I’m probably going to lose some serious nerd credibility here: I don’t really like Game of Thrones. Before you throw your well-worn copy of A Song of Fire and Ice at me, hear me out. I tried. I really did. As the first season wrapped up, I was visiting my parents and while I was there, I was introduced to the wonders of HBOGo. My dad said, “You should give this show Game of Thrones a shot. Fair warning, though. There’s a lot of nudity.”
“Sure dad. Not a big deal,” I said. I’d been around. I hit puberty when the internet started to be a thing. I fired up the tv and watched the pilot.
The next morning, I was making coffee when my dad looked up from his paper. “So what did you think of the show?”
“Well…you weren’t kidding.”
“No, you really didn’t.”
I’m not a prude and I thought the episode was okay, but it was a pilot. So I was a bit forgiving even if I didn’t immediately fall in love with it. That said, something about the show didn’t sit well with me. I watched the second episode and figured it out. There’s just too much evil winning and getting ahead for me. In my life and in the world around me, the “bad guys” win enough as it is. Entertainment is an escape for me, and I don’t want to escape into the same old, same old.
This is all to say that I didn’t write a film article for Game of Thrones week. Instead, I thought I might write about a film that shares some of the same elements and ideas used by Game of Thrones, but includes a healthy dose of optimism: the 1986 classic, Labyrinth.
The story and plot are simple (and let’s be honest, if you’re reading this site, you’ve probably seen the film and are reading along to find out exactly how much I gush about this film and if said gushing is the proper extreme amount): Sarah’s brother Toby is kidnapped by the Goblin King, Jareth, and she has two options: come and be his queen or to solve his labyrinth within thirteen hours to save Toby.
Oh, and the Goblin King is played by the ever-awesome David Bowie.
And David Bowie sings all the songs.
And it is amazing.
This movie is basically a series of music videos.
Music videos starring a Goblin King David Bowie with a riding crop and, at one point, in an owl costume.
You’re not even reading at this point, are you? You’re watching the movie, and it’s possibly you’re watching it on VHS. No one could blame you (bonus points if you’re now singing the song).
When I write these articles, I try to watch the film as I write. And right now, the blu-ray is spinning in the player and Jennifer Connelly is being held up the abyss of hands. I can’t help but think about all the messages of the film. After all, despite the fact that the movie rides the line of the fantasy/adventure/music video genres, it is, at heart, a kid’s film. And kid’s films must contain a message, something to be taken from the film. Labyrinth is about making choices. It teaches us that life may, in fact, be unfair, but it’s our choice in the circumstances we encounter that make us who we are. And, further, we are making the choice. Never lost in a moment of uncertainty (at least, not by her own doing), Sarah is a woman of action. This isn’t a case of “women want to be her, men want to be with her”; instead, it’s that women want to be her and men want to be her, too. Sarah reacts (“It’s not fair!”) but then she takes action. And in this action, she makes hard choices because she holds fast to a belief in herself. There are far worse messages to be found in other kids movies.
Labyrinth is a special film; it’s one that I watch when I’m sick and I’m stuck on the couch all day. It’s one that I keep on as background noise when I write or have a gathering of friends. It’s playing when I clean the house and it’s on when it rains. Labyrinth has stuck with me because it’s helpful to remember that there is dance magic in the world. I still think Hogle needs a hug and I still want to talk to rocks with Ludo. I want to chase windmills with Sir Didymus. Dance with the Fieries. Labyrinth is a film about remembering and about growing up all at once. It is the cinematic equivalent of mac and cheese; it’s comfort food to be consumed when life is unfair–and that’s the way it is.