This essay was original published at Roxy Reviews and is reprinted here with permission.
The Men of JEM
It sounds like a calendar, I know. I am serious, though. What about the men of JEM?
One of the things I love most about Jem is its strong message for female empowerment. We have a female executive of a major record label, two all-female bands that write and play their own music, and strong younger characters in the Starlight Girls. This is a Girl Power show all the way, and I think it is amazing. I don't want kids, but if I had a daughter, I would have her watch JEM just to show her the possibilities of life.
Having said that, I think is a shame the writers couldn't come up with one major male character that presented a totally positive face. There are a few good minor players that popped up now and again, but none of the four major ones is anything to write home about. Alas.
Why did the show need a male character? It didn't, but I think it would have been fantastic to have some more postive male representations there. It is great that the men on the show were depicted in shades of grey, but one truly likable person would have been nice. As it is, the Holograms and Misfits don't really have great interaction with the men on the show. They are mostly shown either a)working around incompetent male characters (Rio, Eric), b) changing their actions to appease male characters (Riot, Rio).
What about Rio? Yes, what about Rio? I think JEM is the only children's television show ever to feature a philandering jerk as the major male role model. Rio's a two-timer, there's no way around it.
Yes, Synergy, we know all about Rio being attracted to the inner personality of Jem/Jerrica. We know that Jerrica, for some insane reason, lets the hijinks continue without dropping Rio's sorry behind. The fact of the matter is, though, as far as Rio is concerned, Jem and Jerrica are two different people, and he has no problem romancing both of them. He might hate deception and despise liars (heh!) but he doesn't seem to care about lying and deceiving others.
What else about Rio? He has a volatile temper, which he does not mind unleashing on Jerrica, Jem, Jem's co-stars (Nick in "Starbright"), Kimber ("Glitter and Gold"), the Starlight Girls ("Rock N' Roll Express") and, of course, helpless potted plants everywhere (the infamous incident from "Glitter and Gold"). He tends to jump to conclusions and take sides in matters without knowing the entire story ("RnR Express" againhe blames Ashley for the instrument malfunction before even considering other possibilities, like, ahem, four MISFITS on board!). He can be a bit of an arrogant wanker (see "Trick or Techrat," where he goes on about being on the city council boardpuh-leese!).
To be fair, Rio does have his good points. He does jump in and rescue the Holograms from serious danger on many occasions, so he does possess some inner strength and courage. For all intents and purposes he is an adequate road manager for the group, although one wonders how much he actually doeson more than one occasion he comes into conflict with Jerrica over control issues (ie, doing the taxes, working on lights for the concerts, etc.). He seems to lamely accept whatever excuses Jerrica gives him. And he's cute, even with the purple hair. I'll give him that.
Frankly, the best major male role model on the show is Eric Raymond. Seriously. This isn't saying much, mind you.
Yes, Eric has his bad points…very bad points, in fact. He dabbles in white collar crimewho are we kidding, he's quite involved in it. At various points in the series he orders burglaries, kidnappings and menacings. He embezzles money and sabotages other groups. He's a pretty creepy person, when it comes down to it.
However, at the same time, he does function quite well in his capacity as surrogate father and manager to the Misfits. He looks after the Misfits, he really does do his best (most of the time) to promote them, and he's forgiving and supportive, even at the very end of the series ("The Day the Music Died.").
Then there's the Pizzazz-Eric relationship. What's up with that? Things that make you go hmmm…
Ugh. He's cute, but he's a jerk. I don't even want to know what is up with him and those backup singers, either.
To seriously study the character: He's vain, he's arrogant, and he thinks he's God. Typical rock star, eh? He has family issues but frankly, so do most of the other characters on the show: most are orphaned (Jerrica, Kimber, Roxy and Stormer presumably, Aja, Shana) or missing a parent (Pizzazz, Clash, Danse). Besides Riot, I think the only other people on the show that actually have two living parents are Jetta (that's not saying much), Raya and Video.
Riot, to me, is the worst character on the show for a variety of reasons. For one thing, when he dallies with Pizzazz, he actually has her changing who she is to please him. He kidnaps Jem, similarly forcing her to abandon all her responsiblities. Minx goes on about how the world revolves around him. He forces the Stingers to row for him like galley slaves ("The Day the Music Died."). No, I think if there was any true villain on the show, it would be Riot.
Pizzazz's father is seen often on the show, generally behind his desk and on the phone. He doesn't do much, save provide Pizzazz with the capital for the Misfits' schemes and occaisonally buy record companies and movie studios for her. Frankly, he seems to regard Pizzazz as an annoyance to be banished with gifts and money. Harvey doesn't have any real time for her, even when she asks for it ("Father's Day").
Pizzazz is often seen as the series villain, but looking at her father, one can't help but feel sorry for her. Anyone would be a bitter, angry mess if they had to deal with this jerk on a regular basis.
Harvey's most telling moments come in "Father's Day." After blowing Pizzazz off when she wants to spend Father's Day with him, he finds enough time to go horseback riding, commandeer a Concorde and accompany the injured Kimber to a concert in another state. If your dad did this, would you be happy with him? Yet, even here Pizzazz is made to look like the bad guy.
I suppose the series was trying to send a message with Harvey Gabor, but they could have made it even more obvious. He is the perfect foil to Emmett Bentonalthough he obviously provides for Pizzazz's financial welfare, he has completely neglected her otherwise. I honestly cannot think of a single good thing to say about this character.
I count Emmett as a minor character because, well, he is dead. There's no denying he has a major hand in the Holograms' success, though.
Emmett obviously had a very positive relationship with his daughters, and by all accounts, he raised them to be smart and self-sufficient. Emmett is the Good Daddy, in contrast to Harvey Gaborhe planned for his children's welfare after his death, loved them and looked after them.
On the other hand, someone bright enough to build Synergy would never have really entrusted his company to the likes of Eric Raymond, would he? And if he was so smart, why didn't Starlight Music do better business? For all of Emmett's positive attributes, he doesn't seem to have much money savvyhis kids certainly don't. More than once on the series, Starlight Music goes bankrupt.
This is a character we see exactly once on the show, if my memory serves me correctlyin "Danse Time." He is Danse's boyfriend and was also her companion at the hospitalshe was recovering from a serious accident; he was waiting for surgery to restore his vision.
If he appeared in more than one episode, I would count Cisco as the best male character on the show. Unfortunately, like Danse herself, we never really see much of him. And that's a shame, because like Danse, he is a character one could really warm up to. He has all of the qualities one would expect from a male protagnoisthe's funny, he's smart, he's a sweetie, and he isn't caught up on appearances.
Anthony gets my vote as best minor male character in the show. He quietly supports his girl Shana without getting in the way. Unlike Jerrica, Shana never seems to make her decisions based on what the boyfriend will say. She does what she likes, but Anthony is always there to back her up. By all accounts, he is always there to support her. Way to go.
He does have a bit of a temperwe see him yelling at Eric Raymond during "Starbright"-- but unlike Rio, Anthony's rage is justified. It is Anthony who cleverly reunites Shana with the rest of the Holograms after she has left in "The Talent Search."
He's a top notch character, but unfortunately he isn't around much.
Based on "The World Hunger Shindig," we know this is an old boyfriend of Pizzazz', and one who drops her like a hot coal. Later in the series he will shove her off a couch. Now, maybe it's just me, but I don't like that, or his dismissive attitude.
Sean has it bad for Kimber, and by all accounts the feeling is mutual. OK, except Kimber seems to have a bit of hero-worship for Sean, instead of regarding him as an equal. Maybe that is naturalafter all, I think most people would be goggle-eyed if their teen idol favorite asked them outbut still, Kimber is a celebrity too, and you would think she'd be a bit more laid back about it.
Craig. He's Stormer's big brother, he's sweet, he's talented and he isn't a milksop. When the going gets tough in "The Talent Search," Craig manages to intimidate the Misfits, get Eric Raymond to pay for Raya's father's destroyed nursery and nearly win a job as a Hologram.
Having said that, the Stormer-Craig relationship is a bit interesting to me. If they were so close, why wouldn't Craig have been mentioned earlier in the show? Why wouldn't Stormer have said something about him to Roxy? Yeah, I know, they didn't write him in until Season 2/3, but still. Even after the events of "The Talent Search," you never really hear of Craig checking in on Stormer. That to me is a problem.
THE RED ACES
Yeah, they only appear in one episode, "Roxy Rumbles," but if I am going to write about Cisco, I might as well include them, too.
The Red Aces are Roxy's old gang, presumably, from her days as a street tough in Philadelphia. When she meets up with them again after her lottery windfall, they seem genuinely happy for her, telling her "You sure have done well for yourself…we hear about you all the time." They don't even want to take her money or ask her about getting into the music business…they are just there as friends. At the end of the episode, when everything goes awry for Roxy, they don't talk down to herunlike Jem.
Danny is like Ciscothe show could have done more with him, but didn't. That is too bad, because it would have been interesting to watch him grow.
We meet Danny in sad circumstanceshis abusive father kicks him out of the house, leaving him homeless and friendless. He tries to protect the three Starlight Girls who run away in "The Music Awards," rescues one of them from certain death (Krissy, when will you learn not to climb rigs when you are afraid of heights?!) and sticks by them as much as he can. At the end of the two-part episode, he presumably hooks up with the folks at Haven House and stays there. For a twelve year old (I am guessing he's supposed to be about that age) he's pretty brave and chivalrous.
Christy Marx, in one of the Jem DVDs, mentions that there actually was a second episode for Danny that was never approved. Alas.
primer index |
jem and the holograms |
the misfits |
the stingers |
women of jem |
men of jem |
episode guide |