Jetta

SHEILA BURNS
Overview
Jetta is possibly the most unpopular character from the Jem series, given the general opinions of the fandom. I am not quite sure why this is, only that when I first became interested in the Jem phenomenon, I encountered some really raw hostility towards her and anything she did was dismissed as being the work of an "evil" character. That she could be so blatantly and deliberately misread both annoyed and intrigued me, for when I came to see the series for myself, I saw a completely different Jetta to the one people would have me believe in. Even now I cannot explain why everyone was so overtly unpleasant about her back then. It escapes me entirely.
Jetta is perhaps the "clever" Misfit - the schemer, the plotter, and the manipulator. Her intelligence should never ever be underestimated for, although the other Misfits all possess brains and plotting capabilities, Jetta operates on a level which - until Talent Search - was fairly unfamiliar within the Misfits. She gets what she wants by subtle manipulation, not usually by fists and threats. And when you consider that she only appeared in less than half of the episodes, she is a character who, love her or hate her, cannot easily be disregarded or forgotten. Yes, it's safe to say that Jetta's entrance into the cartoon series had an impact...something which cannot be said for her fellow rookie Raya. More on that in Raya's profile.


Background
Jetta (real name Sheila Burns) is given as the daughter of working class couple Bertie and Flo Burns, growing up in a rough part of a fairly impoverished English estate in an unspecified town. There is only one episode which shows anything about her real roots, and this is Britrock, which comes fairly late on in the second year. Even so,  there is a fair bit of confusion involved in locating Jetta's roots. Jetta herself claims she comes from "Kingston-Upon-Hull", which is located in the north of England. But aside from that, there is absolutely no evidence that Jetta is a northerner at all. Even though Britrock specifies that Bertie and Flo Burns should have northern accents in the original scripting, the vocabulary and subsequent voice artists used produce what must be interpreted as London or south-east dialect. Essentially, Jetta is a London girl, and she and her family are either from the city itself or the nearby county of Essex. There are other clues which seem to indicate this, also. The name of the county whose title is under dispute in Britrock is "Wissex". There is no existing county in England with that name, but historically there is a region to the south called "Wessex" which was ruled by King Alfred before the various regions merged into Anglo Saxon England. Equally, there are three existing southern counties which have the suffix "-sex" added to their name - Essex, Sussex and Middlesex. In contrast, there are no northern counties with this suffix, suggesting it to be a regionally-based term. The fact that almost every English/British character shown in the episode has a markedly London accent (in various stages of terribleness, it has to be said) also indicates that Jetta's home is in fact in the south. And, finally, the fact that the Misfits fly into Gatwick airport (One of London's two principle airports) and not into Manchester (a lot further north) or Newcastle to get to Wissex suggests that Wissex is indeed a short drive from the airport and is located somewhere south of London in the rural countryside. Possibly Buckinghamshire or Berkshire - almost certainly one of the Home Counties.
Having taken Jetta's supposed origins to pieces with a fine tooth comb, and relocated her as a working class English girl from the London/Essex area, the next point of call is to examine the travesty she calls family. There is no love lost between Jetta and her parents, this is clear right from the off. We never know how old Jetta is, or if she has any brothers or sisters, because it is not indicated either way. Britrock shows a girl who has to use threats and coercion to get her parents to cooperate
with her scheme. It also shows something else, however. Though they are money-hungry and greedy people, Flo and Bertie Burns have to be really pressured to take up the idea of playing aristocrats. Not only are they unpleasant characters who spend their time gambling on the horses and not working, they are lazy and unwilling to undertake anything which requires effort. In Britrock's scripting, even Christy Marx acknowledges that "how Jetta came from these two is never known". Her parents might be lazy layabouts who gamble their way through life, but Jetta is quite the opposite. This is a girl who, without means or money behind her has made her own way to America, has got herself a major record deal and has got herself fully involved with the Misfits and their way of life. The motivation behind this is possibly twofold. From her skill with the saxophone, it can probably be assumed that music is not simply a throwaway career for Jetta. But equally her motivation has to be seen as intending to escape her family background and better herself in a place where nobody knows anything about her. That she has this attitude proves that her childhood was probably not a happy one - I suspect from the way Flo and Bertie are shown that there were plenty of arguments about money, about work and that she experienced a fair bit of nagging. It seems likely that, like Roxy, Jetta went her own way in the end, resorting to working out her own answers to problems and, quite likely, telling her parents whatever came to mind to keep them off her back. We do not know what kind of a job Jetta might have had in England before she came to America - we know she plays with an atrocious musical act called the Tinkerbillys, but their lack of ability suggests that she probably did not make ends meet that way. She threatens Bertie and Flo by saying if she's kicked out of the Misfits she'll have to come back to live with them, and that indicates that maybe she was still living at home when her move to America cropped up. Whatever the truth, she came from a hard background with little love or support - a fact characterised by the way Bertie Burns is more than willing to pass blame off onto his daughter for the whole debacle at the close of the Britrock episode. It's possible that Jetta sees the Tinkerbillys as her way to climb socially, though from the state of the club they are playing when the Misfits meet her, it seems more likely that Jetta probably would understand the Stingers' maxim of a "hard, hard life", trying to make a name for herself in an obscure group across the other side of the world, and probably scrimping by in the process. What is interesting is that she is willing to fight for success in what is obviously a failing act - suggesting that her drive to be a star is the one thing pulling her through.
 It's fair to say then, that Jetta has not had an easy ride into showbusiness, though in a different sense to Roxy, for whilst Roxy could well have suffered physical abuse in the past, Jetta's is more likely to have stopped at mental.


Personality
Of all of the characters in the Jem cartoon, Jetta is one of the most complex personalities that there is. There are a number of theories around as people try to explain clearly her motivation and her actions, and several of them contradict each other (and on occasion themselves!) in trying to put across a clear view of the fourth Misfits's make up.
One of the things that people tend to call her is a compulsive liar. But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever in the cartoon that Jetta is a compulsive anything. Compulsive suggests that she is lying without even knowing she is doing it - yet at the start of Britrock she knows precisely how big a gamble she has taken, and even admits to her parents that she's afraid to be kicked out of the Misfits if the others ever find out. So her lying is not compulsive and cannot be dismissed as such.
In some ways, though, her occasional deceptions do sit at odds with other parts of her personality. Most all of the lies she tells relate to who she is, her background and her connections - which can probably be explained in two simple ways. Firstly, concealing her true identity is a matter of pride. Pride is Jetta's real vice, not deceit. She wants so much to be something more than she is, and is ashamed of the world she's come from. Speculatively you could say that at some point in her past she realised that her parents' lifestyle was not how she wanted to spend the rest of her life, and so did everything she could to get out of that world. Her lies could be seen as her attempts to shake off the shackles of her working class upbringing. And yet, Jetta is exceptionally intelligent, and clever enough to see that starting off by weaving a facade of lies could be her undoing, if she was to be found out too soon. So then we have to look back to the incident in the club where Jetta first mentions her apparent "connections". Many Jem fans have cited this as her trying to impress Pizzazz, claiming that it is the beginning of her deceptions about her family. In an indirect way it is, because her comments about her work permit do start the ball rolling. But what has been entirely misunderstood is Jetta's motivation for such a remark. Jetta is a very sarcastic character - in Britrock she is snide about Roxy's remarks in the stables, in Roxy Rumbles she makes some cutting comments about Roxy's reading ability, in Middle of Nowhere she makes slick wisecracks about the boat, and this is all part of who she is. So why so much emphasis has been put on this club line of hers is a mystery to me. It's clearly a throwaway line, a sarcastic riposte to Eric's demands, meant to mean "I'm playing in the club from hell with people who haven't a clue what music is. Do you really think I'd be doing that if I had a work permit?" At this point, even Eric does not take it seriously. It's not meant to be an important claim at this point.
But I think that Jetta's vice - that pride - does come into play once she has become a Misfit. She and Roxy spar from the off, and the result is that Jetta probably feels pressure to live up to her new lifestyle. She's smart enough to realise that it's Pizzazz who calls the shots, and so in order to secure herself a place in the band for good, she feels she has to match up to her new colleague as much as she can. Unfortunately for her, she lets the lies get out of hand, until the whole truth comes out in Britrock.
We never get to see Jetta's own private reaction to the collapse of her titled alter-ego. In desperation she tries to maintain whatever ties to it she can, but no mention is ever made of these events again after Britrock. Jetta remains a Misfit, and Roxy does not even allow herself a snide remark on the subject once they have left Wissex behind them. I often wonder why. Roxy has won a big victory over Jetta here...it seems strange that she does not use the opportunity to remind her of events the next time Jetta gets too big for her boots!
Jetta has also been accused of being disloyal and money-grasping, because of what happens in Britrock. But her actions in Wissex are out of desperation, not disloyalty or greed. There is no motive for her to use the Wissex Estate to get Pizzazz's money - she lives with the girl, and has close access to Pizzazz's finances most of the time, which would allow her to covertly obtain the singer's wealth should she ever want to. Equally, the Misfits are pretty much everything Jetta has. There is absolutely no reason that she would risk everything she has for the possibility of a few dollars, because at the end of the day her aim is not to live off Pizzazz's riches but to return to America with her deceptions undiscovered and her reputation intact. What Jetta is seeking is attention and recognition for her hard work and dedication - she likes living the rich life in America, it's true, but it's fairly blatant in Talent Search how keen she is on being the star of the press conference, and how eager she is to see the resultant article.
Also, ironically, Jetta is the only Misfit never to embark on a solo stint of any kind during the series. Pizzazz, Roxy and Stormer all have their moments of leaving the group, but once she joins in Talent Search, Jetta is a Misfit to the core and, even when things happen that aren't necessarily to her liking, she sticks it out. Her actions are generally to preserve the Misfits or promote them in some way - even right at the beginning, in Talent Search, but also in Scandal when she finds Kimber's diary, among other things - and it's fairly obvious that she is smart enough to understand that she needs the Misfits and everything that they can offer.
Pride is not Jetta's only weakness. She has at least two phobias that seem to spring to light during the series - claustrophobia and a (possibly related) fear of boats. The claustrophobia is the most obvious and clear-cut to notice. In Rock and Roll Express, when Rio locks the Misfits in the observation car, Jetta panics in a very uncharacteristic manner, banging on the door, yelling, and pacing the carriage looking for an alternative means of escape. The fact that Jetta - who, unlike her Misfit companions is not impulsive or reckless in her actions - decides climbing out onto the roof of a moving train is a better option than staying safe inside a locked observation car is very telling to me. Clearly it's a case of which is the greater evil - and Jetta considers being imprisoned the greater evil of the two. It would be speculation to suggest that her claustrophobia might be caused by something in her past - even a clash with the law - because there is nothing in the show to suggest it and it might just as easily be something she was born with. Either way, it's a clear part of her make-up, and it comes to light again in the cab of the runaway train, when she gets her foot stuck in the lever and realises she is trapped.
The fear of boats is less clear-cut and can only be inferred by her reaction to Pizzazz in Middle of Nowhere when the singer wants to take out a boat on the water to rescue BaNee and the Inuit girl. In fact, it is only her pride and Roxy's goading which gets her in the boat to begin with, and once inside it she whines and complains. It's also significant that she's so desperate to get out of it and to safety that she'll happily jump into the Holograms' helicopter - even though Pizzazz raises an objection, Jetta's terse comment is "Who cares? Get in!" It's significant because Jetta does not usually have to argue with Pizzazz (nor does she often), but in this instance she would rather snap at her bandmate and take the help of the enemy if it means getting her out of the boat and away from the danger at hand! 

Jetta On Music
Jetta's musical ability is something else people call into question. Yes, sad to say it's true that there does appear to be a vendetta in jem-fan-world against poor Jetta! But her talent for the saxophone cannot be denied. Stormer, the true music talent of the group is the one who first pushes for Jetta to join up - "listen to that saxophone, it's so powerful!" (Talent Search) and there is good reason why, because even though the Tinkerbillys are a failure, Jetta herself really isn't. She plays "I like your style" with the Misfits and improvises a sax counter-melody - there is no way that this can be anything other than on the spot improvisation, because she doesn't even appear to know who the Misfits really are until that point. I wouldn't say Jetta's musical ability stretched to being able to write music as such, or even put it down on paper, but she can clearly read music and play whatever sounds right by ear.
Perhaps it should also be said that getting a note out of a reeded instrument like a saxophone is not something you can do right from the off...I play clarinet and its a clever matter of breathing and control which makes the note, as well as fingering and multiple keys. Jetta's ease with the instrument suggests natural ability but also perhaps that she's had some tuition in the past. The saxophone is an unusual instrument for a rock group to choose, and it's perhaps not made best use of (sax lines are present in only three Misfit songs), but Jetta has no trouble fitting into the set-up, so one can only assume her ability more than makes the grade.

What is interesting - and what most Jem fans never know - is that the original Jetta was intended to be a bass guitarist (explaining very clearly to me why she and Roxy struck up such a hate rivalry from the off!). She is scripted as having a bass guitar, and it is initially this that she is supposed to swing at the audience. Somewhere between scripting and production the instrument (and consequently script) changed to make her instrument a saxophone, and ironically we never see Jetta in the show with a guitar, although she does have a brief animated foray into playing Stormer's synthesiser (Congratulations video, One Jem Too Many). All of these things strongly suggest that Jetta has a good grasp of music, and more, that it's something that she cares about. I don't believe that her motivation for joining the Misfits was all tied up with money and status. Her ability on the saxophone indicates dedication and hard work, and the fact that she is willing to play run down clubs with the Tinkerbillys, risking deportation to play for people does show that music is a big part of her life - albeit in a different sense to Stormer. Her care and devotion to her sax (when she is not swinging it like a weapon of war, she actually takes good care of it, and you do see her putting it safely in it's case, or checking it's reed) indicates that it means something to her in a bigger sense than just the fame of her new life, and her hurt and angry reaction to the crowds in the nightclub are also an indication that she cares very much about her chosen art form.

Friendships/Roles
Jetta is quite at home with both Stormer and Pizzazz, the former of these after the episode 'The Bands Break Up' when it becomes apparent that Stormer is irreplaceable to the band. Her closest bond though is definitely with Pizzazz right from the moment they meet- though whether it's a mutual love of mischief or Jetta recognising who is boss, I don't know. Some have said it's because of Pizzazz's money, but I don't think so. Jetta's concern for Pizzazz in The Stingers Hit Town is far more than money-based anxiety, and she is the first one to start the assault against the Yeti in Journey to Shangri-La when Pizzazz and Roxy are taken ill ("Get away you beast!"). Though they don't ever admit to it, I think that Jetta and Pizzazz consider each other friends most of the time. In some ways maybe Jetta is a little overawed by Pizzazz's wealth, and in Britrock, she is more concerned with being kicked out of the band than really getting hold of Pizzazz's money.
Jetta's bond with Stormer is also interesting to me, as it's one which develops as time goes by. In Britrock, Jetta is upset that Stormer won't be going with them to Wissex - perhaps she considers her the calming influence to hide behind should things go wrong.  Personally I think she's looking for sympathetic support as she goes 'home'. Its a lot of speculation, but, after early clashes of interest with Stormer, Jetta seems to be fairly amicable with her bandmate, and I can actually imagine that if she could talk to anyone about how she feels, it would be Stormer she would talk to.  Like Roxy before her, Jetta is not afraid to stand up to Pizzazz - she argues back when the two are stranded in the boat in 'Middle of Nowhere'. Having said that, she's fairly ready to accept who is in control of the group...she doesn't often challenge the singer's decisions.  If Pizzazz' stranglehold on the group had not been well established at the start of the series, Jetta is the character who could have challenged her superiority, since she has the air of a capable ringleader,but she never tries.  In all truth, she doesn't need to, for when she wants something done, she is capable of manipulating things so they go her way. She even refers to Pizzazz in Stingers Hit Town as their "fearless leader". She has no real love  for Roxy, which is a mutual feeling,  - I think perhaps there is an element of ranking involved in that. Jetta more or less takes the number two position in the band from under Roxy's nose. Though it's not always true, Roxy plays second-in-command in episodes like The Fan and possibly Journey to Shangri-La, when Pizzazz calls on her to help, Jetta manages to get herself fairly high up in the group right from the beginning. I don't believe she has much love for Clash, either...I think that Clash's character change makes her appear to Jetta as a wimp who can be pushed around, and so that's what happens...
She has no personal grudge against Jem and the Holograms in general but (another example of her loyalty to both the Misfits and Pizzazz) she's quite willing to jump on the bandwagon and join in the game against them when she 'finds' Kimber's diary in Scandal. There is no personal reason for Jetta to join in the hostilities between the Misfits and the Holograms, so the only solution is that she does it because she's chosen which side she is on and she intends to stick to it.. I do think though that after her clashes with Raya in the Talent Search Parts 1 and 2 she has a definite resentment for Raya - it's Jetta who breaks Raya's drumsticks when 
the girls are sabotaging the Holograms in 'Rock and Roll Express'.
   She's also been accused of not being a team player, but I don't agree. In 'Journey toShangri-La' it is Jetta who later helps to nurse Roxy through her fever, despite their dislike of each other. She also shows concern when members of her
band disappear in 'Music is Magic', joining in the search for them with Stormer and in 'The Stingers Hit Town' it's fairly evident that she not only cares about the future of the band (like all of them) but also the fate of Pizzazz when under Riot's spell. In fact, Jetta is pretty loyal overall to her group, particularly to Pizzazz, who she generally backs up in things, and whom she is happy to report back to.