When I was a little girl, I was a very big fan of the cartoon Jem and the Holograms. The show, which lasted three seasons, was about a fictional all girl rock band that was fronted by music manager Jerrica Benton. Her alto ego Jem was created with a holographic computer that allowed her to disguise her features and transform herself from mild mannered executive to a rock star. A lot of the episodes focused on Jerrica trying to hide the fact that she was Jem. Think of it as a much more high tech Hannah Montana.
I don’t remember much more about the show other than the theme song (“Truly outrageous!”), that they battled with another band called the Misfits and that Jem had a boyfriend named Rio who had purple hair, which I thought was very cool. Somewhere in my parents’ house my Jem and Rio dolls are probably still floating around. It was a fun show, but obviously there wasn’t much substance behind it because it didn’t make a very lasting impression on me. I actually had to go to Wikipedia to fact check that my memories of the show were correct and that I wasn’t getting it confused with Josie and the Pussycats, which I also loved.
I never would have predicted that Jem and the Holograms was a peek into our future.
As you may have heard by now, the talk of the Coachella music festival this year was a performance of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg with the hologram of the deceased Tupac Shakur (NSFW).
Now this isn’t the first time that artists have been brought back from beyond the grave to perform. Natalie Cole won a Grammy for her duet with her deceased father on “Unforgettable.” Fred Astaire danced in a Dirt Devil commercial 9 years after his death.
I wasn’t a big fan of it then and I am even less a fan of it now.
While the Tupac hologram was a cool trick and certainly was shocking for an audience that didn’t know it was coming, it is a slippery slope. I liked Tupac a lot. I was sad when he died (we may or may not have poured some beer out on the sidewalk in front of our sorority house in tribute) as he was a talented rapper that was gone far too soon. I assume that Snoop and Dre had the best of intentions for this performance.
But you have to wonder where this all ends. Is it fair that after an artist’s death that they can be “brought back” to do just about anything? This time Tupac’s image was brought back to perform with friends. But what about next time? While Astaire’s widow gave permission for his image to be used in the commercial, his daughter thought it was in poor taste and tarnished his memory. Family members may not always have the best of intentions. I could totally see Courtney Love signing up for a hologram Kurt Cobain, which I’m guessing is pretty much the LAST thing he would have wanted. Shouldn’t we just respect their memory and let them be? There is just something a little distasteful about cashing in on all of this.
Of course, the obvious question is whether there are people who would actually pay to see this live. I’m guessing there are, which I don’t really understand. You aren’t seeing the person who has passed. I would have loved to have seen Cobain or the Beatles perform. But I didn’t. I certainly am not going to plunk down cold hard cash to see a hologram of them. I’d rather listen to the work that they created when they were alive and authorized rather than some circus side show created without their permission. It just all seems so unseemly. Let these poor souls rest in peace.
However, it already looks like this is catching on. Yesterday the group TLC announced that they were going to use technology to bring back deceased member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. And this foolishness has the Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston families written all over it. Maybe the East Coast/West Coast rap war will be rekindled if P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs decides we need a hologram Notorious B.I. G. I even read a rumor on-line about Justin Bieber performing with Elvis Presley.
Maybe they can come up with a hologram of these people rolling over in their graves. Truly outrageous indeed.