Do you have a favourite film? Mine is Labyrinth. It is a film that came out at the right time for me, when I was at that teenage ‘trying to make sense of the world’ stage. It helped that the heroine was a girl with long dark hair, a penchant for waistcoats (I still love them), who liked acting, King Arthur and M. C. Escher.
It is of course very much a ‘coming of age’ film although I never thought of it in those terms then. It takes you on an adventure through “dangers untold and hardships unnumbered” until older and wiser the heroine emerges triumphant. Every teenager faces such adventures even if they are usually more mundane and involve fewer goblins.
I’ve certainly seen people mention it as a film with BDSM overtones although I’m inclined to believe those are more in the viewer than the movie itself. Still when people mention that they usually draw attention to Jareth’s line:
Jareth: I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.
I think people get over excited by the use of the word “slave” and there’s often an implication in their comments that he is offering submission there but I never saw it that way. On the contrary the line I noticed most from earlier in the same conversation is:
Sarah: Generous? What have you done that’s generous?
Jareth: *Everything*! Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for *you*! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations. Isn’t that generous?
We already know that Jareth is in love with Sarah, and he tells her how he has made these challenges for her, clearly out of love. In many ways he has been and wishes to remain her Dom. As a romantic, I found it sad that she refuses him (clearly having outgrown her need for such things) and as a submissive girl I wondered what it would be like to be loved in such a way. Now I get to understand that line from the other side, learning how to be frightening when my Boy cowers. Love leading me to try and provide the adventures he needs and desires.
Those thoughts aren’t what brought me to consider that film today though. Rather it was another of my favourite lines from the film:
Sarah initially expects the labyrinth to be fair. We try to teach all children to behave fairly, to share evenly, to be just and honest; but in doing so we teach them to expect that the world will be fair; that they will get their fair share of the pie. Part of growing up is realising that the world does not always play by those rules. Sarah realises that for herself later on in the film when she takes Hoggle’s jewels so that he’ll help her rescue her baby brother:
It’s something I still struggle with. I want the world to be fair, I want it to reward the good guys, I want the fairy story ending. But this labyrinth isn’t like that. It isn’t fair and I can’t make it so; much as I might like to brandish a flaming sword and change it.
It isn’t fair. That’s just the way it is and I have to live with that and move on.