I have never been very knowledgeable of the "girl cartoons" or "girl toy lines" of the 80s. It just wasn't that important to me. I liked She-ra but only because of the obvious connection with the obvious connection with He-Man and Masters. It never felt like a girls cartoon to me. It felt like another action cartoon with fantasy elements.
One cartoon I never got a chance to watch as a kid was "Jem" I just never saw it, but I know I would have been turned off by it. My friend Rachel is as big of a Jem fan as I am a He-man fan (well maybe. . . ) and she talks about it quite a bit. This weekend my Wife (who did watch it a bit) and I started watching it on netflix.
What a stark difference to the shows I watched as a kid. It was formatted less like the cartoons of the time and was more akin to a soap opera. Right from the intro you get strands of drama, romance, and music! Really that is what it is all about! Oh. . . and magical ear rings. It's all pretty outrageous!
With the few episodes I have watched so far, the show is filled with character interactions and strange moral dilemmas. the strangest being Rio who is Jerica's boy friend who has this strange interaction with jem, and he feels guilty. . . except he doesn't know that Jerica and Jem is actually the same person. It is some interesting interplay!
Jem is so different from the cartoons that I watched as a kid. It doesn't feel like any of the filmation stuff, and it also doesn't feel like transformers or G I Joe. Other than the fact that there are strong female characters in both shows, it doesn't even really compare to She-ra. They portray the strong characteristics differently, with less emphasis on character drama in She-ra.
In terms of story though, Jem was telling a much more complex and adult story than anything else I have seen from the era. The story continued from week to week making it feel like it was part of something bigger. I could imagine young girls feeling like they were into the world pretty thoroughly because of this structure.
I can't really talk about Jem without talking about the music. Jem is the Magical front woman of the band "Jem and the Holograms." Every few minutes a song breaks out in music video style. The songs aren't bad. They are very much of the time. Not nearly as "Rocking" as their outfits would have you believe though.
There is another band as well. The Misfits, they are the bad guys in this story. They thrive on jealousy of the holograms. All of their motives are based on that. They are pretty cardboard for the most part. They do, however, have the coolest hair! They just look evil too!
If you are interested in cartoons of the 80s, then you should check this show out for sure. It is currently on netflix, so I recommend you watch it!