|Long before The Spice Girls, Jem and the Holograms had Girl Power and then some. Underwritten by Hasbro, who wanted an MTV-influenced doll line to rival Mattel’s Barbie, Jem came on the scene as part of the Super Sunday block in 1985. The segment proved so popular it was spun off into its own half-hour syndicated series the following year.
Pink-haired Jem was the alter ego of Jerrica Benton, head of Starlight Music and the charitable Starlight Foundation. Jerrica’s father, Emmet, created a hologram-projecting computer called Synergy to provide 3D accompaniment to Starlight’s music videos. After Emmet’s death, Synergy contacted Jerrica through a set of specially-designed earrings Emmet had given her. With Synergy’s holographic capabilities, Jerrica transformed herself into rock star Jem. Sister Kimber and a pair of orphans from the Starlight Foundation’s orphanage were holograpically disguised as Jem’s group, the Holograms (an additional member joined later on). Rival all-grrrl band The Misfits constantly sparred with the group.
Jem/Jerrica was a true 80’s woman. She had it all: two careers, a smart and sexy boyfriend named Rio, and the zeal of a social activist. All proceeds from Jem’s music business went to the Starlight Foundation, and episodes dealt with such topical issues as drug abuse, poverty, and illiteracy. The show also mixed in MTV-style videos from both bands (and later addition The Stingers), perfect right down to the group/title/label tags in the lower left corner.
The franchise became a mini-industry, including a line of dolls and accessories, compilation records and tapes, even a contest inviting wannabes to sing the Jem theme song over a special "1-800" number. She may not have had the staying power of Madonna, but for a few years, Jem was the most “Truly Outrageous” rock star in Toontown.