Before there was Hannah Montana there was Jem and the Holograms. Jem was a cool glam rock version of Barbie, but she also happened to be totally normal person when she wasn’t in her glam rock makeup. Jem is also pretty interesting in that it has music videos intermingled with the plotline.
It is always surprising to me when cartoons have very special problems. I mean these are two dimensional creatures who live in a world where no matter what happens to them they can look as good as new in the next frame. But they do have problems, you see. Sometimes cartoons can’t read and it really messes up their daily lives.
What’s a show about girl rock bands without a little gang rivalry, right? The Holograms rival gang The Misfits happens to have an illiterate band member, Roxy. They all make fun of her and call her an idiot. She finally has enough of their harassment, so she quits the band and moves back home. When Roxy gets home, Jem and the Holograms are coincidentally there for a charity event to raise money for literacy programs.
Oh by the way, did I mention that Roxy wins the lottery before she moves back home? Yes, well she does win the lottery and she almost does not know it because she cannot read the numbers. This lottery money gives Roxy tons of money in which to one up Jem’s event with a big carnival. Turns out, Roxy loses all of her money, since she signed a contract that she could not read. Jem helps her pay everyone back even though Roxy has been a total jerk to her all the time.
This episode, which is supposedly about raising literacy rates, concludes with a song called “Open a Book.” The entire music video is full people picking up random things that you can read, like a cereal box or a job application. But I feel like Jem’s viewership was always mostly kids. And while they may not have been able to read, I don’t think they would have gotten the context of the help wanted sign in a store window or scribbling on a job application. To me this is just a big montage of boring words that did not make reading look fun at all. Open a book…okay..what book? I could open the dictionary and that would be a pretty disappointing book. If this is all people were throwing at Roxy then it’s no wonder she procrastinated on her abc’s. Sure that stuff is crucial to being self-sufficient and all, but she was a rock star you guys!
Very Special Lesson: You don’t need to learn how to read until you start losing money.