Season Three: Exploring VIDEO WARS
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
Almost certainly played out of order, this is the Misfits’ penultimate stand as main Jem villains (boo, hiss, etc). Though it features in the most commonly given airing sequence (the one which I used for this site, though not necessarily the correct one for all parts of the world) after Stingers Hit Town 1 and 2, it’s blatantly obvious that Riot and his girls are not on the scene yet. Pizzazz is her usual conniving self (yay!) and the Misfits and Holograms are, as ever, concerned with each other rather than a third group. Also Clash’s last stand (she would appear only once more and without a speaking part) - this episode always leaves open the question “What happened next?”
THE ROLE OF CLASH
I mentioned this in Clash’s character biography but it’s so significant in my view that I’m going to touch on it again here. This is the last time Clash has a major role in the Jem series, and to all intents and purposes it *is* a major part. Gone, however, is the streetwise, self-assured Clash Montgomery of the red and blue hair, who conned her way onto a movie set to meet the Misfits and who Pizzazz even referred to as a “friend”. Clash is one of the characters who undergoes a metamorphosis throughout the series and believe me, it isn’t a pretty one. At some point in second season, Clash decides that her main aim in life is not to hang with the Misfits, but to BE a Misfit (something first touched upon in Father’s Day, when it transpires she told her father she was a Misfit and not just a hanger on.) But in this episode we see Clash’s real push to be a part of the band. We already know her as a schemer, a mistress of disguise and one of Pizzazz’s most loyal followers. In this episode we see a more desperate Clash, who dreams up an audacious plan to shame the Holograms…with a price. That price - Clash will sabotage the Hologram video on the understanding that, when her videotape of the Hologram mess-ups airs live on LinZ Pearce’s show, she will be accepted as a bonafide Misfit in her own right. This is important, because Clash’s usual number one priority is to spite her cousin Video. But this particular plot has two aims - to spite Video and become a Misfit herself.
Of course, nothing involving Clash is ever that simple. Not only does she have her usual love/hate relationship with technology, there is a pivotal moment when, in her disguise as a film student, Clash saves Raya from a rampaging lion (who just happens to be called Simba. Was Disney watching, perhaps?). This is a key moment in the world of Clash because it shows us a few salient points about her character.
Firstly - Clash is not so hard of heart or as Misfit obsessed that she would let one of the rival band be killed without trying to help.
Secondly - Clash’s heart is in the right place - she even risks her own safety to protect Raya. Selfless courage and Clash are not usually synonymous but this is significant because of a little incident in a much earlier episode (Last Resorts) involving putting the Holograms in serious peril in the snowy mountains.
Thirdly - Clash’s Misfit loyalties come under scrutiny for the first time, when she is uncomfortable but also slightly comforted by the Holograms’ praise at her courage. This is the first and perhaps only time in the series where Clash seems to be debating whether what she’s doing - in the name of Misfit-hood - is really what she SHOULD be doing. She seems almost affected by the Hologram bond - she comments on how close they are, as if surprised that these people she has dismissed as two-dimensional enemies should have thought and feeling for each other and for people around them. Maybe also she is surprised because she gets a rough ride with the Misfits, yet the Holograms welcome her (as Sarah) into their select group fairly easily after the initial hiccups. And yet, this aside she persists in her plan - proving once more that by this time becoming a Misfit is her sole objective in life.
Of course, the main theme implied throughout the whole episode is that Clash is looking for a place to belong. This is where the metamorphosis comes in, because instead of being the instigator - the inspired side-kick who helps the Misfits give Jem hell - she has become reactionary; running to Pizzazz for support, begging her for a chance of being a Misfit, and enduring a fair bit of abuse t’boot. Despite all of this, her key gift is still very much apparent. Clash’s gift is not music, nor is it really the camera technology of her cousin Vivien. Her real talent is for imitation, costume and mimickry, for not only does she fool the Misfits into believing “Sarah” is a real person at first, she is also able to imitate her cousin - voice and appearance - so perfectly that she is able to fool Video’s producer and get her tape into the studio. In fact, if it had not been for the last minute arrival of the real Video with the correct cassette, Clash’s plan might well have worked. Of course, you have to wonder if she would ever have kept her half of the bargain, had Clash succeeded. Pizzazz seems unsurprised and strangely smug at the failure of the plot…is she still bearing that grudge from Father’s Day??
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
I’m not quite sure what to make of Jem and co. in this episode. On the one hand they’re the victims of a string of on-tour disasters. From another angle they want to reach out to Clash and help her. And yet, even in all of this, there is that little bit of in your face Jem spite to round off proceedings.
As the victims, the Holograms are off on tour. After a resounding performance on LinZ’s show of their “new” video (Like A Dream played for the third time - the only song to get a third airing), it is revealed that their next video will be first aired live on LinZ’s show when their tour is done, and that the group will also co-host proceedings, announcing it themselves. It is this which inspires Clash to disguise herself as film student Sarah, and beg for the chance to come along with them in order to produce a special project for her course.
The Holograms react to Sarah’s request in differing ways. At first it seems that Jerrica is likely to refuse, but it is soft-hearted Raya who speaks up for Clash, perhaps seeing someone not unlike herself, needing a helping hand to reach her goal. This interference on Raya’s part is one of the few times the drummer is influential with the other Holograms, for Jerrica makes the decision to allow Clash along for the ride. Aja, for her part, is decidedly unconvinced. By now we’re all used to the suspicious and stubborn Aja, but Jerrica coins a phrase here which is often quoted by Jem fans when discussing Aja’s character. “What I see is a stubborn, unreasonable Aja Leith!” The fight is of great enough proportions to have them still arguing on the tour bus - not a great start to their trip! It is Shana in the end who knocks sense into Aja and Jerrica, reminding them that, whatever their differences, Clash is with them and they don’t want her filming a feud.
Jerrica also has to make provision for protecting her secret - having Synergy project Jem sleeping at the back of the coach is all very well, but she’s lucky that noone tries to shake her awake!
Of course, Raya has her reward for her kind-heartedness, for Clash repays her by saving her life from the lion. But once Aja and Jerrica stop fighting, the bond that the Holograms have with each other is plainly on view. Even Raya is a real part of the team this time - maybe because “Sarah” is not - and it’s nice to see it - for once ALL of the Holograms are acting as a unit, not just four of them with one surplus.
At the end of the episode, Jem does a very unusual thing - she tries to reach Clash, telling her that she is looking for somewhere to belong and that for a while she had been trusted and part of the Hologram’s circle, but that she had blown it. It’s quite a meaningful little speech from old pink hair, but it does leave us with that interminable question. Clash’s last words in the Jem series are that she’ll show everyone…but the show never gives her that chance, and it’s a shame.
THE LAST LAUGH
And now for the Jem spite. Even I can see that, after everything, the Holograms have a reason to be upset. Clash has deceived them, and the Misfits are once again trying to ruin them. However, there is a lot of Jem truth in the lyrics of “The Last Laugh.” Not just Jem’s frustration with the way things are always going, and not just a “We did it!” kind of song. The sentiment behind “The Last Laugh” epitomises what I’ve been saying about Jem and co. from the off - that they are as deeply involved in this rivalry as the Misfits and that it matters just as much to them as to their enemies to get one step ahead. The lyrics of the song basically say “we did it despite your interference. You thought you had us beaten, but you were wrong.” Now, a group who was merely the victim of Misfit pranks and was not at all involved in the rivalry would not record a song like that.
The video for The Last Laugh also backs this up. There’s a strange kind of irony in it, because somehow it incorporates various Misfit faux-pas, including things that reveal who Jem really is. We can only speculate that the video is meant to be Jem’s train of thought and not an actual music video, but the irony becomes apparent when you remember that this episode almost is the last significant one the Misfits will have. Jem’s ‘Last Laugh’ almost puts a cap on the rivalry for good.
And why do I call it Jem spite? Well, take cover - another of Taffeta’s reason vs justification vs heroes and villains lectures coming up. If Jem is really a hero, and a victim of Misfit abuse - why is it that her train of thought (or music video, you decide) is full of examples of the Misfits being humiliated and shamed? I understand fully that the reason behind it is her annoyance with the Misfits. But where is the justification for a heroine to behave in such a way? Quite simply, there is none. For a Misfit to produce a Hologram-esque video would be unheard of - why, therefore, is it acceptable for the Holograms to produce a *Misfit*esque video and get away with it? Clearly yet another example of the classic Jem series doublestandard.
(Mind you, the song is pretty cool all the same.)
A MOMENT WITH THE MISFITS
I don’t intend to dwell on them long, but something must be said about this almost final fling the real heroes of the show have in the series. There are a few points to be made - one relates to the odd continuity and possibly odd running order (Jetta tells Clash that the last time she filmed them it was a disaster. This “last time” would be Aztec Enchantment, except of course that the same comment is made in THAT episode, presumably referring to Video Wars? Which came first - no idea!)
Jetta also seems to speak in a strange accent at one point - in fact, when speaking the line mentioned above. Instead of pure London dialect we get a hint of something Northern…possibly even midland! But these technicalities aside, you see evidence in this episode of Roxy and Jetta’s rivalry, and yet of the Misfits’ team teasing technique (when they think Clash is someone else, and gang up on her en masse). Pizzazz also has a good episode here. She is obviously playing the manipulator - there is no Eric, so she is calling the shots. Honestly, I think she’s also being the cynic - she doesn’t expect Clash’s plan to work or that she will have to keep her promise of making Clash a Misfit if it does. Her whole attitude and demeanour suggest that she sends Clash out on a wild goose chase, perhaps for her own amusement or to keep Clash out of her hair. (Let’s face it, at this stage in the series Clash can be a pain in the butt to have hanging around). Either way, you never quite feel that Pizzazz is ready to risk the musical future of her group (have you heard Clash sing?!) for a moment of Holo-humiliation.
Despite its lousy animation, Video Wars is potentially a pretty good plotline. We see Clash in her mimic mode once again, we see the Misfits plotting and we see the Holograms making a fool of themselves in front of the camera. But still, the ironic echoes of “The Last Laugh” linger on…Video Wars almost is the last laugh for those poor Misfits!
However, the weakest part of the plot is the degeneration in Clash’s character. You can only imagine that, when she shows spark at the end, there is a future revenge building in her mind - yet we never see it. We are left with the image of Clash the wannabe…and it’s not worthy of her at all.
Episode rating: 6/10
Original site concept c. 2001
This version c.2014
Please ask before using the images on this site.
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley