While I am certain the studio had all positive intentions when creating this supposed kid-friendly film (it's rated PG), its attempt to inspire youth to be confident in themselves falls to the wayside and is overshadowed by underlying messages that, as an adult, makes it painful to sit through, and as a kid, may be dangerous.
Here are the worst lessons the movie ends up relaying:
In the film, Jerrica's sister uploads a video to YouTube of "Jem" — who's just Jerrica wearing a disguise — playing guitar and singing. While Jerrica's sister had no permission to do this, the video goes viral almost instantly, raking in hundreds of thousands of views, catapulting Jem into Internet superstardom and causing record labels to launch a search for her. Mind you, this all happens in less than 24 hours.
So what does this communicate about working hard to achieve your dreams? Absolutely nothing. It perpetuates the wonderful idea of instant gratification. Vampire Diaries star Kat Graham recently spoke out about the misinformed work ethic some millennial kids have these days, and this film does nothing to combat that. What it actually does is discourage kids from persevering and believing in themselves and their talents in times of struggle. If you don't get discovered after uploading one YouTube video, then you should just give up, right? Ugh, so wrong.
The actual ages of Jerrica and her sisters are never revealed, but I presume they're about 16 or 17 years old, as they still have to live with their aunt. Once they arrive in Hollywood, the record label assigns a handler to babysit them at all times and live in the mansion with them. This handler responsible for four teenage girls' lives just happens to be an incredibly good-looking, college-aged boy named Rio. At this moment, I rolled my eyes, and yes, by the end of the film, Jerrica and Rio are a "thing."
Halfway through the film, Jerrica walks in on Rio in a towel. Why this is necessary, I will never know. Before Rio heads off to put on some clothes, the audience gets a real good look at his eight-pack, and just before the unnecessary eye candy moment is gone, they shoot back to a shot of him zipping up his pants.
First, objectification much? This is about as gratuitous as it gets in a family-friendly film. Second, Prince Charming doesn't have to have an eight-pack, nor do we need to see it. He doesn't have to be a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10, and he doesn't need to be older. Prince Charming can be good-looking, but more important, films need to show that he should be kind, giving, funny and can have a regular body like most of us.
If the girls want to figure out something, they sneak out. If they need something from an office building, they illegally break in. If they're handed a legal contract that binds them to a deal they're not old enough to negotiate, they sign it without seeking out help.
There is no waiting for an appropriate time or asking for what you want. Jem and the Holograms communicates the idea that it's OK to take what you want, when you want it. Overall, the idea of instant gratification is present throughout the entire film. If you put a video on YouTube, you should immediately get discovered. Once you're discovered, you'll be picked up in a car the very next day to go on tour. One you're on tour, you'll be offered a solo act after three days and leave your band/friends in the dust. Once you abandon your friends, they'll get mad but forgive you for being selfish in about a day. It goes on and on.
Jem and the Holograms weaves YouTube confessionals from "regular people" into the film, confessing their love for Jem and exclaiming that she's given them a voice. Instead of following Jerrica's journey to finding her own voice in this crazy world, the film plays on children's obsession with YouTube stars and encourages them to seek their identity in others rather than to find it within themselves.
This is where it becomes very clear where and how Scooter Braun — a man that makes millions a year off YouTube sensations turned pop music superstars — was involved in this film. Braun is clearly hoping to ensure he can discover, launch and profit off of YouTube stars, which is possible only if our impressionable kids seek them out and obsess over them.
The film's obvious goal is to empower kids to be comfortable in their own skin and be confident to use their voices, but it doesn't translate. Jem never shows her fans that she's a regular, brunette girl from a small-town suburb; all she does is reveal her real name, Jerrica, and claim Jem isn't her — she's all of them. When she does make her "inspiring" speech, she's fully in costume as Jem, so technically she doesn't use her own voice as Jerrica either. She encourages fans to be themselves but doesn't reveal her true self to them. So is this a "practice what I say, not what I do" thing?
Overall, not only will it likely hurt your soul to see this film (especially if you were a fan of Jem in the '80s), it will negatively affect your kids. Being that children are so impressionable, they'll likely pick up on the subtle, underlying messages more than the message the film so poorly tries to pound over everyone's head.
Instead of wasting $20 and two hours to see this film, I implore you to take your girls to see He Named Me Malala. Now there's a film that's empowering, inspirational and that encourages everyone to use their voice for good.
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