this summer, claudia is at daycamp, and she gets out a few hours earlier than béla does. it’s been on my mind that with 12-month programming, the kids haven’t experienced that “summer vacation” feeling yet (and i think we all agree they do not want to be home all day!) so i try to keep things a little lighter — perhaps scandalously so — when they are home these days. this in many cases means “more TV”. it was good enough for me, and it’ll be good enough for mine. and not just sneaking in a bunch of korean programming, either; it’s summer. it’s time to get dangerously dumb.
and we have.
memie was a big JEM fan back in the day, and was very excited to indoctrinate claudia.
so, lately, i pick claudia up from camp in the afternoons, and we watch some JEM. i won’t say how many consecutive episodes. and we knit. i knit, claudia “knits” (tangles up a row, then sits on my lap and does hand-over-hand as i untangle and re-knit it, and then gets off my lap and tangles it again).
these afternoons have been one of those pinnacle parenting experiences — where it’s exactly like everything you’d ever hoped it would be before the reality of the children was actually there.
trying to “correct” all the political incorrectness in JEM would only be attempted — or thought necessary — by an idiot. (i’m still reeling over a local online parenting message board conversation from a few years ago, where concerned mothers gasped that they had had no IDEA that “a charlie brown christmas” was so HARSH!) but the terrible messages sent by JEM are fathomless. a hundred oceans of wrong. JEM’s mansion full of “orphans”… the member of the holograms who for a few episodes made me think by her weird speech that she was supposed to be deaf, but turned out to just be “chinese” (should have known — her name is “aja”)… the discomfort of the “rock video” montage from the “world hunger shindig” where beaming brown children raise their arms in suppliance to JEM and her bandmates…
and that’s just the race stuff. the messages this show sends about the apparent superfluousness of hard work or talent are where the REAL brainwashing is. every room that JEM wanders into is full of exactly one arts-patroness with a terrible european accent, and one cowboy-hatted texan with “money in oil” who “wants to invest in a record label” (or produce a movie, or have a concert to feed brown people, or make sure that nice old dude doesn’t lose his ski resort, or help make sure that asian orphan doesn’t go blind). then, figures who you assumed were just filler in the screen start popping up, offering their services — as video directors, fashion designers… all frequently willing to work entirely for FREE, just for the honor of being near the absolutely talent-free JEM.
JEM and the holograms’ “rise” to fame, from having no record contract and not a single video, to playing the great wall of china, was an oddly lateral rise. no one worked hard, and the only “creative setbacks” the band experienced were that they were constantly stalked and brutalized by the misfits, so many times in so many ways that these women should have been unable to get out of bed in the morning, permanently rewired with eight different kinds of post-traumatic stress disorder.
but no, people just walk into the room and offer them things, and then they shriek a few songs about the last few lines of dialogue they had, and it becomes an instant hit. come to think of it, JEM’s career rose quite similarly to that of strongbad when he sang the “song about sibbie”.
i was not surprised when claudia identified most with — or at least insisted on being addressed as — pizzazz, leader of the misfits. unable to make her hair turn lime green overnight, her outfits soon reflected her new allegiance:
i would also like to point out that her hair ornament of the day was goody “bo-bo’s”, which are large iridescent spheres filled with plastic jacks (had to explain to her what jacks were). i bought about ten sets of these from a weird warehouse store here called jo-mar. i’m sure they’ve been sitting in storage for thirty years.
claude informed me with her characteristic generosity that i could “make her a pizzazz costume”, and that this would require a green wig. “you can make me white skin,” she also told me. i said, if there was a black dorothy and a white dorothy (we’re still heavy oz here), it was also going to be ok to have a black pizzazz and a white pizzazz.
anyone who knows anything about JEM knows that pizzazz is an awful “person” and that she’s also the coolest thing about the show. claudia picked up the pizzazz mantle and engaged in a lot of pizzazz-like behavior — knocking around small ottomans, tossing my crocs, scowling. were we “concerned” that claudia was “learning” to be an ethically challenged maniac whore-clown? no, because that would make us morons. what we were, and are, is amused, and intrigued, and proud — that our kid is so capable of identifying, and being interested in, an aspect of all of us. call it id, or call it pizzazz, claudia is dancing with it. and because claudia, also, is not a moron, she knows when to be done with it.
usually. life with pizzazz did get out of hand on a few occasions, and JEM-watching sessions were revoked at times. what do you know — our kid learned a lesson about how to treat people, about where the line is drawn in terms of “pretending” to be something and just being fucking irritating. and she did it without being forbidden the experiment of “being” bad. she saw clearly the attraction of “bad”, at least bad in an “attractive” package. and, at times, she saw what it got her. (in trouble.) imagine that.
mealtimes have become a dinner theater of cheesy dialogue. “you’ll eat that salmon burger, pizzazz, or you can forget about the misfits playing the big concert tonight!” we hear ourselves saying. and she sings constantly, but then she sang constantly before she was pizzazz — claudia’s life has a libretto at all times, and she’s very skilled this way — but we are never sure whether she is singing an actual song from JEM or is making a song up in the moment (although the one about stealing the dishtowel from the kitchen, i think was an original).
during one of our viewathons, i said, perhaps a little casually, “you know… memie used to have a JEM doll.”
you know that shot in requiem for a dream where the eye dilates?
alas, memie no longer has her JEM doll. but i found a lot of nine, naked JEM dolls, including pizzazz, on ebay for a good price. they seem to have penises, maybe this is why they were so cheap.
so this whole story, if you can call it that, winds up with a sewing project: i got a vintage pattern for one of those back-of-the-door barbie holders, and engaged in my first stitching of vinyl.
the project is far from without its flaws. there was an unmarked seam that got away from me, and there’s no seam-ripping when it comes to vinyl. and i had the classic problem of “thread that thinks its too good to be a bobbin” (i believe this is a tension issue — what isn’t) and so there are some unintended scrumbles on the back of the piece. and the bias tape edge… oh, issues… but overall, i learned a lot, it doesn’t look too bad, and it’s quite suited to its job and owner.
in fact, i find myself sort of hoping this one doesn’t hold up, since with all my hindsight on the project, i could do a much better job on a second. but with all that bias tape, it’s probably going to be just fine. (although JEM dolls are a bit more weighty than barbies.)
still, it was a real relief to put this one on the “finished” list. i am just nowhere near the sewer that i am the knitter, and slogging through all the “practice” can be pretty ugh. still — this made someone pretty happy!