Season Two: Exploring ROXY RUMBLES
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ROXY RUMBLES OVERVIEW...
Roxy Rumbles is that rare thing - an episode featuring two Misfit songs. Essentially the main players in this episode ARE the Misfits - whilst Jem and the Holograms are, for once, in the more supporting role. One could almost say it was a flip of most episodes, where instead of the Misfits foiling Jem, Jem and the Holograms inadvertently foil Roxy and help the Misfits. Roxy, of course, is the star, and the episode deals with one main theme - illiteracy.
This is also the only episode in which we see Roxy in her native environment. Whilst always a little culturally out of her depth in Los Angeles' high flying music scene, Roxy is very much more at home in Philadelphia. She goes to no house, merely wanders the streets looking for her old crowd. Since this is the only indication we have of Roxy's life before the band, we can deduce a few key points.
Firstly - Roxy has no family, or if she does, they are not people she wants to look up. Roxy's own words are "noone at home thought I'd amount to anything."
The fact Roxy is haunting the streets and not houses of her old neighbourhood also could suggest that she lived rough and was a runaway. We know for sure that she was a high school dropout, because the first (and only) allusion to this is made during this episode also. What can also be deduced, however, is that she did not want for loyal support in her hometown. Link and the others are thugs but they are thugs with hearts and they are obviously very fond of her. When Roxy induces them to sabotage Jem's concert, they are reluctant, but in the end say "maybe...for you." They do not choose to do it because she is offering them money - she has to force this into their hands. They do it out of loyalty to an old friend. Roxy, therefore, is not alone in the world. These are her people - and perhaps the people she refers to when she talks about "showing everybody" what she's made of her life.
THE ISSUE OF ILLITERACY
Roxy's illiteracy is a well kept secret throughout most of the series. There is one allusion to it a lot earlier on (Adventure In China) which would be seen as ambiguous and inconclusive without this particular episode to back it up. The main drive of the episode is to promote to kids watching the importance of learning to read. Jem and the Holograms' campaign is to do this exact thing - to promote literacy in as many venues as possible. The whole campaign dates the episode to the year it was produced - in the current climate such an episode would have been deemed insensitive and impractical, since these days the phenomenons of learning difficulties, dyslexia and behavioural optometry are far more commonly known about. I suppose that, taking it in it's context, you cannot blame the episode for ignoring these little factors. The message throughout is "make the smart decision, learn how to read", and I am probably being highly anachronistic by saying that in Roxy's case this is probably impossible.
The Rock Out Illiteracy tour is something I find very strange, in truth. This is one of those episodes which is blatantly schooled around an educational ideal rather than thought out on the lines of a logical rock star storyline.
THE MISFIT HIERARCHY
Right at the start of the episode, Stormer whispers to Roxy "aren't you going to tell them you can't read?" Roxy reacts to this vehemently by telling her to shut up, but Pizzazz and Jetta make no public comment about Roxy's lack of literacy until after the broadcast is a disaster. This tells something about the Misfit hierarchy - Stormer knows about Roxy's illiteracy BEFORE the show goes out. Jetta and Pizzazz realise it AFTER.
This is one of the few episodes where we see enough in depth about the Misfits to realise that they have a certain type of working relationship with is far more than just individuals with individual agendas. Stormer raises her voice to Pizzazz for probably only the second time in this episode - to criticise her for letting Roxy walk out. Stormer and Jetta go as a team to follow Roxy and find out where she is going. Jetta reports Roxy's doings back to Pizzazz and Pizzazz refers to the Misfits as "the only friends" that Roxy has. Equally, at the end of the episode, the Misfits go to Philadelphia to reclaim her. Though the contract is the technicality which they use to get her back, it's admitted in the office back in L.A that the band needs Roxy, because the songs "aren't the same." Pizzazz's comment here is key - "I don't believe it. I was sure Roxy'd come back." At no point had she envisaged the band going on without Roxy, only that she felt her hold over the group was such that Roxy would not leave. As soon as they realise the seriousness of the situation, therefore, even Jetta admits that they have to get her back.
THE ROLE OF JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS/BANEE
Being anachronistic again, Jem and the Holograms' role in this episode is not a good one. From the point of view of hindsight, their calm assertions about learning to read would probably grate with any learning support teacher or dyslexic schoolchild. But it has to be remembered that this episode was written in the 1980s, when dyslexia WAS still a foreign concept. Jem's role, therefore, is to convey the message of the dangers of illiteracy to the audience. Between the Holograms, pushing to make America literate, and Roxy, struggling to manage without being able to read, this message is definitely put across. Jem's song, "Open A Book" might make folk (myself included) cringe for it's arrogance in today's world, but in the time in which it was produced it carried an important message.
The drawback, of course, for Jem and company being an instructive tool is that their characters suffered as a result. At best the Holograms are simply wooden advocates of learning to read, and Jem is a walking cliche.
BaNee, of course, is the strangest addition to the cast of this episode. Why a Starlight Girl should be roaming around America helping JATH to promote their tour instead of being at school is still a mystery to most Jem fans. It is made stranger still by the fact that she is able to go up to Link and his friends and challenge their reading skills (would you go up to three beefy thugs and insult their intelligence like this if you were nine years old?) without getting hurt (I told you Link and co were all right really!). But her key role in this episode, of course, is helping Roxy. BaNee is the only character throughout the episode who actually wants to help Roxy for a purely unselfish reason. Whilst the Misfits want Roxy back in the pack and the Holograms want her and her carnival out of the way so they can get on with their tour, BaNee actually reaches out to Roxy in order to help her to learn to read.
In fact, it is not made clear whether Jem and company even know/realise Roxy's secret. BaNee, however, does, because she offers a book in the hope that it would "help" Roxy learn to read. Though Roxy is obviously the star of the episode in so many ways, BaNee comes a good second.
Very difficult to view this episode without being anachronistic about the messages within it. I have tried to be as fair as I can but it's difficult because dyslexia is something I know about and it seems impossible to me that Roxy is not dyslexic. However, for Misfit chemistry and an awesome solo song from Roxy, it gets two thumbs straight up. BaNee has her most pivotal appearance in all of the series too, here. Sadly the episode is let down by the blatant "info-mercial" qualities it portrays, which make the Holograms into less-rounded characters at times - none of them really have any chance to show their personalities).
Episode rating: 8/10.
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This version c.2014
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley