Looking for something?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: Jem and the Holograms by Hasbro

For this Throwback Thursday review I present a line of dolls that I never dreamed I'd fall for.  Jem and the Holograms hail from the 1980's, a time when hairstyles were big, clothing styles were bad, and music began focusing more on looks than on talent (Madonna, I'm looking at you).  Yeah, I can't say that I'm too sorry I missed out on much of the eighties; even Chicago's music took on that synth-heavy eighties sound!  Everyone knows Chicago is supposed to have a brass section, not a synth section.  The toys apparently weren't so bad though.  Girls got Golden Dream Barbie and Christie out of the deal (among others), and Micro Machines were big (LOL, bad pun!).  I've talked about a few other eighties doll lines in the past, most of whom were childhood friends.  Jem and the Holograms were not on that friend list, though I had a good reason for this oversight.  I was a mere toddler when the last Jem dolls hit store shelves, but even as my adolescence unfolded I never was even remotely curious about the garish Hasbro minxes that shook Barbie's world so.  That attitude didn't end until several months ago when I found these at a local flea market.  Here's how they looked immediately after I got them home.
From left, a trio of swelled heads...er, I mean Jem, Rio, and Roxy.  I found them nude, dirty, disheveled, and reeking of cigarette smoke.  A thorough bath removed the dirt and the Eau du Cigarette, but it took me awhile to get some clothes.  Thanks to some generous proprietors on Etsy and eBay (again) I got the job done.  So without further ado, here's the star of the show, Jem.
It's rare when I'll admit that Miley Cyrus did something right, but I thought the main premise of Hannah Montana was pretty clever.  Miley's character was a girl that lived a secret dual life as a normal high school kid and a famous pop star.  I wonder now if the producers of Hannah Montana got the idea from Jem, because Jem does exactly the same thing in her TV show, which is appropriately titled Jem.  She's really an ordinary young woman named Jerrica Benton, but thanks to some sort of fancy computer she can appear onstage as Jem, lead vocalist of her band Jem and the Holograms.  These dolls (and the TV show too) took everything about eighties fashion to the extreme.  Big hair, loud clothes, garish makeup, the works.  My particular doll is Glitter 'n' Gold Jem, who wore an ensemble that bore passing resemblance to some of Golden Dream Barbie's fashions.  My doll has only her original headband remaining from that fancy outfit, typical of a second-hand doll.  Fortunately, even without the golden clothes Jem has bits and pieces of her gilded self intact, namely her hair.
It's not uncommon to find Jem dolls with outrageous hair, and while my girl isn't as over the top as some, she's definitely got the eighties aesthetic going on.  Her hair is white-blonde with subtle pink highlights and golden tinsel.  Tinsel in doll hair isn't always a good thing as owners of early Cleo de Nile and Abbey Bominable dolls can attest, but Jem's tinsel is very smooth and fairly easy to manage.  It can have a life of its own, making the hairstyle a little wild, but it's not terrible.  I particularly like Jem's bangs.
You don't see feathered bangs on a doll this size too often.  Underneath the feathered bangs Jem has a surprisingly pretty face.  She reminds me a little of a young Dolly Parton.  However, this pretty face isn't flawless.  Her eyebrows are very, VERY pale!  I don't know if you can see them or not, but they're very pale yellow lines of paint above Jem's eye shadow.
I'll give Hasbro credit:  they gave Jem eyebrows pale enough to match her hair, which is realistic for humans.  Unfortunately this also makes Jem look a little less like Dolly Parton and a little more like Johnny Winter!  Anyway, under those pale eyebrows Jem has pale violet eyes with thick painted eyelashes and pink-red eye shadow.  Jem's cheeks and lips are colored with this pink-red stuff too.  At first glance it looks like Jem's mouth is poorly painted, but in fact a lot of that extra red crap came off when I washed her face.  It looks like some little kid may have used makeup on my Jem, and indeed there were other dolls during the eighties that came with makeup for that very purpose.  Luckily for me, Jem doesn't have a face that stains easily.  Overall her makeup is fairly tame for a doll that's supposed to be over the top, but she makes up for it by being very pretty in the face.

Oops, I almost forgot!  Jem's earrings.
The one on Jem's right (our left) is a little star, while the one on her left (our right) is a plain stud.  I think it was once a star too, but the star probably fell off long ago.  Now y'all might be thinking "Big deal, a lot of dolls come with earrings," but in Jem's case this little addition is important.  My doll has a battery compartment and an on-off switch in her back.
Stick batteries in there, flip the switch, and her earrings will flash.  This is crucial to the TV show's storyline.  In Jem Jerrica/Jem uses these earrings to project holograms around herself, both to enhance stage performances and to protect herself from danger.  It's also where her band got its name.

Normally this would be where I go into the body review and clothes, but I have a specific way that I want to do the body review.  So I'm saving those parts for later and going straight into the next doll, Roxy.
If you can believe this, Jem had villains in the form of rival bands and unscrupulous managers.  Roxy is one of these villains, playing bass guitar for rival band the Misfits (not THESE Misfits, thank goodness).  In the TV show she is depicted as a barely-literate high school dropout who causes a fair amount of friction within her band.  In true eighties style, she has a gravity-defying hairdo.
Hey Roxy, C.C. DeVille called.  He wants his hair back.  Believe it or not, Roxy's hair is fairly tame compared to that of her bandmates, all of whom had candy-colored tresses.  The style is definitely in for the time, though.  The bangs are cut short and some are sticking up, while the rest of it falls to Roxy's shoulders.  It felt nasty before I gave her a bath, but now that I've done that it feels great.  I didn't even have to use THE PLASTIC BAG OF DOOM.  This hair feels like it may be nylon, so this just shows y'all (and me) that nylon hair can be nice if a superior nylon fiber is used (MGA Entertainment apparently uses the cheap crap).

Roxy's makeup is more typical of the style found on these dolls.  The asymmetry reminds me a little of the paint job used on Sunflower Burst Cyanne.  The right side of Roxy's face has orange eye shadow, three chartreuse cheek lines that look like claw marks, and your stereotypical villain eyebrow that is mercifully darker than Jem's eyebrows are.
The left side has eye shadow is done up in a style that vaguely resembles David Bowie's alter-ego Ziggy Stardust.  Only instead of being a red and blue lightning bolt, the makeup looks more like a purple and chartreuse flame.  In my eyes the oddest thing about Roxy's makeup is the rouge on her left cheek.  It's yellow.  A very interesting combo, but unfortunately it can make Roxy look a little sallow if the lighting isn't just so.
Rounding out the face paint are these orange lips.
I think Roxy may be missing some paint from her lips, but it doesn't show too terribly.  It's not unlike a color I wore in high school.  Orange lipstick looked horrid on me, but I liked it so I wore it.  Roxy wears it better, though when paired with the yellow rouge it looks like she's going for a glowing-under-blacklight look.  Again, such a phenomenon would not be unheard of in the music world; Peter Gabriel did that with his stage makeup when he was a member of Genesis, and he may have during his solo career as well.  Peter Gabriel was fairly popular in the eighties, so maybe he was in the back of Hasbro's minds when they created Roxy?  I'll never know, but it's fun to speculate!

Now let's take a look at the main male character of the show, Rio.
Oh Rio, Rio, dance across the Rio Grande...I highly doubt that this was the Rio that Duran Duran had in mind.  LOL, for someone who supposedly hated eighties music I seem to be full of references!  Not all of it was bad, I'll admit!  Anywho, Rio is the road manager for Jem and the Holograms.  He is also Jerrica's boyfriend, though I question his loyalty because he's got the hots for Jem without knowing she and Jerrica are one and the same.  Further, Rio apparently has major trust issues, leading Jerrica/Jem to continue keeping her occupation a secret for fear that Rio will flip out over her deception.  So yeah, Rio doesn't sound like the greatest guy in the world.  He's a nice doll, though.  He's got a killer tan with lovely blue eyes.
Rio's hair is purple and rooted, and unfortunately it appears to have been cut.  Stock pictures of the original Rio show him with something of an afro, but my doll's locks are so short that one can see through to his scalp in places.
Curse the little brat who did this!  My parents would've blistered my rear if I'd cut my dolls' hair.  Oh yes, Rio's also missing his left hand.
Some little kid certainly was rough with her things...or she had siblings that were.  Sometimes siblings do things like this to things that aren't theirs.

From the photographs I've taken it may look like Jem is Barbie's size and thus can wear Barbie's clothes.  But noooooooooo, Jem and her flashy buddies are very statuesque.  They're taller than both modern and vintage Barbie dolls by about half an inch and are larger all over than Barbie as well.  Here's how Jem compares to Cassandra (Made to Move Barbie, left) and P.J. (right).
See how much bigger Jem's feet and shoes are?  Sheesh, and I thought Ami had big feet!
Jem is even bigger than the tall Fashionistas.  I was hoping that she would be able to share clothes with Gertrude and her tall cronies, but after looking at the two of them together I find that doubtful.
It's the same story with Rio.  He towers over Toby, one of my nineties Ken dolls.
He's also taller than Masaharu (DOTW Japan Ken, left) and Apollo (2011 Fashionistas Ken, right).  Masaharu's thick boots make him look taller, but he's still not as tall as Rio.
Obviously Barbie and Ken clothing are out of the question with Jem and her splashy friends.  Luckily some things on Etsy and eBay fit my dolls.  Most of it's for the girls, but I was able to find most of Rio's original suit.
I darn near never found shoes for him.  The ones he's wearing are the only, repeat, ONLY pair that I saw on eBay.  They're big, just like Jem's are.
Jem shoes are the same size as the recently reviewed P. Bo's shoes are, but their shoes don't have the details that Bo's do.
I was hoping Bo could wear Rio's shoes, but they are ridiculously big on her.
Normally Rio would be wearing a yellow t-shirt underneath this outer shirt, but mine doesn't have that so he goes bare-chested.  Hey, if Roger Daltrey can wear an open shirt at his age, so can Rio.  The shirt has one button on the right side, but no cooresponding buttonhole that enables it to function.
The rest of the shirt is made out of this soft woven fabric.  The dominant color is purple, but there are plenty of other colors mixed in.
It's a little wrinkled, but it's also a well-made garment, very fitted.  In fact, it fits Rio a little TOO close!  It wants to stick to his vinyl arms instead of sliding over them.  The seams are cut well, but the bottom hem is a little raggy-looking.
I shouldn't have been surprised to find that the shoulders were padded, but I was.  More cringe-worthy eighties fashion.
Rio's slacks are purple as well, and they're very soft.
They stretch a little, but again these are a chore to put on because Rio's vinyl legs create a lot of friction.  These do close in the back, which is more than I can say for the shirt.  The pants also have this non-functioning belt.
The back closes with a little patch of Velcro.
I'm glad Rio's britches have a belt as it breaks up all that purple, but I wish I could tighten it or something of that sort.  I also don't like the fact that these pants are so fitted at the ankles!
That was apparently another hideous eighties trend, as All-American Ken wore jeans like that too.  I do appreciate the accuracy of these pants, but the style still gets a big fat YUCK!!!  I prefer bell-bottoms...which a lot of people happen to hate.  How tastes differ!  These gathers are nicely done, though.

Rio may not have all of his original outfit, but at least he's got most of it.  Roxy and Jem aren't quite as lucky, though I do love what I've got for them.  Jem is wearing Flash 'n' Sizzle Jem's dress.  It's just the dress; the tights and jewelry probably got lost or wore out years ago.
It's a little worse for wear, as secondhand fashions often are, but when I say a little I mean a little.  The shoulder strap is broken.
Easily remedied by tucking the broken strap into Jem's bodice and rearranging the tulle trim.  Problem solved.  The rest of the dress is in great shape.  The bodice is made of stretchy ruched pink fabric that hugs Jem's body.  
The skirt has a sky blue base layer and an outer layer of sparkly tulle.  Both layers have an asymmetric hem.
This is a cute dress.  Yeah, I do sort of wish that the straps were intact, but the bodice fits so well that straps really aren't needed.  In fact, the bodice is a lot like Rio's clothes in that it fits a little TOO well.  It didn't slide over Jem's legs without a fight.  That may be how the shoulder straps got broken, in fact; maybe someone tried to use those to pull the dress up?  I'll never know for sure, but I do know that I've done the same with doll dresses in the past.  Definitely time to break that habit.  As an aside, these shoes are not original.  But they match nicely!
Roxy's dress once belonged to a Rock 'n' Curl Jem.  It too is missing its accessories, and I can't say that I like this dress as much as I like the other one.  It does its job, though; it suits Roxy's style and covers her nakedness, so no biggie.
The bodice is a lovely royal purple and has one shoulder.  The shoulder is decorated with a pink shabby-chic bow.
The waist is cut in a diagonal manner, and the lowest point is decorated with another pink bow.
The bodice itself was once decorated with sparkly little polka dots, but those have worn off with time.
The skirt is short, almost obscenely so.  It's made out of silver lame that has started to lose its shine.
Neither the skirt nor the bodice are things I can't fix without a little fabric paint or silver beads.  Unlike Jem's dress, Roxy's has a Velcro opening in the back, along with some loose threads.
I even have some shoes that match...sort of.
So these dresses may not be the original things that my particular dolls once wore, but they'll definitely do.  Aside from showing typical wear of age and use these clothes are nice.  They feel like they were built to last, and for the most part they have.  No holes or rips or anything like that, just faded spots and a torn strap that doesn't harm the rest of the dress much.  I'm a little sorry that Jem's dress doesn't have its Day-Glo yellow accessories, but at least she's not naked anymore, right?  

As a last little touch, I've got this!
This little number came from Cazjar on Etsy.  The proprietor makes clothes for Hasbro Jem and for Integrity Jem, with this one being intended for Hasbro Jem.  It's a full outfit; the only thing that didn't come with the outfit are those pink shoes.  Everything closes with snaps, including the tights.  The tights do not slide over Jem's rubbery legs easily, but the final look is worth the effort.  Cazjar warns that these dresses are NOT toys, and it shows.  This outfit is extremely nice, but it's got parts that would not hold up in the hands of a child.  For you adult collectors though...go for it!  Cazjar's clothes are fabulous!

Unfortunately these three are going to have to get naked again!  As I said above, these dolls are quite statuesque, and yet they're also very shapely and graceful.  Rio, being a boy, has a heavily muscled body with flat feet and molded skivvies.
His feet have big holes in the heels for reasons I've not yet figured out.
He has joints at the shoulders, hips, neck, waist, wrists (wrist?), and knees.  His arms have lateral movement...
...as do his hips.  Rio can do a full sideways split, but not a full front-to-back split.
His waist twists halfway around, which looks a little odd.
Rio's elbows feel like they can bend, but they don't.  His head makes up for that by tilting a teensy bit.
Very few of my boy dolls have heads that do tilt, so it's nice to see one that can.

Roxy, being female, has a female body with boobies and a trim waist and all that jazz. 
Her feet have an elevated heel.
She has major cankles, and I wondered if that meant she had joints there.
Unfortunately these ankles are not jointed.  Roxy has the same number of joints that Rio does, and they all move in the same way.  She can't do a full front-back split either.
Roxy has rubbery arms like Rio does, but hers don't hold a pose either.  Too bad too, because one of her hands is designed to hold a microphone.  Notice that Roxy has pink nail paint, by the way.
Such a shame that Roxy can't bring that mic closer to her face!  If only these dolls had elbows that bent!  Oh wait...Jem does!  Jem has all the joints that Roxy does, but she's got some extra bits that put her ahead of Roxy in the posing department.  For starters, notice that the two girls have bodies that differ slightly.
Jem's torso is shorter and curvier, though not enough so to make clothes sharing a pain in the butt.  The subtle differences in shape do offer a clue though, that Jem's body is different from Roxy's.  Not only are Jem's arms rubbery like those of her companions, but they actually do bend and hold a pose!  That's not all, either.  These elbows have three clicks of rotational movement.  This means that I can move her lower arms towards the center of her body or away.
The knees have the same feature.  I can make Jem sit slightly knock-kneed...
...or with her ankles crossed...
...or I can tuck her legs off to the side, like Miss Emily likes to do with her dolls.
Up until this point in the eighties the most flexible dolls manufactured had been Sindy, Living Barbie and Uneeda Dollikin, and as far as I know none of them had rotating joints like this.  That would mean that this particular Jem doll may have been a bit groundbreaking.  Granted my Jem doll couldn't bend her waist or ankles like Dollikin and Living Barbie could, and she has nowhere near the posing abilities that Made to Move Barbie dolls do, but she's still got an impressive set of joints!  

 Sooooo...was adding these dolls to my collection worth it?  Let's weigh the pluses and minuses.  

*Fairly difficult to dress.  It's especially hard to find clothes for Rio.
*Can't share clothes with Barbie, or with any of my other dolls.
*Fragile wrists, maybe?  I'm not sure how much strength it took to pull Rio's hand off, but apparently it can be done.  I'm marking this wrist joints as slightly fragile for that reason.
*When new these dolls had lots of easily lost bits and bobs.

*Concept is original, or it was at the time.  
*The clothes that I do have are of reasonably decent quality.
*Hair is nice
*Faces are well-painted
*Joints are articulated.  Jem is the best in this category, but all three dolls have decent joints.

I'm pretty hard-pressed to find anything majorly wrong with these dolls, or at least anything that was the fault of Hasbro or the dolls themselves.  Rio's cut hair and missing hand are a bummer, but neither of those are Rio's fault so I'm not going to gripe too loudly about it.  I'll gripe about kids who mistreat their toys instead!!!  Ahem...where was I?  I have to confess that I like these dolls, but I'm not going to become a hardcore Jem collector.  The three I've got are enough, and I look forward to digging up some more pieces of clothing that fit.  I also look forward to grubbing up some more pieces of original clothing, because what I have is well made and cute.  My dolls' clothes have some minor cosmetic issues, but nothing terribly detracting.  I can either fix them or accept them as normal wear and tear.  The dolls themselves have stood up relatively well to the test of time, proof that as recently as the eighties toy companies were taking pride in their products.  Nowadays there are times when it seems like all the company cares about is making a buck and saving a buck.  There's nothing cheap about Jem and her friends though, and that's given me a new appreciation for this doll line.



  1. Personally, my favorite thing about the Jem dolls was the gorgeous character artwork on the boxes. The comparatively huge size of Jem vs. the dolls I already had meant that I wasn't as interested in collecting them. The Jem/Jerika I had did hold up outstandingly well to the tests of time, though!

    1. Yeah, it's a shame that Barbie and Jem couldn't share clothes. Imagine what fun kids would've had with Jem clothes on Barbie and the Rockers, and vice versa! These have indeed stood up well to the test of time, which is more than I could say about some modern-day toys.

  2. Rio needs a hook for his missing left hand, and then he can have a cool Captain Hook vibe going on, like Colin O'Donoghue. Yum. Okay, anyway, it's a shame to see toys beat up like that. I hope you can find more clothes for them.

    I will have you know that 80s clothes were absolutely fantastic, although I tended to go more for the preppy look, myself. I did have fluorescent pink and fluorescent yellow leather ties in my wardrobe, I'll admit. And while we may have had pegged jeans, at least we didn't have skinny jeans, and jeggings didn't even appear in our nightmares.

    1. LOL, no need to get defensive. I admit that I was hasty in calling all eighties style bad, especially since the present day does indeed have the horrid things known as "jeggings," while the eighties had some awesome ballgowns and suits. You probably should remember that I wasn't even on the planet for most of the decade. My opinions thus aren't the most reliable. And not all music wasn't cheesy either, though I still wish Chicago had stuck with the brass section.

      As for Rio having a hook, I actually think that's a splendid idea! It's a heck of a lot better than leaving a hole in his arm. Keep your eyes peeled for the next review; I have yet another child-mangled doll slated for review.

  3. Sorry if I came off as defensive; I didn't intend it that way, but it's hard for me to convey tone through my writing sometimes. :(

    1. No sweat, it IS hard to convey a tone through typing! I've misunderstood friends that way and had folks misunderstand me in the same manner. I do love your idea of Rio going Captain Hook style, though. I definitely need to try that!

    2. First, yay, another bell bottoms fan! I love that style whether it's called "bell bottoms" as it was in my teens or "boot cut" as used today. Helps balance a big butt, I think. Hope, lol.

      Thanks for another Throwback Thursday special - this one on Hasbro's Jem. I was a working adult when Jem hit the doll scene. I did not watch the show often - enough to get the story dynamics, the Jem-Jerrica-Rio "triangle," that Kimber was Jerrica's younger sister, that Jerrica/Jem oversaw an orphanage, that Pizazz was a rich b--ch, and that Stormer was a sweet girl in a bad crowd. I liked Roxy best because she was from South Philly (yo, Roxy!) Finding other clothes for them was tricky because they were ... big boned gals. I like variety in my figures so I didn't mind the size difference.

    3. Oh yeah, I've got curves so I love bell bottoms. I wish doll companies would make more every now and then, because they fit easier over doll feet.

      Glad you're liking these Throwback Thursday posts; I've got plenty more waiting in the wings! LOL, you remember more about the TV show than I do, but then again I never saw it at all. Hats off to Jem/Jerrica for what she does for kids!

  4. I absolutely loved Jem. Unfortunately most of my dolls (and I had most of them) including multiple versions of Jem were destroyed or stolen by whoever my mom let play with my dolls after I moved out. I still have Jetta, Roxy and Aja. And, not sure on Rio cause I never wanted him (would've loved a Joe though) but Roxy absolutely has the same articulation as Jem. Guessing Rio would too. Yours may just have some stiff joints. One reason that Jem and Roxy look so different may be because the Misfits and Holograms were made by different factories in different countries so each band has their own mold. Although I think Jems sculpt did change for later releases. I seem to recall noticing that myself but I am digging through doll memories that are pushing 30 so pretty fuzzy. But the hands do detach. They are harder to detach than MH but easier than Phicen or Hot Toys and are actually very sturdy. Just don't try and stick a Misfit hand on a Hologram doll cause even the peg molds are very different. I tried to do this and ended up snapping Ajas forearm. Which is how I discovered the manufacturing differences. They can also wear Frightfully Tall Ghouls fashions, a little tight but they fit. The FTG clothes fit some barbies and Bleeding Goth dolls as well. And the FTGs actually fit into Barbie, Maxi and Disney store doll clothes pretty nicely. In fact my Elissabat looks better in Lady Tremaines dress than the disney doll

    P.S. They fourth item on Meyganas crest is an old school perfume atomizer
    P.P.S Just found your blog and have been devouring for the past 4 hours. Love it and your take on things.

    1. LOL, I'm so glad you love our blog! Talolili and I work hard to make it nice. Thanks for the information on Roxy's joints; I was nervous about breaking her so I didn't try too hard to flex her arms, but I'll dig her out and give it a whirl. That's good to know that the hands detach; at least Rio isn't permanently broken. I'm tempted to just give him a hook and nickname him Captain Hook. LOL, good information on Frightfully Tall Ghoul clothes too, as I'm always looking for new ideas regarding clothes. I know of a lady that's selling some Jem dolls if you're interested, by the way. They're nude but they're in good shape.

    2. Thanks for the info on Meygana's crest, by the way. I NEVER would've guessed "perfume atomizer," not in a million years.