You Remind me of the Babe
March 10, 2008
If you respond with anything other than “What babe?” then you clearly missed the most underrated movie of 1986, now a cult classic with 20-somethings like me. Labyrinth, featuring a young and heavily eyebrowed Jennifer Connolly with a young-ish and heavily made-up David Bowie (in some pretty epic pants, let me tell you) is a favourite of mine. I watched it as a kid, and just for fun, I watched it again last night. Aside from the imaginative characters and fabulous fantasy world, I was quite impressed with the feminist and rationalist attitude Labyrinth took. Feminist and rationalist are some pretty heavy charges to lay against a muppet fantasy movie, but I have reasons.
Labyrinth is ostensibly about a 15 year old girl traveling through a maze to rescue her baby brother from the goblins, the Goblin King having taken the brother away on her request. Beyond this, though, it is a girl’s coming-of-age story, showing her transition from whiny, selfish, over-imaginative brat to thoughtful, considered, independent, young woman. Thankfully she decides at the end that although she’s grown up a bit, her imagination is definitely worth keeping.
Here’s why I call it rationalist: Sarah’s main weapon against the vagaries of the labyrinth is logic. She goes from whining “It’s not fair!” every five minutes to realizing “No, it’s not fair. Let’s look at this logically.” Unsurprisingly, logic gets her much further than whining did. When she keeps her head (pun intended, of course) and retains her purpose in mind, she progresses through the maze; when she gets distracted by emotion and nostalgia she founders. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a major theme of the movie is the triumph of logic over emotion.
Here’s why I call it feminist: As I said, this story is basically a coming-of-age story for Sarah. Her becoming a young woman, though, has nothing to do with falling in love, having her heart-broken, or taking on domestic responsibilities. She becomes an adult when she realizes “The world isn’t fair, but you make the most of what you have.” She relies on her friends, her purpose, and her intelligence to get her through, but eventually faces the greatest challenge alone. She stands before the Goblin King, sexy (ok, ok, he was back then), powerful, and in love with her. When he promises he’ll take care of her every need if she only surrenders herself to him, he’ll make her a princess if she’ll be his property, and besides, she really wanted all the abuse he had heaped on her, she responds “You have no power over me.” Hells yeah!
I love this movie. I love the creativity of it, I love David Bowie (although his pants do make me a little uncomfortable), I love Jennifer Connelly, the goblins, the sets, the scenery, the jokes, the retro-80s-nostalgia-ness of it. I’m especially happy that a movie I like so much has some messages I totally get behind. What’s more, I especially loved this movie as a kid, and I imagine that explains quite a bit about me.
P.S. It does pass the Bechdel Movie Rule. Sarah and her step-mom talk about responsibilities, and Sarah and the trash-heap woman talk about memories. Unfortunately, those are the only female characters though. Oh well, you can’t have everything.