The Internet erupted yesterday at the news that Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions, Scooter Braun Productions, and director Jon M. Chu are developing a live-action film based on the 1980s Hasbro toy line/cartoon Jem and the Holograms.
In the video announcing the project, the producers called on fans to submit two-minute auditions on the movie's Tumblr page and said they'd be crowdsourcing talent for the entire production—actors, costume designers, songwriters.
If somehow you don't know, Jem the cartoon chronicled the adventures of record executive Jerrica Benton and her holographically enhanced alter ego Jem, a vivacious pop star who fronted the all-female, globally adored band the Holograms. In their travels, Jem, Kimber, Aja, and Shana frequently ran up against snotty rivals the Misfits, fronted by rich (but badass) brat Pizzazz. It was perfect and magical, even if the plotlines were occasionally baffling, such as one unforgettably forgettable episode that focused on zoning laws.
Unsurprisingly, as documented on social media, '80s kids met yesterday's news with a mix of delight and concern about how the project is being handled—on the one hand, hell yes Jem movie! On the other, the producers say it will be reimagined "for a whole new generation with themes of being true to who you are in a multitasking, hyperlinked social media age." And some commenters raised concerns about a trio of men guiding a movie so rooted in female empowerment.
Late last night, Jem series creator and head writer Christy Marx, an accomplished writer for television and video games for decades, posted a statement on her Facebook page saying she was not involved in the project and was notified a few days ago by a polite Hasbro publicist who didn't want her to be blindsided by the film's announcement.
"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."
Marx goes on to say that she did have a wonderful conversation with Chu, whom she believes has the character's best interests at heart, and that she understands the realities of franchise IPs, which have no obligation to include original creative staff and often don't.
"I want to say good things about John Chu," Marx wrote. "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. He wants to reinvent Jem for a current audience. His take is somewhat different from the approach I wanted to take, but that just means it’s different, not that there’s anything wrong with it. I urge everyone to judge the merits of his work on the result and I hope he delivers us an excellent, truly outrageous movie."
Marx addressed the lack of female voices in the developing new production. "My other unhappy observation is that I see two male producers, a male director and a male writer," she writes. "Where is the female voice? Where is the female perspective? Where are the women?"
It's a valid criticism, particularly for a franchise focused on female musicians and professionals, adored by girls and women around the world who dreamed of following in Jem and Jerrica's footsteps (remember, this is a 1980s cartoon that starred a female record executive). Fast Company has reached out to producer Scooter Braun for comment.
Here's hoping we learn more in coming months about women on the writing and consulting staffs—perhaps they're submitting their ideas on Tumblr as we speak. May we suggest Joan Jett? Cyndi Lauper? Pink?