Down In The Underground

Vanessa Whitney

The release date: June 27th, 1986. From the very beginning, it was magic. The white horse galloping in and seemingly leaping off the movie screen and over the audience. Studio theme revealing… TRI STAR PICTURES.

Dip down to a dark screen.

Meeting a straight guy with a soul is so hard in any dimension

Ominous bass notes, giving way to synthesizer chords and brass, finally succumbing to guitars and bass.

And then… there was that voice. “It’s only forever.”

I was 16. I had only had my driver’s license for a short time. I still felt like a kid most of the time. Until that voice. Now, I had heard it before in other songs but this time was different. It made my heart beat so quickly. Deep and smokey. Bit of a growl.

So. Into the movie.

Theatre Geek, Angst-Ridden, Dramatic Teen, Babysitter/Sister turned Heroine… and I wondered, “Were Dennis Lee, Terry Jones and Jim Henson spying on me when they wrote the part of Sarah?”

No, they were just right on target when it came to the topic of that particular time in a girl’s life. The “not grown up – not a kid anymore” time. The time that horrible Britney Spears song is about.

The time a girl starts learning about regret for acting selfishly and taking things for granted, learning that sometimes, as we grow older, we give up what we want for the good of others. Learning that it’s okay to embrace magic and imagination and that growing up doesn’t mean that we have to give up that part of us. Learning that David Bowie was so SEXY.  WOW!  SO SEXY!

It’s the classic tale. Girl feels picked on. Baby Brother gets kidnapped by goblins. Maze-filled wackiness ensues with puppets, both large and small. Always perfection from the Jim Henson Company.

A perfect white owl. Long before Hedwig in Harry Potter. He came right in through the french doors with the wind, with magical glitter. Where once was an owl. Now stood The Goblin King, Jareth.

As Jareth, David Bowie made it so easy to fall in love with a dark character. He was “original steampunk.” Long and lean. Black leather with flashes of color, sparkle, buckles, pirate shirts. Electric blue accents in his hair and clothes or all in white like an angel.

Juggling his crystal balls. So dangerous. Constantly trying to make Sarah forget the REAL reason she was there. To retrieve her baby brother Toby.

You know you’re in trouble when David Bowie asks you to juggle his balls. And of course, he has three.

Jareth was also there to teach Sarah life lessons.  To teach her that sometimes, life isn’t fair. To challenge her wit and her convictions. To expose her insecurities. To teach her to ask for help from, as well as stand up for, her friends. To seduce her… To seduce me… And he did… That voice… His songs all through the film…

I seem to remember in an interview, Jim Henson spoke about Labyrinth being for his daughters. He admitted that a difficult part of any father’s life is seeing his daughter fall in love, and/or get her heart broken. How tough it is to watch her go through that. And, how men want to warn their daughters about certain guys but that you also just have to let go and let girls experience life for themselves.

And so, we girls do.  We fall for the bad boys sometimes.  We think, “I like the Goblin King. I could totally live with him in the castle in the middle of the maze with the Escher-like staircases and have masquerade parties.” But, just like in the movie, that often doesn’t last. The crystal ball is shattered. Back to reality. He’s not good for you.  He’s delicious but he’s not good for you.  Not saying they don’t exist. He’s just NOT one of the good guys.

So, though I was seduced by this particular Bowie character, I also learned from him. What my Dad always tried to teach me.

Look deeper, when looking for love. And if a man ever promises you, “Love me, fear me and I will be your slave.”  That’s not real love.

It’s time to say, “You have no power over me.”

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