Season Two: Exploring THE FAN
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
Hrm. Okay. Some rich spoiled dude with really bad taste in shirts puts an ad in the newspaper wanting to find out about Jem's identity. Pizzazz latches onto it and they set Jem up - in a fake Starlight Mansion in the hopes of finding her true identity.
And next week, they're being abducted by aliens.
No, seriously. This is one crazy plotline...
PRESCOTT, PIZZAZZ and MISFIT SCHEMING
Well, the first thing to be said is that this features the biggest spoilt brat in the whole of the series. No, I'm not kidding - they managed to come up with someone even more spoiled than Pizzazz. And the irony of it is - she doesn't even see the connection. (Or maybe she does...who knows?)
The puzzling nature of Pizzazz and Prescott A Wentworth III's working relationship in this episode is that Pizzazz apparently needs Prescott's money to execute her little experiment. Is Harvey having an off week? Did Pizzazz tick him off recently by destroying a major film studio? Or is she just keen to act under her own fire, and not run to Daddy for once? We may never know, but what it does do is give us the impression of a more adult Pizzazz. (Of course, her fit of temper at the end breaks the illusion, but it's nice while it goes on.)
Like in several second season episodes, Pizzazz alone is the brains behind this operation. As she does in One Jem Too Many, Pizzazz has sidelined Eric's usual puppet-string pulling ploys. In fact, in this episode, Eric himself is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, as rumoured, he was getting too much for some squeamish parents (what a pathetic, lily-livered bunch THEY must have been!) and that explained his increasing absences from Misfit HQ over the course of the second and third seasons. (Not that he vanished altogether, but there is much more of Pizzazz under her own steam from hereon in). What's especially important from my perspective is that the Misfits are more than capable of scheming without his input. I find this a significant change from early season episodes, where he's manipulating the girls into doing whatever he wants done - often with ludicrous and crazy results. My bias says the change could be down to the influence of Jetta - but honestly, it could just be the writers fancied a change.
It all begins with a newspaper, and an unusual advert offering a reward for anyone who can give information on Jem's real name. Pizzazz - who also wants this information - rakes full advantage, using Prescott's obsession with Jem against him in her own quest for the truth. Let's face it, she does a pretty thorough job!
But, even though Prescott has offered a hefty reward and even though Pizzazz is using Prescott's money to arrange the whole scheme, the Misfits aren't interested in cold, hard cash. There is more at stake here. Pizzazz - who has always cared more about stardom than money - has her group under perfect control and the focus of all of them is discovering Jem's real name. Though Prescott knows who the Misfits are on sight, he has no idea that they hate the Holograms or that Pizzazz is loaded, because he asks few questions. Essentially, he is a weak obsessive and it is Pizzazz's turn to play puppeteer. Maybe, in being a spoiled rich kid herself, she understands best how to handle him. When the other Misfits comment that he's a brat, Pizzazz replies "but with that brat we can destroy Jem." At no point does she doubt her ability to dominate and control Prescott or his point of view, and once the scheme is underway, he is unable to do anything to stop it. You can only imagine that, as a young girl, Pizzazz mixed in circles where she likely met and terrified kids like Prescott on a regular basis. In short, you might say that she's in her element.
THE NEWSPAPER...AND STUPID HERO SYNDROME
This always bugs me when I see this episode. Here is this paper, obviously well circulated and read by enough people that both Mr Wentworth III and the Misfits (opposite ends of the spectrum, perhaps, though maybe it's a rich people paper?) lay paws on it. And yet, Jem and the Holograms are entirely oblivious. You would think that, judging by the craziness in Broadway Magic, Jem and co would have learnt a lesson or two about self-protection - especially when involving the media.
This is something which is related, definitely, to Stupid Villain Syndrome. It's one of those moments where, in order for the plot to work, the heroine has to do something completely stupid. And that's what Jem does. Despite her Superstar video snippets on not talking to strangers, and certainly not trusting them, Jem conveniently forgets anything about it when a car drives up pretending to be from her sister, Kimber. Her own message in the Superstar clip is that, whatever the excuse, you shouldn't go with a stranger. Now Jem is completely contradicting her own advice :S She gets into the car with a man she doesn't know, and lets him drive her to a place she doesn't know, either. Even though it's a different route from normal, she doesn't want to get out. And even though it's a birthday surprise and she knows it's not her birthday - she still trusts the man involved. Like, what? I don't like Jem much, but even I don't think she'd be that stupid!
WHO IS SHE ANYWAY? (AGAIN!)
We're back in the world of the repeated, re-hashed, re-aired Misfit songs again. Who Is She, Anyway? first aired in Broadway Magic - and I suppose the writers thought the themes were similar enough to use the same track.
I beg to differ. When we first see the song, in Season 1, the Misfits are just speculating. An innocently made remark by Stprmer sparks them off and gives Eric the idea of the publicity blitz. But in The Fan, the Misfits are not speculating or airing frustration. They're in deadly earnest. Their one goal in thw episode is to find out who she is.
But do the Misfits *really* care who Jem is? I think not. It's my assumption that, based on Pizzazz's words about destroying Jem, that they think she's hiding something dark and sinister behind her mystique. Whatever they expect Jem to be is probably coloured in part by the secrets they keep from one another and their own fears and insecurities about what would happen if those things broke out. Jetta conceals her background, Roxy her illiteracy. Stormer hides her fear and her conscience, and Pizzazz keeps her feelings locked under a veil of spoiled anger. Each of them likely believe that, should their own personal skeletons escape the closet, their fragile worlds will come crashing down. And that is what they expect for Jem. Whether they think her a criminal, a spy or what is never really clear. But, considering their own chequered selves, they probably don't even think that she has an entirely different reason for becoming someone else.
Even after knowing Jem and the Holograms for so long, they have no idea that Jem is Jerrica Benton. Maybe they're fooled by Synergy's fantastic holograms. Maybe it's because Jem and Jerrica are so very different. Maybe they're just not perceptive enough - or they don't care enough - to read between the lines. But there's no doubt in my mind that the discovery of Jem's secret would prove a great disappointment to Pizzazz. Yes, it might satisfy her desire not to be out of the loop - but it would not make much of a longterm scandal.
So, on to Jem. As she says - rather blatantly giving herself away - "If you're Jerrica - who am I?" And there it is in a nutshell. Jem is spirited away to a replica Starlight Mansion, surrounded by actors and actresses. She, who fools millions on a daily basis is herself fooled, because noone around her is who they seem. (Isn't it a delicious irony?) I know I keep using it as an example, but in Midsummer Night's Madness, Riot and Minx know that Rapture is the Oracle, even if she's cloaked and hooded. In contrast, Jem cannot tell her friends from imposters, despite the odd charade going on around her. I honestly think that the reason for this is that Jem herself is afraid she's going crazy. I've observed the very real evidence of later episodes that she's starting to lose the plot. Maybe this is the real start of her psychosis - and she's beginning to doubt herself. Haunted by strange and distant Holograms in the Nightmare video, Jem's psyche is put under real pressure.
What else is interesting is that, when Jem realises something is wrong, she immediately thinks of Synergy as "someone who'll tell me the truth!". Perhaps the maternal guise of Synergy's programming is strong here. Jerrica is alone and confused, in a world of strangers. Who else would she go to but her mother, such as she is?
The other intriguing observation here has to do with Rio. It has to be remembered that the Starlight Mansion in "The Fan" is a Misfit-eye view of what goes on at Jem's home (more on that below). Apparently they assume that Rio - Jem's paramour - knows Jem's secret, but that the other Holograms do not. Which shows that, emotionally damaged as the Misfits might be, even they think Jem woulda been honest with Rio!
A MISFIT EYE VIEW
We don't get many glimpses like this one into the Misfit psyche. Their perception of Jem and the Holograms is usually limited to music video domination and throwaway insults. But The Fan gives us something more than that.
Firstly, the Misfits manage to build an exact replica of the Starlight Mansion. So identical, in fact, that Jem can't tell the difference until she tries to walk through Synergy's wall. How did they find out so much detail? Did they bribe a Starlight kid? Did Clash trot in in disguise as Mrs Bayley to plot the estate? Has Pizzazz slept with one of the architects? Or did they simply get a good look at it when they almost got it blown up in Truly Outrageous?
Whichever the truth is, it's no mean feat - and a little creepy - to think that Pizzazz or Prescott know the inner layout of the Starlight Mansion, intimately.
Secondly is the scenario. Jem is having a birthday party. Well, as Jem adamantly exclaims, it's not her birthday at all. Maybe, then, the birthday party is another Misfit perception - in their eyes it's the kind of thing Jem and her entourage would do. Constant parties and celebrations surrounded by as many loved ones as possible. And, scarily again, the Misfits call it right. Even though it isn't Jem's actual birthday, she is convinced that this is really her home and that they are really the Holograms.
I've mentioned before that Jem and the Holograms don't always seem to be that smart. By the time they finally track down the fake Starlight Mansion and their missing singer, the Misfits have all but fled, leaving Prescott locked in a cupboard. (Clearly a lesson in what happens when you try to cross the bad girls of rock!). Jem maybe gives her most honest response here to Prescott's heartfelt plea for forgiveness - "I'm not going to say it's all right, Prescott, and I wouldn't like to go through it again." But she does allow him to sponsor her concert, and the hope is that Prescott, now reformed, will never be such a spoiled brat again.
If I were Jem I'd be a touch wary of the level of this fan's obsession. But that's just me. In Jem's favour it takes some guts to step out on stage with a probable concussion and sing, after several hours imprisoned in her own personal nightmare. The longterm effects, I think, of The Fan, become apparent later in the series, as more and more of her behaviour becomes erratic. Meanwhile, without realising it, the Misfits have managed to put Jem's worst fears into reality!
Interesting for the glimpse into Misfit perceptions, and also the insight of who Jem runs to in her time of need. But the episode is let down by it's reliance on heroine stupidity to run the plot. Much as I'm not Jem's biggest fan, that one is beneath even her.
Episode rating: 6/10
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley