A few days ago, I had a Twitter conversation with @RFlong, @cathryanhoward and @ickle_tayto about Jem dolls being reissued as special edition toys. I was ridiculously excited about the news. Because in my garage, I had this:
I didn’t grow up in the UK (we travelled around a lot, of which more later), so I never actually saw Jem and Holograms on TV. I have a vague recollection of a video tape with a couple of episodes on it, but I’ve no idea what happened to that. So, how come I’ve got a load of Jem nonsense bundled up in my garage? Well, this doll is special.
I spent most of my childhood in Sri Lanka, so I’ve seen a mish mash of UK, US and Aussie TV, all about five years after originally broadcast. Jem and the Holograms never made it there. I used to blow my pocket money in KVG DeSilva’s – one of the few English book shops in Colombo. Somewhere in the back, I found a stack of Jem comics. I liked them. Rock star, secret identity, rival evil band… what’s not to like. (well, there’s the 80’s hair… but I digress).
In my early teens we moved to Yap. (It’s a real country. Honestly. Look it up on the map. It’s the size of pin head, but it IS real). It took us three flights and about four days to get there. I could talk about that place for hours, but the point is that it was miles and miles away from anywhere. The post arrived by plane, three times a week. Supplies arrived by ship, once a month. That sort of place. My Dad had a job designing runways for the outer islands, so that they were accessible without having to wait for the ship to give people a lift. They didn’t have Jem and the Holograms there either.
I got the Jem/Jerrica doll in Palau (also a real place), on the way back from Yap. The best way to describe Palau is to ask you to picture a tropical paradise. Go on, try it. Got a picture in your mind? That’s it. That’s Palau. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen (and I’ve lived in Sri Lanka, which is pretty damn full of beautiful places). It’s a desirable diving destination now, apparently. Back in the 1980’s it was quiet and relatively unspoilt. My Dad was staying back in Yap to finish his contract. The rest of us were heading home because we kids were falling behind in our schooling. Dad bought me the doll the day before we flew out.
So there’s me. Thirteen years old. With a brand new doll that came with a poster and her own tape.
My Dad bought me a few other Jem bits and bats (including the video tape) each time he came over from Yap. So I had a small collection of Jem stuff by the time I reached my mid teens.
When we moved back to England, I had to choose what I brought with me very carefully so that it all fit within the luggage limit. The Jem doll made it across. She ended up in my parents’ loft. Not too many years ago, my parents asked me to move my crap out of their loft please, and I found Jem again. Seeing the lurid pink poster and the doll, with all her assorted paraphernalia, took me straight back to hot tropical afternoons, sitting on my bed, playing. This doll, with her weird pink and white hair and flashing earrings, had travelled around the world with me, from Palau, to Sri Lanka, to Yorkshire. I couldn’t bring myself to throw her away. So she moved lofts – from my parents’ to mine. [I had a Roxy doll too, by the way – she went to a charity shop]. Jem’s been sealed up in her dressing room box thing ever since. Until this morning, when I dug her out, and wiped the years of dust off her.
My five year old daughter and I changed Jem’s clothes, brushed her hair, played her tape and watched the opening sequence to Jem and the Holograms on YouTube. We managed to have quite a fun time on a wet October morning. And that, really, is what it’s all about.