In honor of the feature film release, we rewatched the Jem anti-drug episode and it is FAR OUT, MAN!!
“Just Say No” themed cartoon stories from the 1980s are an Unfortunate Episode cliche, but the Jem anti-drug installment was always special to me. When it debuted,1 I was but a girl of ten (i.e. the target audience). It was 1987 and my D.A.R.E. indoctrination was well under way. This story made a very big impression on me, probably because it features some of the most bizarre tropes of propaganda.
Our bad trip begins with teenage heroine of the week, Laura, who’s catching a ride with a dour old lady to Starlight House. SH is, of course, the rather posh foster home for girls operated by wealthy heiress Jerrica (who is the secret alter ego of New Wave rocker Jem). For whatever reason, Laura REALLY doesn’t wanna go there.
Once they arrive, they see Jem and the Holograms rehearsing in their in-orphanage studio for The Big Concert. Because apparently, it’s totally normal and inconspicuous to hang out in the place where your secret alter ego works. Anyhoo, Jem immediately recognizes dour old lady as Mrs. Harding, the social worker. Because it’s totally normal for rock stars to know the everyday business of foster homes where they hang.
Mrs. Harding introduces the new girl to the crew. “This is Laura Holloway. Her parents died in a car accident last month.” Damn, no wonder this kid’s so anxious and weird. What an awful tragedy, right? JK! Her dead parents are never mentioned again.
Jem notices Laura carrying a guitar and invites her to jam with the Holograms. Laura says she sucks at guitar, then refuses to meet the other orphans ’cause she sucks at making friends, too. Looks like Laura was probably a spineless downer even before her parents bit the dust.
Later, Laura happens into the rec room, where her hyper-confident foil, Ashley — who’s sporting a hideous mullet and three-sizes-too-big, animal print blouse — is ping-ponging it up with the other girls.
Ashley invites Laura to play, but of course Miss Shrinking Violet recoils. “I was just looking for the linen closet,” she whimpers.
Enter Jerrica (not Jem). She introduces herself to Laura and encourages her to get involved, but now Debbie Downer says, “All the other girls are so pretty and talented. I just don’t measure up!” Hmm, that’s a lot to glean during a roundabout trip to the linen closet.
- 28 years ago on this very day! ↵