This essay was original published at Roxy Reviews and is reprinted here with permission.
Mommy Dearest: The Mothers of Jem
What? What "mothers of Jem," you say? There aren't any! That's not too far from the truth.
For a series that has such a strong message of female empowerment, there's very little mention of the value of mothers on Jem. Perhaps the writers wanted to show girls they could do something other than parenting. I did appreciate the fact that none of the main characters on the show were moms. Nobody was in a rush to get married and have babies (Kimber and "Hollywood Jem" aside), and that was nice to see.
However, on the other hand, it would have been nice to balance the show's promotion of fathers with some wise maternal figures. Why weren't moms rated as highly as dads?
What's so disturbing about the show's handling of mothers? Either they're entirely nonexistent, or they're hindering their daughters in some way. Pizzazz and Danse's mothers have vanished without a trace. Clash's mother is apparently gone too, and her absence is never even addressed. Most of the other characters are motherless as well.
The mothers that do appear on the show are generally depicted as feeble, unimportant, and overall, secondary to their husbands. During "Father's Day," Video's mother basically functions as a servant, placidly serving food and backing up her husband's comments. In "Riot's Hope," the writer doesn't even bother to disguise the weak character of Riot's mom. She stands aside while her husband bullies Riot, and ends up in the hospital for "stress." Ba Nee remembers her mother, but doesn't mourn for her at allinstead she wants the dad she has never met. Even Raya is a Daddy's girl: her father promotes and encourages her musical career, while her mom discourages it. Danse does go looking for her mother in one late-series episode, "Homeland Heartland," but instead she winds up with her dad and a boyfriend. Once again, the Daddies triumph.
The one truly positive mother on the show, Jacqui Benton, is barely mentioned. We don't see Jacqui until Year Three, in "Out of the Past." Before then, she isn't treated to the same amount of flashbacks and fond memories as her husband, Emmett. This is odd, considering that she probably taught both Jerrica and Kimber to sing. When Jacqui does appear, in her one episode, she's depicted as a rising star, valuing her own career over domestic life. She's promptly killed in a plane crash when she refuses to stay home with an angry Jerrica. Take that, career moms of the world...
Perversely, the most assertive and supportive maternal figure that's still alive during the series is Jetta's mother. Flo. While she certainly has little love for her daughter, and she is certainly a dishonest character, she is the only living mom with a spine. She supports Jetta's diabolical plans and helps generate the fable of the Lord and Lady of Wissex.
What about Synergy?
Good question. It's clear that Synergy has been created to function as a maternal figure for Jerrica, Kimber and the rest of the Holograms. She has been manufactured in Jaqui's image, and even includes Jacqui's music in her memory bank. In many instances, she rises to the occasion as a wise adviser, most notably in "Scandal!," when she talks Kimber down from the ceiling after her diary has been leaked to the press.
However, a lot of the time, the purple supercomputer's only looking out for #1. Synergy has a vested interest in self-preservation, and oftentimes, this comes at the expense of Jerrica and the Holograms. For instance, even when it becomes apparent that the deception is driving a wedge between Jerrica and Rio, Synergy repeatedly counsels against revealing the secret ("Glitter & Gold," "Broadway Magic," etc.). When Jem is kidnapped and trapped in the fake Starlight Mansion in "The Fan," Synergy claims it's "too dangerous" to send word through the earrings, but she has no qualms about allowing the Holograms to walk into the house.
A Mother Should Be...
What should a mother have been on Jem? It would have been interesting to give one of the other characters a mom. Stormer in particular probably would have had a supportive mother. It would also have been nice to explore the damage and the effect of the other parents' actions on their daughters. Pizzazz, for instance, is said to have become "uncontrollable" after the sudden departure of her mom. Exploring this in detail would have made for a powerful episode. Similarly, what if Danse had been able to locate her mom in "Homeland Heartland?" There was a lot of sadly unexplored terrain in this part of the Jem Universe.
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