Since news broke that Jem and the Holograms would be heading to the big screen, many of my friends have been excited. And as an ‘80s baby, I totally get it.

I remember watching Jem and her crew of badass rockers take on the music world and battle it out with musical rivals the Misfits every Saturday morning. As a matter of fact, I begged my parents to buy me the dolls and even had a cassette tape (remember those?) of songs from both bands (confession: I was kind of a Misfits girl). So when news hit that one of our beloved 80s cartoons would not only make a comeback, but would be in theaters, many of us were admittedly thrilled.

In case you’re too young to remember, Jem originally ran from 1985 to 1988 and included an extremely multicultural cast. There was Jerrica Benton aka Jem, the White lead singer and record company owner; Jem’s little sister Kimber; Aja, an Asian-American guitarist; Raya, a Mexican-American drummer and backup singer; and Shana, an African-American drummer, bass player, and singer.

The new cast via Aubrey Peeples’ Instagram

This week the cast of the Jem and the Holograms film was reveled. Nashville star Aubrey Peeples will play Jem; Disney’s Stefanie Scott will be Kimber; Hayley Kiyoko of The Fosters’ will be Aja; and Pretty Little Liars’ Aurora Perrineau (daughter of the Best Man star Harold Perrineau) will play Shana.


Shana Elmsford & Aurora Perrineau

As some fans got even more amped to see the film after the announcement, others wondered why one of Jem’s characters, particularly brown-skinned Shana, looked decidedly different.

One young lady took to YouTube to explain why she’s disturbed at the alleged “whitewashing” of Shana, and why you should be too.

Take a look:

We’ve seen this type of criticism before. When Thandie Newton was cast in Half of A Yellow Sun as Olanna, a fictional Nigerian character, many Igbo women were so upset they started a petition to have the role recast; and when Zoe Saldana was picked to play Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic the Internet damn near exploded.

While I understand wanting to see a brown-skin woman play Shana, especially since there are so few roles for darker-skinned Black women (sometimes even when a character or person was/is actually darker-hued, i.e. Nina Simone), when it comes to cartoon characters, should it matter if the live actor closely resembles the original character, or should directors choose whomever they want regardless of the person’s origin?

Let’s talk about it!

  • Risha

    All I have been trying to simply say in these discussions is that it’s about AUTHENTICITY. I know most hardcore Jem/Holograms fans agree with me. I’ll quote another commenter “it’s not a black thing. It’s not a anti-white issue. (and I would add it’s not an anti-white issue); it’s a REPRESENTATION issue. Unfortunately, our concerns about Shana being cast by someone that looks remotely nothing like the representation of what our beloved Shana looked in the animated series has turned into a heated race battle in a lot of these discussions. There bi-racial woman who are my color (see my profile pic), so it’s not a bi-racial issue for me at all. My bestfriend (who happens to be White, shouldn’t have to mention that, but I feel compelled) She told me when she saw that pic (the instapic of the 4 we see posted in this article), she said “they all look white!” lol! Sad to say, I thought the same thing! Wasn’t about race, the cast just did not look like an authentic representation of the Jem and Holograms we know and love. As true blue fans, that was very disappointing. True, I have expressed my thoughts at other forums about being a dark-skinned woman seeing woman my shade constantly being looked over for glamorous roles like Shana, especially when the role calls for a dark chocolate woman. It’s just tiring to see. But this is NOT the true issue. A bi-racial caramel girl could play Shana for all I care, I would grumble a little, but I can deal w/ it better than was is currently before us. Listen, I am not prejudice, I am not dismissing the talented actress Aurora, and I am surely not a racist because I am not happy her being chosen to represent Shana. A lot of us are just super-fans who wanted a long awaited live-action movie to be represented in a way we saw the cartoon. It was our CHILDHOOD! And it was AWESOME!

  • Toni Childs

    Damn…I am not happy about this at all. We need to protest. Anything that doesn’t portray African/ African-American people in a realistic or positive light, I will not be supporting it. MORE of us need to follow suit. We are economically enslaving ourselves.

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