There was much rejoicing last week when it was announced 80s cartoon mainstay Jem and The Holograms is coming back as a live-action movie, with
the production crowd sourced in some cases. . The movie will be directed by Jon Chu who previously made both Step Up and GI Joe Retaliation, which is the perfect resume for a movie about a female rock band that has adventures.
There was less rejoicing with the CREATOR of Jem, Christy Marx, revealed on her FB page that she is not involved in any way with the production.
Not surprisingly, I’m being inundated with inquiries about the Jem movie. Here’s what I have to say about it.
I’ll answer the obvious and most frequent question first: No, I had no inkling that the movie was being developed or had reached this stage until a couple of days ago. Someone high in the Hasbro PR department thoughtfully reached out to me to let me know about the movie and the impending announcement so that I wouldn’t be blindsided by it. I appreciated that gesture.
That same afternoon, John Chu also reached out and called me and we had a long, wonderful talk. I greatly enjoyed talking with him, sharing our love of Jem, and becoming acquainted.
Many people wonder how I feel about it. 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.
My other unhappy observation is that I see two male producers, a male director and a male writer. Where is the female voice? Where is the female perspective? Where are the women?
Now, as far as not bringing me on-board, that’s the reality of franchise IPs. It’s their property, they can do whatever they want with it, and they have no obligations whatsoever to me. Was it a smart decision? You decide.
Finally, I want to say good things about John Chu. 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.
The original Jem was a coproduction by Hasbro, Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions, and spun off into some popular dolls/action figures during its original run from 1985-89. Marx was already an animation veteran when the show was launched, and continues being busy these days, working for Zynga and DC with the Amethyst revival and a run on Birds of Prey. While it’s understandable that the new version of Jem has a new team behind the scenes, it would be nice if they payed a little respect to the creator of the thing they’re relaunching.
While Marx has been plainspoken about the situation, our other creator-less cartoon, Boondocks, remains more mysterious. On Friday it was announced the Adult Swim adaptation of Aaron McGruder’s strip would be back for a fourth season, (after a four year hiatus) but, in a short statement, “This season was produced without the involvement of Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined.”
Since then, McGruder has noted that the Boondocks FB page has been posting “without his control.” including the teaser above (which I’ve been spotting on subways here in NYC.) By his own admission, McGruder isn’t the easiest person to work with, as he told an interviewer when the show debuted:
I spent five years working alone and became a very antisocial and unfriendly person. That’s just how I’m used to working, so there are always unfortunate people who now have to put up with the insanity that up until now has only been inflicted on me. I’m just not good with others. I don’t work well with others. I’m not nice.
Difficult or “difficult,” it’s hard to imagine Boondocks being the real Boondocks without McGruder’s participation. Luckily, he too is staying busy with a new show called “Black Jesus” which is a live-action show for…Adult Swim. So guess they don’t hate each other THAT much.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.