In recent years, with toy-based animated series increasingly being turned into movies, Marx had expressed a desire to see a Jem revival.
In 2014, Marx’s hopes were dashed when it was announced that a Jem and the Holograms movie, directed by Jon M. Chu—whose direction of G.I. Joe: Retaliation made him the go-to choice to helm a film with origins in little plastic figures, obviously—was already in the works without her. Marx had only been contacted by Hasbro PR and alerted to the project a couple of days prior to the announcement.
Marx was surprised, to say the least. She took to her Facebook page to express her feelings on the situation:
“I don’t think I can hide that I’m deeply unhappy about being shut out of the project,” she wrote. “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.”
More recently, she elaborated on her position for Steed, revealing that she had even been sitting on a completed movie treatment of her own: “I do remain mystified that no one reached out to me during the development of the movie. I’d already written a Jem movie treatment that would have updated the technology and other aspects of the show, without knowing that Hasbro had one in development.”
Marx’s comments have been well reported, but are worth revisiting in light of this first egregious glimpse of the upcoming film (slated for U.S. release on October 23), on which, it seems, Marx has still not been consulted.
In an interview with USA Today last year, Chu explained that the new movie would be about “a group of young people who are going to be inundated with this idea of fame and fortune and products and stuff, and within all that, how do you stay true to who you really are?”
Chu might well ask that, considering this apparently humorless update of Jem’s identity. Judging by the look of that trailer, it appears as if Marx’s campy, colorful creation has been stripped of its essence and cynically repackaged to appeal to a tech-savvy millennial audience… as a cautionary tale about how artists are stripped of their essence and cynically repackaged to appeal to a tech-savvy millennial audience. Unlike 2001’s critically underrated live-action Josie and the Pussycats, which used its Hanna-Barbera (and Archie comic) source material as a foundation for a sly, self-aware spoof on consumerism, this new Jem and the Holograms seems very much like the generic product of the process it is supposedly satirizing.
Considering the treatment of Marx, it also seems somewhat hypocritical that the official Jem and the Holograms Twitter account has, for the past year, been engaging with Jem fans of old and actively exploiting nostalgia for the original series.
In her post, Marx also made the “unhappy observation” that the film adaptation of the strongly female-centric property was being handled by a preponderance of men.
“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?” More producers have signed on since Marx’s post; there are currently six producers listed, including Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) and Scooter Braun, the talent manager who represents Justin Bieber. All six producers are men.
“Now, as far as not bringing me on-board, that’s the reality of franchise IPs,” Marx went on. “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.”
Marx, however, did have positive things to say about Chu, who reached out to her about the project the same day Hasbro made contact. “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.”
Marx—who still nurtures the hope of creating a Jem movie of her own some time—concluded her post graciously: “I urge everyone to judge the merits of his work on the result,” she wrote. “I hope [Chu] delivers us an excellent, truly outrageous movie.”
For the still highly active Jem fanbase, though—and anyone sympathetic to the inherent rights of a content creator—the new project looks likely to generate not as much outrageousness as outrage.
And, by the way, the hairstyles aren’t nearly as bodacious as they ought to be.