Season Two: Exploring A PRESIDENTIAL DILEMMA
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
A PRESIDENTIAL DILEMMA
I have to tread carefully here, because this episode to me is full of ironies and inconsistancies and the last thing I want to do is cause any offence to people with my analysis :) First of all I have a small disclaimer - I am a British citizen and don't pretend to understand how the complexities of American culture, custom and government work. All I can do is analyse things as I see them, and hope that noone thinks I'm anti-American by the end of it! (For the record, I'm not *grins* I have plenty of American friends and I seem to spend my life buying from there as it is!!)
Ok, with that little technicality out of the way - this is the most contradictory episode in the entirety of the Jem run. I can't make out if the writing team were trying to make a funny episode here, whether they were making a subversive political comment or whether they seriously did not see the irony in what they were producing.
This episode focuses in on the President of the USA, on Jem and on the Holos being called to perform in Washington DC for him and the First Lady. If that's a believable starting point...well. Let's see where we end up, huh?
Let's start right at the beginning, with Mr "Men in Black" as captured at the top of the screen. Bringing a telegram from the White House to Jem and the Holograms is a slightly unbelievable thing to happen, let's face it. But the thing which startles me is the laxity of security throughout the whole of this episode, considering what it's supposed to be about! This opening scene is a typical example - the bringer of the telegram says to Kimber that he can only deliver the letter to Jem herself...yet when Jem magically appears and identifies herself, he does not ask her for any form of ID (what form of ID could Jem have, incidentally? Interesting off-shoot train of thought there!). He just gives her the telegram and leaves. First security blooper.
The next security lapse occurs in DC itself. Jem is there, inspecting the set for the concert, when the security measures in place for the President interfere with Synergy's transmission and bam, Jem is suddenly Jerrica again. When challenged as to why she's there, Jerrica merely explains that Jem had to leave but that she's her business agent, Jerrica Benton. Again, nobody asks her for identification -they accept her at her word.
The infamous moment in this episode where security is at stake (aside from the kidnap, I will get to that), is with the Misfits gatecrashing congress. It's fairly clear to me that the Misfits are pretty tough young ladies and that they take some dissuading, but that they could force their way inside congress and play a whole song before being evicted...? Someone could've blown up the whole of the building by this time! If they'd brought Techrat along, maybe he could have? (Interesting side point number two coming up - Pizzazz asks if the Misfits "get the vote" of the senate. Is this a sign that Pizzazz actually has SOME minor respect for the popularity contest that is politics? Maybe?)
And then of course we come to the kidnap. A nutcase is running around America stealing national treasures (we don't need to highlight that that takes some pretty lax security on it;s own, do we?) Then suddenly he manages to appear and abduct the president in full view of his aides and the Holograms. Yet the only one who does a blind thing about it is Jerrica, gripping hold of the kidnapper's vehicle as if for her life. Would it perhaps not make sense for the President to hire Jerrica as his security guard, since noone else seems to give a damn??
And then, the ultimate irony kicks in. Despite all of the above lapses in security, when the other Holograms need to rescue Synergy in order to help Jerrica, there are security people everywhere! Swarming all over the joint, even! Am I the only one who finds this a touch amusing??
SYNERGY and THE CONCEPT OF "FREEDOM".
This is something else that confuses me very much in this episode. The Misfits spy on Jem and the Holograms and see them loading Synergy into a truck of some sort. They hear Jerrica saying that they have to be careful with the equipment because it's vital to their show and they get the idea of having government officials tow it all away for investigative purposes. Brainwave on the part of the Misfits, but then, of course, Jem and the Holograms have no act and Jerrica has to petition the President himself to get her computer back, even having to reveal to him her identity. Having already covered the issue of "security", I find it ironic that Synergy is such a lethal threat, if the Holograms are the President's guests (unlike the Misfits who just barge in unannounced, as ever!). But the ultimate irony in this episode is the song at the end. Synergy BELONGS TO Jerrica. Yet in order to get her back, Jerrica has to risk her secret with the President. The confiscation also almost costs both the President and Jerrica dear, because it's Synergy's holograms who save the day in the end, too. So, in light of all of this, why in HECK is the final song for this episode called Freedom? Anything "less" free than this episode would be fairly hard to imagine. Property taken without notice or permission, the threat to Jem - and to the WHOLE of America should the secret become exposed...and yet the song at the end of the show is all about how you can do what you like because you're free?
All I can think of is that the scriptwriters for the episode and the song writers were not reading from the same page.
Getting away from political correctness, and the ironies of the plot and song for a moment, let's take a look at Synergy in this episode. It's an interesting concept to combine Synergy (a machine who essentially is owned by Jerrica and runs to her orders) with the idea of freedom, but this is one of the episodes where Synergy's free will does come across. When the government officials first start to take Synergy to pieces, she does everything she can to continue projecting holograms - not just to help the Holograms but to help herself. And I'd like to think that the Holograms come to rescue her not because without her there is no act, but because she is a loyal friend whose life and very existance is put in jeopardy by her abduction. To be honest, I can't be sure which is their true motive, but I'd like to believe Synergy's absolute loyalty to Jerrica and her friends is being repaid.
AMERICA'S NATIONAL TREASURE
Now, I actually think this is a clever twist in the plot. Some nutcase is stealing America's national treasures, such as Lincoln's cane and other important historical memorabilia, and then he issues his threat to steal America;s greatest national treasure. That this treasure should be the president himself is not obvious unless you know the plotline already, so I suppose that there is some excuse for the concern of the White House people (incidentally, sidetracking back to security for just one moment, surely the threats of this guy and the appearance of Jem and the Holograms and their odd machine is enough to cause some suspicion about their motives? Perhaps here we have the real reason for the abduction of Synergy - lax security for the most part but overzealous security when it comes to the threats of the kidnapper!).
Though the president is obviously considered America's biggest national treasure, I'm wondering if the subtle message in this episode is that Jem, or rather, Jerrica herself is also a "national treasure" because she risks her life to rescue the president and defeat the nutcase who kidnapped him. That she would go to those lengths even after the way she and particularly her computer have been treated by federal authority takes a great leap of not just courage but commitment and belief in what she's doing. Well, it's open to interpretation, but that seems to be how it comes across to me,
Well, I don't really like this episode, although seeing the Misfits dolled up as maids is quite cute. I will admit I have a few issues with the song Freedom as well. Besides the obvious irony, the message in the song is "I have freedom, I live in the USA"...neatly sidetracking the idea that any other democratic nation also offers it's people freedom. This topic has come up in discussion on mailing lists before, and it seems the general opinion of most non-American nationals that this song is roundly offensive :S I know that, certainly in the case of my sister and myself when watching the show, we always hit the fast forward button...
Episode rating: 5.5/10.
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley