Let’s face it, any film that involves David Bowie, the Jim Henson Company, and lashings of quintessentially 80s cinematic magic was destined to be a cult classic. I will love ‘Labyrinth’ forever (you know, it’s not long at all). It has an incredible soundtrack – I’m fairly certain that synthesizers sound upon entrance to the gates of heaven. It’s undeniably quotable. The Goblin King, and this is the key pull for many of us, is brought to life by the Thin White Diamond Starman, the late, great Mr. David Bowie himself. There are Muppet-esque creatures involved. Jennifer Connelly is sublime and I’m of the firm opinion that her eyebrows should be credited in their own right. The film exudes glitter. What is not to love here? It’s 101 minutes of pure fantasy fun. It’s trippy as hell – particularly the infamous Firey scene. It’s mad and it’s magic in equal measure.
I’d argue that Labyrinth has as much to offer an audience today as it did back in ’86, and this is not even taking the iconic insult; ‘your mother is a fraggin’ aardvark!’ into consideration. It taught young ‘uns everywhere not to graffiti – apparently it really pisses Hobgoblins off. It also likely acted as the sexual awakening for thousands of young teens across the globe – Bowie’s leggings were, to point out the painfully obvious, snug. As important as all of these points unquestionably are (particularly the film’s emphasis upon balls – crystal, that is, get your mind out of the gutter, people) – I’d say that we can take some morals from this bonkers, inherently 80s movie that are actually pretty integral life lessons. Sarah may have only had thirteen hours to complete the Labyrinth and reclaim her baby brother from the mesmerising, permanently smirk-wearing Goblin King, but she packed a hell of a lot in, and learnt a fair bit on her travels. I think it’s fair to say that the Labyrinth and it’s assortment of oddities can teach us all a thing or two. Here goes…
1) Things aren’t always what they seem. Lavish presents might not always necessarily be something you should welcome with open arms – you never know what may be expected in return. Be wary of Goblin Kings bearing gifts. (Note: this lesson can also be eked out by a little something called the ‘Trojan Horse’, though the perpetrators were, in this case, Greek rather than Goblin). On a more positive note, ‘Labyrinth’ demonstrates that there are likely to be doors where none can immediately be seen. Opportunities can arise when you least expect them, and that’s why it’s so crucial to keep on going, even when things seem pretty bleak.
2) Perseverance is key. Although undeniably rash in wishing away sweet, stripy little Toby, Sarah’s old ‘Come-On-Feet’ attitude is pretty inspirational. I know that Sarah has a minor strop upon embarking on the old baby-brother retrieving quest, but I’d probably waste approximately twelve of the thirteen hours crying, trying to get phone signal or fritter away the time on something equally unproductive. She makes the mess, but she sure as hell gets herself out of it again. Impressive.
3) If a talking worm gives you advice, it’s worth listening to. Good advice can come from unlikely places. So, next time a neighbour says ‘Ello and offers some friendly advice, go on, go inside, go and meet the missus. Perhaps not when you’ve got a thirteen-hour deadline to save a small child from spending eternity as a Goblin, though. If this is the case, you might want to get a move on.
4) Sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet and make a choice, even when the right decision isn’t immediately obvious. Up or Down? Left or Right? Become the Goblin Queen or make it back in time for your Finals? Whichever choice you make, it’ll likely all turn out okay in the end, and you’re likely to meet some ‘Helping Hands’ on the way.
5) Friendship is crucial. What Donkey sang in ‘Shrek’ is so very true – you gotta have friends. Even though Sarah eventually confronts the Goblin King alone (that’s the way it’s done, after all), there’s not a chance she could’ve gotten as far as the castle without a little help from her friends. A wide variety of friends means having a great range of skill sets to rely on. It’s important in life to have friends that you know you can turn to, should you need them. Sarah, Hoggle, Ludo, Didymus and Ambrosius are unquestionably #squadgoals. Take that, Taylor Swift.
6) We needlessly cling on to a lot of junk, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. I am a self-confessed hoarder and am guilty of hanging on to things in the vague hope that they might one day prove ‘useful.’ I am also liable to lug a lot of emotional baggage around with me daily. Like Sarah, it’s worth acknowledging every now and again what’s junk and what isn’t, and recognising that sometimes we need to let go of what’s holding us back for our sanity’s sake.
7) The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves. I often find myself telling myself I can’t do something before I’ve actually tried to do it. Next time I’m bogged down in the marshy Swamp Of Eternal Self-Doubt I’m going to take some inspiration from Miss. Williams and take the (sometimes terrifying) leap of faith in the Escher Room of life.
8) A less inspirational, but nonetheless practical piece of advice: Don’t take food (or drink) when you’re not sure where it’s been. Might have a worm in it. Not the talking kind, either. Could also be spiked with a hallucinogenic. In the realms of the mythological pantheon, it hasn’t seemed to do many young heroines much good – (I’m looking at you, Persephone). Don’t risk it, kids.
9) Stand up to bullies. I ADORE Jareth as a character, but he’s unquestionably an arrogant, scheming, downright nasty piece of work. Also, ‘Labyrinth’ is a strong indicator that the old adage of bullies only being bullies because they’re damn miserable themselves generally has a lot of truth behind it, as unsatisfactory as this saying is if you’re the unfortunate victim of an caustic, sparkly tyrant. Think about it, wouldn’t you be pretty miserable whiling away your days in a filthy throne room surrounded by drunken goblins and a more than healthy amount of chickens? As the Goblin King croons…the lost and the lonely, that’s Underground. Aw. But still. Drugged peaches are never an acceptable seduction method, and using ‘Cleaners’ as an intimidation technique was a low-blow. Not cool, Jareth.
10) The way forward is sometimes the way back. Although Hoggle scoffs at this particular piece of advice, I think there’s something pretty valuable to take from the Wiseman’s words. That’s not to say that we should obsess over the past – it’s over after all, and pretty damn impossible to change. I’d argue that a little introspection, however, can result in both a happier future and a lot of personal growth. Note: I’m talking about contemplative, non-judgemental self-reflection on past-behaviour here; I’m not a proponent of torturing yourself by mentally replaying the moment you said/did that one really stupid thing yesterday/last month/in your third year of highschool on an infinite loop. This will only cause you to spiral into a hellish circle of embarrassment and self-hatred. Like Elsa The Snow Queen (different movie) – You need to let that sh*t go.
11) But remember, words have power, and you can’t take back things said in anger. Also, smugness tends to not pay off. Try not to employ the phrase ‘It’s a piece of cake!’ with too much regularity. The universe will reprimand you for your complacency. Good things rarely follow.
12) You’re braver than you think, and no matter what you’ve done, redemption is possible if you want it enough. Hoggle is convinced that cowardice is an inherent part of his nature, and feels no choice but to play delivery-boy in Jareth’s dastardly scheme to wear a magnificently spangled jacket, get blue highlights, and dance with Sarah. Although Hoggle understandably crumbles under Jareth’s threat that should he refuse, he’ll be relegated to the Bog Of Stench, he redeems himself by aiding Sarah, Didymus, Ambrosius and Ludo in storming the Goblin City, saving their lives through his courageous actions.
13) Families are tricky. You love yours. No matter how much your family annoy you or how dysfunctional your home-life is, you know damn well you’d cross the Goblin City to rescue your fam if the need arose. So, next time you’re wishing your whiny little brother away to the realm of the goblins, perhaps reconsider.
14) Don’t let anyone own you. Not even really sexy Fae Royalty. You’re not something to be bought. Not for all the empty promises and crystals in the world. And remember – the kind of love that demands submission as a prerequisite and brands fear a necessity is no kind of love at all. Despite what anyone tries to tell you; they have no power over you. The only person in charge of you is you. You’re a strong, independent human being that don’t need no Goblin King, girlfriend.
15) Scrabble is always a rousing choice at house parties. Don’t try and play against Sir. Didymus, he will thwart you in the most valiant way possible (V-A-L-I-A-N-T, 7 letters, 12 points). Another lesson learnt from Sarah’s victory celebration bash: build bridges with your enemies. One thing I would point out here, however, is that the sight of Jareth in owl form, peering into the festivities wistfully from the outside, breaks my sentimental little heart every time. Poor little Goblin King. Come on Sarah, you know you want a game of Scrabble with the King of the castle. It’d have been nice if she’d have been magnanimous enough to let him win, that time. Pick your battles, and all that.
16) Glitter improves everything. If there’s one thing that the Goblin King taught me, (aside from how to make outrageously tight leggings a credible style choice, that is), it’s that glitter is akin to Oxygen. Glitter makes everything better. Want to make a dramatic entrance? Arrive in a shower of glitter! Got a dungeon? Make sure it’s full o’ them sparkles. Want to wear lipgloss? That’s cool, as long as it’s Xtra Glitz. Jareth exudes glitter. I like to think that the Oubliette in the Labyrinth encapsulates my entire aesthetic – y’know, a mess but…a glittery mess.
17) Time is short. As Jareth reminds Sarah, time is a tricky mistress, particularly when you have a mercurial Goblin King able to manipulate the clock seemingly upon any minor whim. Make the most of every second – you never know when the clock will strike thirteen.
So remember, life might not always be fair, but baby, that’s the way it is. Get on with it, do the best you can, and when in doubt, Dance Magic Dance. Try to live every day with Sarah’s strong-will, Ludo’s kindness, Didymus’ valour, Jareth’s sass, and a dash of the general Goblin populous’ enviable ‘live for today, drink lots of Ale, have a fight with a few chickens on the way’ mentality. You are all Babes With The Power, and deserve to shine as bright as Jareth’s wardrobe. Keep calm, and like the Firey’s advise…’don’t lose your head!’