The 12 Heroines of Christmas

12. Sarah of Labyrinth:

There are some wonderful analyses and funny takes of the complexities of this cult classic, but in this series of posts, I am going to focus more narrowly on a leading question.  Today I ask:

What role does fantasy play in our battles with responsibilities?

Labyrinth (1986) focuses on Sarah, a teenage girl frustrated with mundane suburbia and the “unfair” demands placed on her by her family. The film shows how deeply Sarah is attached to her escapist fantasies; she would much rather spend dreamy afternoons in the park or making herself up in her bedroom than taking on the dull responsibility of babysitting her baby brother. Still in her reverie, she angrily wishes that a Goblin King would spirit her brother away. And then, one does just that.

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It is easy to assume that the film is a type of Alice in Wonderland tale gone wrong; Sarah perhaps learns that fantasy is nonsense and learns to “grow up” and accept that life is not fair at all. After all, Sarah’s spends most of the film angrily shouting “IT’S NOT FAIR!” Forcing her to babysit is not fair. Letting her baby brother play with her stuff is not fair. When the Goblin King tasks her to journey through the labyrinth to the castle to reclaim the baby, Sarah is floored by just how arbitrary the terms are. If the labyrinth is a metaphor for the string of choices we make in the twists and turns of life, then the constantly warping maze seems to whisper that there is no path at all: we are always unfairly mislead through the labyrinth, where faeries are vicious but monsters are friends.

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Despite this, Sarah finds her way to the castle. She comes to realize that, no, life is not fair but that it is okay.

HOGGLE:   IT'S NOT FAIR!
SARAH:    NO, IT ISN'T...
SARAH:    BUT THAT'S THE WAY IT IS.

In another scene, she is almost drowned by the burden of her childhood things. “Stay here and play with your dollies!” the bag-lady screeches. “Why, it’s all junk!” Sarah realizes.

And of course, Sarah breaks through the ballroom fantasy scene that the Goblin King sets up for her. As he explains, she created him with her own imagination, including the girlish dream that a King would be in love with her. And yet, fantasies can overpower and control in a dangerously contradictory terms.

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JARETH:   JUST FEAR ME, LOVE ME,
JARETH:   DO AS I SAY,
JARETH:   AND I WILL BE YOUR SLAVE.

So, What role does fantasy play in our battles with responsibilities?

We might prematurely conclude and say that Sarah grows up and out of her fantasies. “You have no power over me!” she declares with surprise and destroys the Goblin Castle in one breath. She leaves the labyrinth and the film ends, showing her boxing up her childhood things and caring for her baby brother. Has she learned to put aside her fantasy to embrace reality, full of unfairness and responsibility?

No. Labyrinth’s concluding scene shows us a surprise: her friends from the labyrinth as well as the Goblin King begin to say their goodbyes, watching her from the other side of her mirror…

SARAH:    YEAH! YES, I'M HOME.
LUDO:     GOOD-BYE, SARAH.
DIDYMUS:  AND REMEMBER, FAIR MAIDEN,
DIDYMUS:  SHOULD YOU NEED US...
HOGGLE:   YES, SHOULD YOU NEED US
HOGGLE:   FOR ANY REASON AT ALL...
SARAH:    I NEED YOU, HOGGLE.
HOGGLE:   YOU--YOU DO?
SARAH:    I DON'T KNOW WHY,
SARAH:    BUT EVERY NOW AND AGAIN
SARAH:    IN MY LIFE,
SARAH:    FOR NO REASON AT ALL,
SARAH:    I NEED YOU--
SARAH:    ALL OF YOU.

And with that, they pass through the mirror (akin to Sarah’s own destruction of the masquerade mirrored walls) and join her in her bedroom. What does this mean?

Sarah has learned to draw on her fantasies, needing them through her life “every now and again” to provide strength, support, and friendship.While they can no longer dominate and control her, they are neither silly childhood objects to pack away. They are now part of her arsenal of strength, as a maturing woman who claims her own power.

PS. If anyone can tell me where the page-break function went, I'd 
be sooo grateful.

 

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7 thoughts on “The 12 Heroines of Christmas

  1. Sumire says:

    I love Labyrinth but now I feel like I have never thought about it deeply enough… ^_^ I definitely like the take away that fantasy can be used to ” provide strength, support, and friendship… ‘every now and again.'” I fear that I still wish I could run away into them. I remember thinking as a young girl watching it that I wasn’t sure I was as strong as Sarah and now some 25 years later I still am not sure I’m as strong as Sarah. Well heroines are supposed to be inspirational and aspirational, right? I have something to aim towards. I look forward to the other 12 heroines!

    Like

    • cheri says:

      Rewatching the movie recently made all those lessons pop out! I think I saw the movie very differently when I was younger – like, just focusing on the ballroom dress haha. Lately I have been thinking again about inspiration and drawing strength from fantasy heroines so Sarah was an appropriate first post!

      Like

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