In June 1986 Labyrinth was released in the cinemas and from anecdotal evidence it seems my then four year old brother was taken to see it and the film became a family favourite.
Skip ahead to December of 1987 and baby Fia pops out just in time to demand a present from Father Christmas (although I have no doubts I had already made it onto the naughty list at only three days old) Unfortunately, way back in ye’ olde 80’s, people didn’t have the luxury of films always being available to buy for home viewing, let alone for purchase seemingly moments after the film had its last screening in cinemas. So it wasn’t until I was around seven or eight that I first got to watch Labyrinth for myself. I’d heard of it, both my brother and sister liked the film and Jim Henson was a much beloved name in our house (my desire to become an actress comes from watching Sesame Street and The Muppets were essential viewing to us) so when I saw the film advertised on Nickelodeon one afternoon I recognised the name and settled down to watch.
I was enthralled! I was enchanted! I was…. Some other word starting with en! (Engaged?)
I was in love.
Jareth the Goblin King seemed so real to me, I knew who David Bowie was and understood the difference between make believe and reality, but this man on the screen was as much a person to me as anyone else. He was real and I was obsessed, I NEEDED to be able to watch the film again. We had a VCR that could tape from the telly and, like how today’s children just seem to know how to use a touch screen, I had always been able to operate it without any help from an adult. It may be my misremembering but Nick had a +1 channel back in the 90’s – children’s TV apparently being the first to get that magical hour later viewing – I put said channel on to record, yelled about no one being allowed to change it, and ran off to wait in eager anticipation of the recording being done and being able to watch the rest of the film. My instantaneous love of Labyrinth already had me making sacrifices, in order to tape it off the telly from the start I had to change channels and miss the end.
I would have to wait a few more years before I ever got to see said ending. One of my parents (I’m looking at YOU Dad) changed the channel with about 20 minutes left to go. Every time I wanted to watch the tape I would have to put up with the film going a bit funny for a few seconds and then becoming some stupid adult cartoon that got shown on Comedy Central in the evening (I believe it was called Duckman and it was stupid and I hated it purely because it had RUINED MY FILM)
There is, I assure you, a point to this seemingly pointless story.
Jareth was not the hero; we were supposed to root for Sarah and love her. Jareth was supposed to be seen as mean and unfair, twisting the world with needless and incomprehensible rules and mazes, telling Sarah what to do, making her work and worry. And a whole bunch of other metaphors for how yucky becoming a grownup was.
Whatever, I didn’t care, I loved Jareth. He was interesting.
This was the start of my life long preferences for the anti-heroes, the bad guys and girls films and TV encourages us to boo and jeer at, the characters we’re supposed to inherently dislike.
I know I’m far from the only one who loves the villain, hell Loki has an army so obsessed that his fans once sent my ex death threats via tumblr and twitter over him.
I don’t profess to like the villains because I think they can be made good, that they’re misunderstood little woobies who just need a hug or have a good cry before all their emotional and psychological problems can magically vanish. I prefer to think about the whys of what they’re doing and how they came to be who they are. It’s interesting to pick a character apart and see what makes them tick; it’s the antagonists who have the better back story, although usually dreadfully under represented or left to be part of a monologue. It’s the baddies who are smarter, the villains who seem to always have their stuff together. They know who they are and what they’re about and don’t need any power montage or epic quest to help them find their way. They don’t have the Deus ex Machina in the middle of a fight (just when they’re losing) to help them vanquish the hero. Nor does Lady Luck point her finger to reveal the Ultimate Secret Weapon for them or the accidental bumbling of a sidekick that knocks the hero towards victory.
And hey, most of the time our favourite evil doer is really just trying to get on with their job. Ok, so a lot of the time said job is their self-imposed title of Supreme Overlord of Something or Other, but being an Overlord means needing employees which means job creation and financial security for hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. Then some muscle bound jerk comes along and topples their complex socio-economic infrastructure. Mass job loss! Buildings destroyed! Lives ruined! Technological advancements lost forever!
I have, in essence, thought way too much about this kind of thing. Like, getting into arguments with work colleges about an antagonist’s possible mental state and how it drives them to do what they do, levels of over thinking (Although I DO usually win those arguments)
And do I blame this fascination on some secret desire to throw off the shackles of office worker oppression, organise a coup and set the world’s best scientists to work on plans to control the hearts and minds of the masses? Hahaha… Mwahaha…. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH *ahem*
No, don’t be silly. Who gave you that idea? Seriously…. Give me their name….
Instead, I’m blaming David “Enters the room in a shower of glitter” Bowie and his infamous bulge.
Now excuse me, I’m off to devise a machine for depleting a world of its rarest natural resources. No, wait… coffee. I meant to say I’m off to make a coffee. Innocent, totally not suspicious coffee.