the bands being chosen were unrealistic, though, and differed from movie to movie.
The writers of Jem and the Holograms put the focus on how YouTube can affect people around the world. Jerrica was discovered through the online video site. Her mysterious look and lack of any information about herself made her the perfect person for Erica Raymond to market. To paraphrase what she said about the Jem persona, the modern world’s access to the internet and people’s ability to find any information they want has taken the mystery out of life. Jem was the kind of mystery that was needed, and the kind that could be exploited. Nobody knew that Jem and Jerrica were the same people outside of the record label and Jerrica’s family. The mysterious look was what made her the ideal person to rise to fame.
Josie and the Pussycats did things a little differently. Again, the band was chosen based on their looks. The message of the movie was a little bit different, though. After the band Du Jour went missing, Wyatt Frame had to find a new band to be the stars of his boss Fiona’s record label. His decision of choosing Josie and her friends was made when he saw them and pictured them on the cover of an album. Literally. He took a CD case and framed it around them as he was driving. The reasons for choosing them would be further explained later in the movie.
At the core of each movie was the idea that friends and family were more important than fame. There was a specific portion of each movie devoted to this idea. It all came from the origins, and bled into the climaxes.
After two live performances in Jem and the Holograms, Erica Raymond forced Jerrica into a solo contract, threatening her family’s financial well-being. Jerrica signed the contract, which removed her sisters from the band. Her search for the clues in a scavenger hunt that her late father set up for her led her to realizing that the contract didn’t matter. Her family would come before anything. She cherished her relationship with her sisters more than she could ever need money. Family came first. She didn’t want fame and fortune without being able to share it with them.
That same connection could be seen through Josie’s relationship to her bandmates in Josie and the Pussycats. All three women had grown up as friends in the town of Riverdale (yes, Archie’s Riverdale). Since Josie was the frontwoman, Wyatt tried to break her off into a solo act. He did this by using subliminal messages (the evil plot of the film was subliminal messages) into a copy of the band’s new single and getting Josie to listen to it. She turned against her friends. Walking around town, the spell of the subliminal messages was broken because Josie saw pictures of her friends and began to suspect the music she was given. Friendship conquered evil. Together, the friends took down the evil plot and saved the day.
Female Studio Heads
Movies about female musicians and their bands becoming famous are odd in one similarity which is a female antagonist. For some reason, having a woman in charge of the record company is a common trait for both Jem and the Holograms and Josie and the Pussycats. It’s a similarity that didn’t need to be there but was anyway. I don’t know if there are any other movies like this that also have the female villain.
Erica Raymond was the villain and person in charge of the record studio in Jem and the Holograms. She started off good enough, offering Jerrica a record deal. When Erica first appeared, however, her personality showed that she would be the antagonist. She was rude to everyone around her and cared more about money than the happiness of the people in her life. She was forcing her son, Rio (Ryan Guzman), to work in a way that he didn’t like. She wanted Jem to break up the band and go solo. All of this was because she was so focused on money that she didn’t notice the inspirational power of the band and the lasting effect that it could have. It placed her at odds with the main characters, thus leading to her dismissal at the end of the movie.
Fiona was also dismissed at the end of Josie and the Pussycats, though for slightly different reasons. Much like in Jem and the Holograms, it seemed like the head of the record label was focused on money. Fiona was putting subliminal messages into the music of her popular artists in order to boost sales of different merchandise. The trends would change regularly, and they would earn lots of money for those involved. She was also complicit in trying to break up the band by convincing Josie to go solo. In the end, Fiona’s master plan was to subliminally influence everyone to think she was cool, so the end goal was a little different. She got ousted from her company, though. The government, who was covering up that they were secretly in on the overall subliminal message plan, arrested her as a scapegoat.
Final Performance Telling the Moral
The big moment to end each movie was the final performance that was meant to play into the villain’s plans. The final performance in Jem and the Holograms was meant to be Jem going out on her own and becoming the solo star that Erica Raymond wanted her to be. Fiona’s big show for Josie and the Pussycats would have provided the “Fiona is cool” subliminal messages that she wanted. Neither of these came to fruition.
When Jerrica and her sisters took the stage in their final performance, Jem stepped up to the microphone to talk to her fans. She let them know that Jem was a symbol of the good in the world. The character of Jem, who Jerrica was playing, was a representation of everyone’s uniqueness. Each of her fans had Jem in them, and her presence was meant to inspire a better, more loving world. That was the overall message of the movie. Music’s ability to inspire people was at the core of Jem and the Holograms, particularly in the continuous inclusion of musical performances from YouTube videos.
The final performance in Josie and the Pussycats also involved the lead singer giving a message to her fans. Josie watched as everyone followed her actions while she was on stage. She put on her Pussycat ears. The crowd put on the ears that they had purchased to help them listen to the music. She took her ears off, and so did they. Josie made sure to let the audience know that they should make their own decisions. They shouldn’t be following her and allowing her to make their decisions. She can be an inspiration to them, but they shouldn’t model their lives off of the stuff that she likes. They should have free will. She was basically telling her audience that they shouldn’t buy into the advertisements and consumerism around them. They should be choosing what they want on their own. She was laying out the overall message of the movie.
Jem and the Holograms and Josie and the Pussycats were very comparable as stories because of the many beats that they shared. The band being friends/family plucked from their obscure lives, their going against a female villain, the villain’s attempt to make the lead singer go solo, the plan backfiring on the villain which causes her to be removed from her head position, and the moral of the movie then being spelled out to a concert audience were all story beats that happened in both movies. They’re like an unintentional double feature from fourteen years apart.
There was a good idea behind Jem and the Holograms, and as this post showed, it took cues from a better movie. The inspirational aspect of it was solid, as were the musical performances. Where the movie went wrong was in the smaller moments. The movie tried to seem grounded yet the relationship stuff between the characters was cheesy. It worked in Josie and the Pussycats because the movie leaned hard into the on-the-nose cheesy stuff. Jem and the Holograms tried to shy away from the hard lean, and ended up with a tonal mishmash that didn’t help matters at all. The potential was there to create something great. But the cheese and the grounded reality didn’t mix well. There was no synergy.
Now let’s get to some notes:
- Jem and the Holograms was suggested by two different people. @erincandy suggested it. She has already suggested many movies to the Sunday “Bad” Movies: Glitter, Ghost Storm, Zombeavers, Dead Before Dawn, and Bigfootvs. Zombies. Then there was @jaimeburchardt, who previously suggested Houseof the Dead, Monster Brawl, Simon Sez, Alone in the Dark, Double Team, and Theodore Rex.
- Jem and the Holograms featured actor Rick L. Dean, who could previously be seen in Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 and Valentine’s Day.
- Jackie Tohn, previously from Return to Sleepaway Camp, appeared in Jem and the Holograms.
- One actor from Fant4stic, Kristian Favors, showed up in Jem and the Holograms.
- The lead of Jem and the Holograms has been in a Sunday “Bad” Movie before. Aubrey Peeples was also in Sharknado.
- Finally, Jimmy Fallon played himself in Jem and the Holograms. He was also in Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.
- Have you seen Jem and the Holograms? Do you think my comparison to Josie and the Pussycats was fitting? You can discuss this stuff in the comments section.
- The comments can also be a place to put suggestions for future weeks of the Sunday “Bad” Movies. I like to hear what you think I should watch as I continue my bad movie journey. Twitter is another place where you can let me know about movies I haven’t watched yet.
- I have a snapchat where I sometimes share bits and pieces of the movies I watch, as well as some other random stuff. Add me. Jurassicgriffin.
- A big movie is coming up next week for the Sunday “Bad” Movies. The movie itself might not be too well known, but it is going to mark a milestone for the blog. It will be the first documentary that is an official Sunday “Bad” Movie. I’ve watched one documentary before, called Best Worst Movie. That was a bonus post to go along with Troll 2. Next week’s official movie is The Parking Lot Movie, a movie about a bunch of parking lot attendants at one parking lot in Virginia. It’s something. I’ll tell you about it next week.