Pre-teen Heather thought Labyrinth was a mundane and stupid fairy tale. Pre-teen Heather didn’t know what she was talking about—it is intricate and humorous and David Bowie rocks. As sources tell me they haven’t seen Labyrinth, and in honor of David Bowie, allow me to show you why Jareth is so dang awesome.
When fifteen-year-old Sarah wishes for the Goblin King to take her infant brother, Toby, far away, Jareth lovingly complies. He then gives the dismayed Sarah thirteen hours to traverse his labyrinth to save Toby from his fate as a Goblin—but he doesn’t make it easy. Jareth orders the Labyrinthians under his domain to deter Sarah as much as possible, but in the end, they may not be as obedient as he might wish…
WBI ProfileClassification :: Λ24578!#*@
Role :: Assassin (Sarah’s personal demon—in a good way)
Motivations :: Idealism (forcing Sarah to grow), Insubordination (Sarah’s slave), Lifestyle (a figment of Sarah’s imagination?), Personal/Material Gain (Sarah’s love and Toby’s soul), Power/Influence (over Labyrinthians)
Bonus :: Magic (oogly boogly), Minions (muppets), Lair (Labyrinth), Name (Jareth/Goblin King)
His Significance To…Toby—Jareth kidnaps Toby at Sarah’s personal request. It’s not because he wants to hurt kids, or he just wants another goblin. He does it because Sarah wished for it. And even so, Jareth isn’t cruel to the baby at all. Literally, the worst thing that happens to this kid is a rousing song with goblins and sitting on Jareth’s lap (watching a puppet, off-screen) while he monologues. Jareth’s quarrel is not with Toby.
Labyrinthians—Jareth wants Sarah. And if some of his subjects get in the way, that is not his problem. They get punished. Harshly. And that’s what they’re for. In fact, many of the characters join Sarah in order to rebel against Jareth’s oppressive leadership, because that’s all he is to them.
Sarah—Sarah is the whiniest bitch at the beginning of this film. She’s a child. This is important, because in her fight for Toby, the Goblin King himself forces Sarah to mature. Because of his resistance, she sets aside her selfish, silly ways; by providing a fictional struggle to overcome, Jareth empowers Sarah to overcome her real-life struggles, too. Jareth makes Sarah a better person. Because he loves her. And because she needs it.
Notable Actionsbuilding conflict—Jareth is tailored to make Sarah grow into a better person. He gives her a struggle and he deters her from the path, because he loves her, and because she needs to grow.
issuing consequences— Sarah says, “That’s not fair!” and Jareth replies, “You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?” Jareth challenges Sarah’s entitlement and gives her exactly what she asks for. He demonstrates what it means to have consequences, and gives Sarah a reason to think about the significance of her actions.
tempting Sarah—he would give Sarah all her dreams for her brother’s humanity; he tempts her with desirable things, but leaves her to decide whether she wants to accept the consequences.
Big Ideaperfect match—I classify Jareth as an “assassin,” not because he kills people or for his stellar leadership skills, but because he is Sarah’s anti-accomplice in the story. His humor and darkness build the challenge Sarah must rise to, and ironically, everything he does as an antagonist is for the protagonist’s benefit. How cool is that?
imaginary—another interpretation is that all of the muppets and David Bowie himself are figments of Sarah’s imagination, and she uses her favorite characters in her own life story. To that extent, it’s interesting that Jareth doesn’t have to be “real” by our normal definition to complete this story.
stylish—he has great hair and makeup and outfits with feathers and everything, but also, he has great presentation. His story and statement catch Sarah’s attention, of course, but in such a way that makes her reevaluate who she wants to be as a person, her familial relationships, her inner darkness, and her future. [This is the part where you say, “Damn, that’s stylish.”]
Finally: “Dance Magic Dance.” One of my all-time favorite villain songs, with the added bonus of David Bowie’s hair.
Have you seen Labyrinth? Are you gonna watch it now?