Like many, I was saddened to hear of Bowie's death this week. I'm afraid I was never much into his music (bar a few singles like The Man who Sold the World), but OMG he has a place in my heart and an eternal imprint in my psyche thanks to his role in this movie, which I still rate as one of the greatest fantasy films ever:
Labyrinth was released in 1986, so I'd have been nineteen, which is a bit late for any of these "awakening my sexuality" confessions that have been going around. But my goodness he had an effect on it. Not so much the Infamous Bulge:
(I don't actually recall noticing it at the time). More the hair actually...
|I'm a hair perv and I don't care.|
|I mean, who doesn't adore a goblin army?|
No, in all seriousness, what I fell in love with was the film itself - just endlessly inventive, funny, creepy and visually stunning - in which King Jareth was just the sexy icing on the cake. Labyrinth was extraordinary for the time because it was a magical quest with a girl as the hero. Since the invention of children's fiction we have been up to our eyeballs in boy-heroes going boldly forth to rescue, save, explore and make good of themselves, but NEVER until then was it a girl.
Sarah has a character arc where she starts off imaginative but unhappy and self-centered, and then gets to display and develop courage, cleverness, loyalty, strength of will, discernment and tenacity. She's cunning at making allies. She's also forced, at 15, to resist the temptations of easy romance and the "princess dream" when Jareth fakes up his pretty ballroom scene for her - and that's a big ask for a fifteen year old.
|I mean, shit - I'd abandon my baby brother and all my friends to shag him any day. I'm no good at adulting!|
There's a deeper exploration of the revolutionary girl-hero here, and a sweet male-POV eulogy for the Goblin King here.
So that's part of the reason why Labyrinth made such an impact on me. But there's more! The relationship between Jareth and Sara is a deeply uneasy one in which power and sexual attraction are double-edged weapons. It's creepy and complex, and in the end it turns out that the Goblin King is as trapped as she is.
Oh, and I now realise that a reflection of King Jareth turns up in my BDSM novel Named and Shamed, as The Brenin, king of the fairy court:
And there he was.In fact, now I come to think of it, there's a really strong case for Named and Shamed just being my adult version of Labyrinth...
I really don’t see how he’d managed to sneak up on me, riding a big horse like that. It was a black stallion, with an arched neck and a mane like rough silk that was hung with tiny silver bells. The Brenin was dressed entirely in black too — a hodgepodge of fashion stolen from history. Mr. Darcy boots, a long Victorian riding coat, biker leathers on his legs and a belted medieval shirt embroidered down the front — all topped off with a black half-mask in the form of a skull. Behind the skull’s eye-sockets his eyes glinted. His hair was a dead white and it hung down as far as his elbows, while his skin, where it showed, was the colour of long-buried bone. Frankly, he looked like a manga villain, and he should have been risible anywhere outside of a convention auditorium . . . but he wasn’t. I could feel reality crinkling up around him, like cellophane exposed to heat.
Who would have thunk it, eh?
So I will miss you, Goblin King. Long may you reign immortal in your castle in the heart of the Labyrinth...