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Toys of Yesterday: Jem and the Holograms dolls

7:00 PM on 12.23.2009 // Colette Bennett

I know if you have any memory of Hasbro's collection of dolls based on the animated characters from Jem and the Holograms, you're looking at the header above and thinking, "I DO NOT remember Jem ever looking like THAT." And you're right. When I was researching this article, I stumbled across this artist's interpretation of a modern Jem doll on Flickr and thought it was a perfect way to begin to look back into the past.

I had Barbies as a little girl, but as soon as I saw my first episode of Jem and the Holograms, I pretty much deserted my Barbies and left them to die a slow death in a shoebox. Jem was everything cool, while Barbie was too girl-next-door. Jem was a ROCKER. I wanted to be a rocker too, so I played with my Jem dolls and sang the music from the television show until my parents were so sick of it they begged me to go play with something else.

Hit the break for more about my Jem fixation.

Just in case you have no memory of Jem, I am going to give you a quick refresher: Jem was the star of an animated series made by Hasbro, from the same people that created G.I. Joe and Transformers. The funny thing is, they said the show was meant to appeal to both boys and girls, but the primary color was pink and all the members of the Holograms were female. Remarkably enough, it gained a female audience. I wonder why.

Jem was the first woman I had ever seen who had completely white hair (it looks pink in the illustrations, but was always white in the show). I thought this was possibly the most killer thing ever and vowed that one day I too would have white hair. This has not happened yet, but I figure if I put it off long enough it'll turn white anyway when I get old. So it's all good!

Jem (or Jerrica, which was her real name) was the first of the dolls that I got. I recall she was slightly larger than Barbie, more of an Amazon build, with longer, curvier legs and a larger head. Jem's boyfriend Rio was possibly the lamest looking guy ever, with purple hair and a gold cropped tuxedo jacket. Let me repeat myself for emphasis - GOLD CROPPED TUXEDO JACKET. Only in the Eighties could this has flown, ladies and gentlemen.

Wow. Anyway, Jem also had some pretty incredible bandmates, including Aja, Kimber, Raya and Shana. Each doll came with a cassette tape which I also thought was totally metal at the time, and they all had really cool, vivid makeup and hairstyles. I did not own all of them, but I did have a few and I remember there was nothing cooler than playing with them and imagining the concerts they would hold. It was so girl power before girl power was even cool!

I want to say thanks to Hasbro for totally putting out the opposite of Barbie in this time and giving girls like me a more different, eclectic type of doll to play with and look up to as a character. Sure, these dolls have all the tacky hallmarks of the Eighties, but they were an incredible alternative to Barbie's super-fifties vision of the perfect blond boyfriend and the wardrobe of perfect pink suits and dresses. These girls weren't afraid to be a little different, and thanks to toys like this, neither was I!

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Colette Bennett,
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