I had always planned on doing a review of Labyrinth. It was on the list behind the perplexingly softcore Nigerian Sex Wizards, and the Polonia Brother’s VHS masterpiece, Splatter Farm. I thought I had time to stretch my writing muscle; to lube up and lay back with sexy thoughts while I worked my way up to a humid, frenzied, literary climax that a movie like Labyrinth deserves. This movie was the epitomy of my childhood and David Bowie the catalyst of my wet dreams. It deserves so much more than the sticky precum, but life neither waits for nor celebrates the precum and it doesn’t always give you the sweaty, satisfying afterglow you think you deserve.
And now that our beloved thin white duke is now thin, white and well, dead, I think there is no more an appropriate time to be inappropriate than right now.
So, it is with great sadness and quivering anticipation that I give you…
Like so many of you, I was first exposed to David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King. Gay or straight, bi or give-it-a-try (I’m looking at your wall-fuckers out there), we were all entranced by his thin, snaggletoothed smile, cruelly upturned eyeshadow, and smooth balls that pirouetted about his fingertips.
Of course, let’s just ignore the fact that this coming-of-age tale is about the very jailbaitable Jennifer Connelly (we had to if this daydream was going to include us). And let’s further ignore the fact that she spends the entire movie trying to dodge the magical advances of an almost 40 year-old goblin king. A cruel smile protruding under pointed cheeks, and thinned-out, upturned lips was always a strong indication that he was getting a sexual kick out of our (very CONSENSUAL) frustration.
In my daytime fantasies, David would pull up in a black, leopard-lined Cadillac with the top down, narrow his eyes at me and say “Get in loser, we’re going shopping”. Of course, I’d have to buy him Starbucks and carry all the bags but fuck it; it’s worth it just to be seen in public with the cool girl.
But like the cool girls, what is it about Labyrinth and it’s googley-eyed, gyrating, felt fabric nightmare-clowns that draws us in closer? Frankly speaking, those warty little goblins always made me nauseous, and the upbeat discombobulation of the “Chilly Down” number reminds me of an unwanted burning sensation.
In its original release, the movie was a forgettable flop and carries a 66% (as of this post) on Rotten Tomatoes. Upon further analysis, the entire premise of the movie is about a frustrated yet entitled young girl being manipulated, drugged, and stalked by a lanky rockstar in ball-hugging tights. As an adult, that’s a situation I would gladly cash in my vacation time for, but as a child, what exactly was Hollywood trying to say about my worth? Through the veil of whimsical chaos and puppetry, am I supposed to take solace in the fact that Sarah learns a lesson in the end? And what was the lesson? To be young and slim and innocent enough to be pursued in the first place?
We could argue all day long about the disparity in age between older male actors and their younger, female counterparts, but this is a blog about b-movies — not a socratic, film school debate. If you’re bored enough to scour the Labyrinth fansites, you’ll stumble easily onto the story behind the deleted kiss scene between Jareth and Sarah — deleted because test audiences were uncomfortable with the idea of an older man kissing an underaged girl.
Does this make us horrible people for falling in love with Jareth’s crooked smile and push-me-pull-you advances? Absolutely not. Labyrinth was an essential amino acid in the fibrous tissues of our childhoods. As an adult, I still dream of the ball scene: running around in a taffeta-clad tizzy, hair looking like I brambled head first through the Michael’s floral section — swinging and dipping in Jareth’s embrace past masked jesters and their unfunny dick-in-a-box routine.
And weren’t you maddeningly frustrated when — after Sarah having thrown a chair into the ballroom mirror — you had to get up from the couch (again), stop the VCR and rewind it to the beginning of the masquerade sequence?
And let’s face it, when was the last time you really truly hated a baby?
I’ve adored David Bowie since I was a child. The key facets of my teenage rebellion could always be traced to the tender footnotes of his wayside influence. Every one of us can comb through key moments of our juvenile development for those Bowie-esque influences: the ridiculous hair color, thrift shop fashion, the questionable eyebrow experimentation.
Ain’t there one damn song that can make me
Break down and cry?
In the warmer months, I’ll once again convince myself that I’m a marathoner and waddle through the park to “Changes” while trying my best not to mouth the words to perplexed, passing strangers.
So, in this post-Bowie world, don’t let anyone tell you not to grieve over a rockstar you never knew personally, or to stop painting lighting stripes across your face because it doesn’t comply with the business casual dress code at work. Find your tightest pair of leggings, shove a roll of socks down your crotch, do a little magic dance across the living room, and rejoice in the fact that you were conscious enough to experience a movie that — until the day you die — will forever make you feel like you’ve both gained and lost something at the same time.
Goodnight, sweet prince.