Last week we found out that cult 1980s girl band cartoon Jem and the Holograms is getting its own live action remake.
Well, it took about no time at all for the new filmmakers to alienate the show’s original fanbase, which we suppose is kind of impressive in its own way.
The central production team for the Jem reboot is pretty unorthodox, to say the least: Jon M. Chu (director of G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber's manager), and Jason Blum (producer of the Paranormal Activity franchise). The rationale presumably being that Chu knows how to use movies to sell toys, Braun knows how to market to tween girls, and Blum... has made successful movies before? We’ll get back to you on that one.
Anyway, the most interesting thing about this 21st century Jem reboot was that the producers seemed pretty serious about getting the fans onboard. In their admittedly bro-heavy announcement video, Blum, Braun, and Chu explained that they were looking to crowdsource ideas for the movie: casting, music, everything. This was going to be a Jem and the Holograms movie for the social media generation, and that meant stirring up some excitement on Tumblr and Twitter.
Unsurprisingly, it turned out that what the fans wanted was a Jem movie with at least some professional input from women. Specifically, they wanted the show’s original creator, Christy Marx, who also worked on multiple other children’s cartoons including G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Conan the Adventurer.
“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?”
Marx was careful to point out that Hasbro had no real obligation to involve her, as she’d been brought in to write the original show on a contract where any intellectual property automatically belonged to the franchise. She also added, “I want to say good things about John Chu. He treated me with honesty and respect. He is sincere, passionate, and filled with a desire to make the best Jem movie he can make.”
Right now a lot of the buzz on social media is coming from fans who want Christy Marx back, if not as lead writer then in some kind of consulting role. Half of the tweets on the official #JemTheMovie hashtag already overlap with the #WeWantChristy protest hashtag, which probably isn’t the positive response the new filmmakers were hoping for.
One important thing to remember about Jem and the Holograms is that along with being a beloved 1980s cartoon, it’s a relatively transparent effort to sell Hasbro toys. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that on its own (Transformers and G.I. Joe weren’t exactly box office flops, after all), but it certainly means that the filmmakers need to have a keen understanding of their audience if they actually want to succeed in that goal.
As the director of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Jon M. Chu is no stranger to making films with an unabashedly commercial marketing goal. The problem is that Jem and the Holograms isn’t G.I. Joe. It’s playing to a My Little Pony audience. A Miley Cyrus audience. Girls. And while it’s great that Hollywood is finally wising up to the fact that girls shouldn’t be actively discouraged from buying into toy franchise movies, that announcement video didn’t really gel with the overall tone of Jem and the Holograms.
So far, most of the fan input on the official Jem movie Tumblr account is fan art and videos, rather than any response to the wave of criticism from people asking why the movie is being headed up by three men. Fans will just have to hope that the filmmakers were serious about wanting feedback from their audience, rather than just using all that fandom crowdsourcing power for free publicity.
Screencap via xshowtimesynergyx/Tumblr