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.
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!