Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous
By Noah Michelson
It's brilliant. So Jem isn't a sacred cow to you?
Oh God. I think if you can just find joy in it -- I mean, I laughed harder than I've laughed in a really long time when I saw those Robot Chicken clips. I try not to take myself too seriously. Of course Jem has a really beautiful, sacred place for people ' a really tender place because it connects into their childhoods. But as adults, [those kind of satires] crack me up. Too good. Too clever.
I have friends who still get stoned and watch the Jem DVDs; there are Jem conventions, there's the fan fiction -- why do you think people are still so obsessed with the cartoon almost 25 years after it first aired?
I think there are really just solid lessons about -- you know, Jem's motto is [puts on an earnest, girlie voice] 'Doing the right thing makes you a super star!' It's just lessons like 'Be a good person,' 'Do the right thing,' 'Character means something in the world and should mean something in the world.' I think we're kind of watching the world spin out of control and all these lessons we learned as a kid make us say, 'But wait -- how can these business people do that? And how can the government do that? What's going on?' So I think the more we can connect to those good, real lessons we learned as kids -- I think basically everybody is deep down inside a good person and maybe they just want to connect to that pure' I don't know, maybe I'm over-thinking it? There's just a sweetness and people like to revisit that.
Do you think kids today would be into Jem? It seems, to me at least, that the innocence -- maybe even na'vet'? -- I had growing up in the '80s is missing for kids growing up now.
I really do. I think these are human lessons and they're basic universal stories that we can all relate to. I don't think those stories ever get old, they just get retold. There are a lot of fans now that have kids of their own and they introduce me to them at these conventions. They're five years old and they come up to me and say, 'I'm such a Jem fan. I'm hooked!' And they love it. They completely love it! And my nieces love it and my half-sister, she grew up with it. I absolutely think it's still relevant. Maybe they'd make fun of the animation because everything is so sophisticated now, but other than that, I think that if they brought the show back tomorrow it'd do really well.
Do you attend the Jem conventions?
I started getting invited to conventions in 2006. I feel so fortunate to get flown around the country and to get to meet the Jem fans in person. I can hardly even describe what that is like, because you feel like you've been a part of something really special. Without even realizing it, I've made an impact in people's lives.
Can we talk a little bit about Rio [Jerrica's boyfriend]? I had the hugest crush on him as a kid. Do you think he was a total creep who was cheating on his girlfriend and had a desperate need for anger management classes or do you think he was the sweet, misunderstood boyfriend grappling with an emotionally unavailable girlfriend?
I think he was the misunderstood boyfriend. I don't think he had a malicious bone in his body. I think he was just kind a dorky and he gave his power away quite a bit -- I just thought he was sweet. Almost too sweet.
Here's my thing: Jerrica/Jem had proof that Rio was cheating on both of them, and yet, they didn't do anything about it!
They never call him out on it. There were so many storylines that we could have delved into that we just didn't get a chance to do. Last night I did a radio interview and a fan called in and said that there could have been this whole back story with Stormer [one of the Misfits] and Jem because Stormer was really a good girl but she was hanging with the bad girls. It would have been interesting to explore that more, kind of 'Come over from the dark side!'
The other thing I noticed when I was watching old episodes was what a bunch of psychopaths the Misfits were.
[Laughs.] Oh, yeah!
They're either setting something or someone on fire or they're about to run over one of the Starlight orphans with a bulldozer --
It was extreme, right? Like trying to run people off a cliff!
But all Jem does after whatever disaster is averted is kind of weakly shake her fist in the air and say, 'Oh, you Misfits!'
[Laughs.] It's like, 'Oh, those girls, they're just never going to give up.' You see the extreme and yet there weren't really extreme consequences. It was almost like Jem was rooting for them to be good in some way because she's so kind. And like there's enough for everybody ' 'There's enough pie for everybody! We can all be famous! We can all do our thing!' [Laughs.]
This summer there was a live action G.I. Joe film in the theaters and there have been two live action Transformer films. Would you want to see a live action Jem film on the big screen?
If they could produce it so that it had the sweetness that I think the show had, then yes. Somebody was recently talking about Miley Cyrus because Hannah Montana is really the same thing as Jem. I just hope that if they did it, they'd cast somebody who has the sweetness and the kindness -- the softness about Jem. There was a softness about her that was really appealing, because she was a gigantic pop star and yet she didn't have an attitude -- she just wanted everybody to win. She was very much a Pollyanna archetype, so if the [writers and producers] could pull that off, oh, yeah! I'd love it. Little girls everywhere would be freaking out.