I apologize for the rather pointless nature of this analysis; it simply contains my observations as regards Sarah and Jareth's interactions in Labyrinth, and how that can be viewed in a larger scope. Please understand that I have no psychological training (unless reading a bunch of my mother's old Psych textbooks counts as such), and am merely doing this for my own entertainment. Enjoy. :)
You are probably wondering not how this analysis came about (the inspiration and such), but rather, why it was written in the first place. Do we really need an analysis of an obscure children's fantasy film? Isn't this just pure frivolity? After all, there are thousands of films in the world; films of quality, with depth and symbolism. Why waste paper on a silly kid's movie?
It has come to my attention how little press or recognition is given to Labyrinth. Anyone who's ever looked up "Labyrinth" on a word search online knows what I'm talking about. Other films get press releases, reviews, mentions in film trivia guides. By contrast, Labyrinth simply disappears into the gaping black hole of film history. Sundance films are accorded more prestige and respect. I have read dozens of books devoted to film of all eras, of which exactly one--Leonard Maltin's Film Guide--so much as mentions Labyrinth. Neither the Dictionary of Imaginary Places nor the Golden Retriever Cult Film Guide makes note of the film. Other cult films (including Bowie and fantasy films) are acknowledged, even celebrated, but Labyrinth more often than not ends up a footnote in the annals of most film guides--and is almost always attached, remora-like, to the reputation of The Dark Crystal, as though the former is a mere offshoot and not a film unto itself.
Ask any kid from the 1980s what the best films were back then, and they will almost invariably rattle off a list of live-action fantasy films: The Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, Legend, The Dark Crystal, and oh yeah, Labyrinth. It's the film that everyone has seen, but no one talks about. The one that everyone loves, but no one remembers. More often than not, they watch it again at age 18, 25, 30, and look back and say, "What was I thinking?"
Because let's face it, this IS one cheesy movie. It's meant to be nothing less. The singing and dancing, the comical Muppet sidekicks, the bad scriptwriting, the glitter, the hair, and did I mention the pants? If you look beyond the cheese, though, you will discover a movie well worth serious analytical consideration. Labyrinth is more than a mere kid's flick, and perhaps now that Jennifer Connelly has been awarded both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her performance in A Beautiful Mind, Labyrinth will be given its due respect, or at the very least acknowledgement as a curiousity early in her career.
On top of the cheese and the stupidity, Labyrinth has this impression of not-quite-rightness that's intriguing. I love the uncomfortable themes and bizarre sexual hang-ups and just plain weirdness that this movie exudes. It has a heavy ambience of veiled intentions; a sense that there's...something else going on. No wonder it tends to get television air time around Halloween!
Labyrinth is, in my opinion the most blatantly Freudian film in the history of the world, and even doubly so for not being obviously Freudian. It also has similarities to Jung's archetypes and collective unconscious, references to mythology, mystical symbols, the supernatural, dream states, and a host of any other psychological "buzzwords". It is a virtually unlimited piece of analytical value, and for that alone deserves a place among classic films.
Since I am not formally educated in psychoanalysis, all opinions expressed herein are solely my own and not gleaned from any particular field of psychology (although references to Freud and Jung will be made).
As you can see, I borrowed heavily from the ideas originated by Freud (albeit seeing Freudian references in Labyrinth is like shooting fish in a barrel. In other words, "It's a piece of cake.") and Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
Realize that Sarah is the only prominent female character in the whole movie, and one of only three with a speaking role. Considering that the Labyrinth is inside her head, and she has wished it into existence, this means she does not want to deal with any women, probably due to jealous feelings towards her stepmother, and does not want any competition for Jareth's affections (or at least attentions). As he is at the center of the Labyrinth, and in a position of importance, thus she wants to remain for him. The lone female character inside the Labyrinth (besides Sarah) is a crazy old hag.
However, she does not give him any competition either. Consider the male characters she comes across: A short, ugly dwarf, who seems to act as more of a father figure than anything; a large hairy monster-type creature, and a small dog. Jareth perceives competition towards Hoggle, and acts aggressively towards him as a result of the negative attention he receives from his "creator". I sense that Jareth wishes for the same positive attention from Sarah, but does not know how to ask for it in a constructive manner. Since he is unable to receive positive attention, any sort of attention will suffice (classic villain behaviour), which is why he is pleased with her interactions with him. His eyes light up upon seeing her, even when she is insulting him, and his voice softens and lowers in pitch. He becomes more animated, and is actively interested in her progress. "How are you enjoying my labyrinth?" can be interpreted on many levels. One is that he is simply taunting her, which is a bit too obvious. It can also mean, "How are you enjoying ME?" He is asking for her confirmation and validation of himself, to feed his own ego (which, it can be argued, also means her own, which could be her evaluating her own subconscious, but that's going a bit far).
There's also the issue of conjuring up a decidedly, uh, masculine older man for her fantasy realm. I mean, she's 15! This guy's in his 30s, at least. Definately issues with the father; Sarah's got a major Electra complex. Combine this with the lack of desirable female characters in the Labyrinth (to avoid competition), and she's going to need psychiatric help.
Since she is so young, her fantasy man is tinged with hints of androgyny. Possessing a feminine build, ruffly costumes and lots of eye makeup, Jareth is threatening, yet not overly so. He is sinister, but ultimately unable to back up his threats. "You have no power over me." Most very young girls tend to like men that are slight and delicate in build, because they themselves resemble girls, which is familiar and comforting. Sarah, being emotionally immature, conjures up this sort of man. However, due to the aforementioned Electra complex (a sexual role reversal of the Oedipus complex, where the daughter feels competitive for the father's attentions from the mother), he is far older than her, and clearly sexually mature. Well, he is. :) Thus, he represents a paradox: A mature, seductive older man, who is completely at the mercy of his Regent, and pretends to wield incredible powers he does not in fact actually possess, so she feels superiour.
I must bring up the subject of Regents and Thralls for a moment here, because after a few viewings it became clear that this is part of the power struggle between Sarah and Jareth. She is his Regent, with utter power over him, a role she clearly both relishes and cannot understand or control. He is her Thrall; he loves her because she wants him to, no matter what he might try do, he is under her (somewhat shaky) control, and a product of her subconscious. The Thrall does what the Regent requests of him/her (although that request may be interpreted at the Thrall's discretion), and lives only to serve him/her. Only through subtle manipulation can the Thrall challenge his/her position in the balance of power. See the resemblance? At first he seems to be in control--he is the dominant male character, the one ruling a vast kingdom of fanciful creatures, possessing powers and tight pants, and his name comes up first on the opening credits. But in fact Sarah owns him. His very existence is due to her, and when it is only when she decides he has no power, that he is demoted to his previous owl status.
The entire movie centers around Sarah and Jareth's mutual struggle for power. Without it, there would be no plot (or at least, just a whiny teenage girl and a bunch of silly puppets). You have to feel rather sorry for Jareth, stuck in a immature teenage girl's subconcious, cast unjustly in the cliched role of sinister villain ("It's not fair!"). I will get a lot of flack for this, but the thing that makes Jareth so sympathetic is that he is a pawn, and he knows it. He is aware of his status; a simple means of allowing Sarah self-discovery, while he languishes in his cold castle. Luckily for us, he is a very entertaining and diverting means of self-discovery; thank goodness for Sarah's imagination!
Another point I would like to bring up would be the possibility of a higher, more spiritual connection between the two rivals. Yes, I am aware that the entire Labyrinth is all in Sarah's mind, but if Jareth actually existed, what would their connection be? They are startlingly similar, when viewed in a similar light: emotionally immature, tending to fits of temper and vanity (Jareth especially tends towards the latter, but it also seen in Sarah when she fancies herself to be the desired object of the Goblin King's affections), and a continued insistence in always having their own respective ways. This has been pointed out in other analysis, under the opinion that they are similar because they come out of the same mind (a view I tend to agree with), but for arguement's sake we will look at these tendencies under a different light.
Both possess strong minds, with decided opinions and definite wills. Two such strong wills are doubtless drawn to each other, and equally inevitable, they spontaneously combust when in each others' vicinity for very long. In order to end the cycle of destruction, something has to give. Unfortunately, Sarah turns out to be stronger than her creation, and Jareth is banished from the recesses of her mind. If she had bothered to allow him his place in her heart and mind, she most likely would have discovered the rest of herself.
I believe Sarah and Jareth share a deeper connection than the brief moments allowed them in the film. The ballroom scene made that much clear; they possess a strong attraction to each other. The moment Sarah sees him in the crowd, her jaw drops to the floor and stays there for the rest of the scene; also, she seems a bit glassy-eyed in their introduction, and is almost unreasonably polite to him (considering this is a guy who has taken her brother and made veiled threats towards herself).
On Jareth's part, he seems a bit more manipulative (being as he is cast in the villain role, however romantic); then again, nothing is what it seems! His reactions to her are more subtle, revealed only in the ballroom sequence (although the scene in the tunnel can be viewed as him hitting on her... "How are you enjoying my labyrinth, cutie?"). It can also be argued that he wasn't really attracted to her in the beginning, and he fell in love along the way. However, even this theory is negated, as we are explicitly informed at the beginning, "The king of the goblins had fallen in love with the girl..." so more likely he is extremely subtle in his attraction. Then again (just play along as I argue semantics with myself), he engages in behaviour during the introductory scene that can be interpreted as initially seductive (facial quirks, vocal mannerisms, and offering her his balls :)), so the point may be endlessly debated. The clincher, though, is "Fear me, love me, do as I say..." At the end of the film we are left in no doubt as to Jareth's eventual emotional state. He's really laying his heart on the line here, and the saddest thing is, he is doing it for the preservation of Sarah's ego. He has no say in this relationship, for he is under Sarah's control.
Which brings up the subject of soulmates, the idea that they are in fact destined to be together (yes, I'm finally getting to it, after mentioning it twice!). Okay, this is a bit of a long shot, but I'll still post it because, after all, it's only a theory: Perhaps they really ARE intended to be together (a soulmates kinda deal, similar to the one portrayed on Xena--yes, I am too into that show), only the role that she has cast him in prevents such a bond from properly forming. Also, his actions are deterimental to any positive opinion she might have of him (even though these actions are of her own making), so there's another barrier to any potential relationship. Thus, the shadow she has thrown on him is probably one of the reasons they can't get together (in a spiritual sense...get your heads outta the gutter). So they are in fact spiritually bonded, only she is either not aware of it or is in denial, because she still throws him out of the Labyrinth.
Or does she? There is no evidence that Jareth has actually died or even been banished from his domain...from her fantasies, certainly, but the owl still sits outside her window, wistfully looking in on her. So Jareth isn't dead; just "lost and lonely," and probably still pining after her. His love may not be healthy, and it may not even be pure, but there is no doubt that it is sincere, and his twisted little heart has been shattered. Poor Goblin King.
Another, slightly odder thing I have noticed, is Jareth's paternal tendencies. This is most obvious with his treatment of Toby, but can also be observed in his behaviour towards Sarah. He is extremely protective of her (note he never once in the film causes her direct harm), and watches over her progress continually, as a parent fondly doting after a beloved child (which is not strange as it sounds, considering the wide gap in their ages). He keeps a bemused look on his face for much of the picture, as a parent humoring a small child. It is clear his sexual attraction outweighs any actual parental impulses towards her, but it is still interesting to observe. Why bother to watch her at all, if he is confident of her impending destruction? Why indeed. He cares for her, and sees that she is looked after properly, all the while wishing she would change her mind. His every action spells his true devotion to her, even granting her the obligatory solitary showdown she requests (as her heroes of legend so often receive).
The parental tendencies are a clear result of the pseudo-father figure role Sarah has cast him in. She has a lack of strong male role models in her life, and so creates one out of her mind. Jareth, in his pseudo-parental role, acts stern, controlling, and inflicts a moral code on her (remember how he disapproves of her kissing Hoggle?), all the while speaking to her in a condescending tone, and asserting that he knows what is best for her, and that she should trust her fate to him, essentially giving him control over her (which goes back to the aforementioned power struggle, a typical teen/parent issue). He seems to offer her what unconditional love, something she may not perceive that she has from her real father, now that Toby is in the picture.
Since she doesn't actually WANT another father, she creates an older, domineering dream lover, or one who seems domineering, who has a controlling veneer, so that she may remain in control. Jareth is loving yet cruel, devoted yet sinister, lenient yet possessive. He is a veritable mass of paradoxes, all stemming from Sarah's mixed-up, confused inner state. She is young enough that she doesn't know what she actually wants in a mate, so she creates a supposedly-perfect man that is the embodiment of all her childhood fantasies: handsome, dashing, powerful, devoted, etc, etc, etc. He is also sufficiently threatening to prove attractive (women occasionally like men who are the teeniest bit threatening, even subconsciously. It's exciting). An incredibly immature creation, and almost too good to be true, Jareth is a stifling stereotype; a caricature of a man. He clearly detests this role, and when he attempts to escape it, she banishes him from her mind.
The issue here seems to be, how much of Jareth is Jareth, and how much is actually Sarah? It is nearly impossible to determine that for certain, but I shall make a fair attempt. The parts that are Sarah's creation are the parental role, his sexually romantic status (that is, his appearance of charm and, err, mastery), his devotion to her, and his inherantly antagonistic nature (no matter how much he struggles against it, he does evil things not because he is evil, but because she wants him that way). The parts that are strictly Jareth, are his rebellion against the roles she has him in, and his attempts to regain power over his creator. It can be endlessly debated on what sort of creature Jareth really is--Human? Faerie? Goblin? Nonexistant product of Sarah's ego?--but it cannot be argued that he is utterly sick of his status, and he wants out.
Which brings up another point--why would Sarah want the villain in her story to be in love with her? What purpose would that accomplish? Why create someone to be deliberately antagonistic, yet at the same time, specifically require their love and desire? From a logical standpoint, it makes no sense. Of course, who says logic plays a part? Jareth is created, as a means of escape, from a storybook she is fond of. The villain part is exciting, and lends a tinge of danger to the scenario (see the classic "bad boy" phenomena). It also allows her to be cast as the long-suffering heroine (which not coincidentally is how she sees herself in real life), which boosts her own ego. However, she made a fatal flaw in casting Jareth in such a constrictive role, one which would be obvious to most viewers: since the hero must inevitably destroy, redeem, or somehow neutralize the villain, she is directly pitted against him in a win/lose battle that allows no room for an actual relationship. Jareth cannot be destroyed, as he is part of her subconscious, and he cannot be redeemed (which would be another, more passive form of destruction). Thus the ambiguous ending result of banishment (or neutralization).
I imagine she originally intended for there to be no ending, to simply replay the story over and over again, without having to deal with the final consequences. But Jareth, frustrated over his constant twilight state, demanded a resolution, intending it to be in his favor. Sarah, being shortsighted, naturally never saw this coming, although she managed to turn the situation around. And of course, since she controls him, she won, and kicked him out of her mind.
All teenagers possess a Labyrinth--an eerie, mystical place inside that they cannot quite understand or control. It is full of fascinating, frightening things, crammed with various portions of the psyche, as represented in the Labyrinth. The oubliette is dark and cramped, depressing with no hope of light. The Fieries are the secret wild nature, the untamed piece of existence that many are afraid to let loose (not to mention the frightening implications of gang rape...aiiee), and many allow the Bog of Eternal Stench to rule their lives ("If you so much as set a foot in the Bog of Eternal Stench, you'll smell bad for the rest of your life."). Okay, I'm getting really poor analogies here, but bear with me. Freud would have a field day with this movie. Sarah has taken the inner journey of the adolescent and transformed it in an all too physical sense.
I have noticed the different ways he responds to both genders...with Hoggle he is aggressive and domineering, yet with Sarah he offers complete servilitude and is the picture of passivity. Hmm, something to chew on.
Jareth is not the most subtle, tactful person ever, yet another symptom of his immaturity. In their introductory scene, he literally throws a fertility symbol (snake) at Sarah's head (after blatantly asking if she wants to play with his crystals...the nerve!), then dangles a peach ('nother fertility symbol) right in front of her nose when he knows she's hungry. After siccing the Cleaners on her (symbol of violent pentration...hmmm, never thought about that before), he waves Toby (symbol of her growing maternal instincts, and the ultimate symbol of fertility...what's more potent than an actual baby?) around, and proceeds to strut and preen in unnecessarily revealing clothing, right in front of her. This man needs psychiatric help worse than Sarah (and that's saying a lot)! Of course, if Sarah went to a shrink it would be a two-in-one deal...I wonder what they would think about her "imaginary friend" being an overly-sexualized-yet-androgynous rock musician!
Earlier I said Jareth was subtle, now I am apparently refuting that statement. However, I did not say Jareth is in fact subtle, only that in Sarah's eyes, he is a master of illusion and subtle manipulation. Sarah is not the most observant person on Earth, given that the whole reason she is in the Labyrinth is evidently for taking things for granted, so in Sarah's (unsophisticated) opinion, he is very suave. To a person who possesses any amount of class and perceptive abilities, Jareth is of course as subtle as a sledgehammer, but since Sarah is fairly socially ignorant and tactless herself ("If that's all the help you're going to be, you can just leave!"), it all balances out. It also fits into the theory of sharing character traits, since they are out of the same mind.
Some fans seem to be of the opinion that, since Jareth is a rather androgynous character, he is in fact asexual, their reason being that, well, he’s probably never had sex. Sorry, wrong! "Asexual" does not mean "virginal"; it can mean androgynous, or lack of interest in sexual matters (or both). You can be a virgin, and still have a very pronounced sex drive (as Jareth evidently does). Amoebas, for example, are asexual life forms...males and females are identical, and they operate on pure instinct, with no complex mating behaviour. And the theory that Jareth is a virgin makes the most sense...since Sarah controls his behaviour, she naturally would want to save his "purity", as it were, for herself, and would hardly give him a back history of affairs. In addition, this would probably increase his, er, frustration, and make him particularly irritable and desperate to prove his masculinity.
It occured to me that the advice, "Say your right words," that the goblins gave to Sarah, could be interpreted in a grander sense as a metaphor for communication skills within the whole of the Labyrinth itself. They are informing her that she must express herself within exact specifications while in the Labyrinth and that is the only way to make it back safely. It could be considered a warning or (more passively) guidance on their part. As I have previously mentioned, Jareth has poor communication skills also. If the Labyrinth (and in fact Jareth himself) thrives on disorder and chaos, the way to defeat Jareth is to display coherance in her linguistic abilities (express herself clearly). Hoggle attempts to communicate this to her, but he is affected by the chaos, so he must tell her indirectly.
Jareth has other, less obvious problems than what is immediately noticeable in the film (such as his fashion sense and nymphoid tendencies). He is likely desperately lonely, because Sarah intended for herself to remain in the center of her little world (she seems to be suffering from low self-esteem, as well as, ironically, narcissism), and she did not want any competition for his attention. As a result, he focuses all his attention, and pours all his energy into HER, and becomes obsessed with her. Sarah is "the babe" he is referring to in his little speech to the goblins (babe with the power? "Certain powers"? Are you getting me here?). What an ego boost! However, Sarah didn't intend for him to actually interact, with her, just to remain as the unattainable, perfect object of his love. Since she wouldn't let him interact with her (or anyone else, for that matter), he develops poor communications skills (much like his creator, in fact).
In order to communicate effectively with civilized people, you need to interact with them, which Jareth certainly was not; he was surrounded by idiot goblins. As a result, he became extremely contemptuous of them, and this is the only way he knows how to interact with anyone...he threatens and strikes poses and acts menacing and condescending and acheives his goals by acting like a bully, and is generally a grade-A asshole. Then she acts astonished when he's not the Prince Charming she expects him to be! Well, what a surprise! *eyeroll* Sarah is solely responsible for his character flaws, compounded by not giving him proper socialization (much as you would a puppy...heh heh). By not letting him interact with anyone, of course he's not going to know how to communicate properly with the outside (or even Underground) world! But again, Sarah is an immature 15-year old who doesn't think that far ahead.
One can tell that he is not receiving proper socialization from the scene just before he orders Hoggle to give Sarah the peach. He asks Hoggle if he and Sarah are "bosom companions...friends?" and appears extremely jealous in the question. Jareth has no friends. Specifically, he does not have Sarah, and it it drives him nuts that Hoggle has that privilege, while he is forced to remain in the negative role of the antagonist.
Also, likely Jareth knows she is the reason why he is deprived of a social life in his little kingdom, but he loves her anyway, because she wants him to. It's rather tragic, if you think about it. A powerful villain who is completely at the mercy of a 15-year old girl's whims, and is madly in love with her, even though he probably doesn't really enjoy the experience, and does everything that she wants him to, including presenting himself as a negative character to boost her self-esteem and ego, at the expense of his own. Tragic indeed; a vicious circle: she casts him in the role of the villain AND romantically (she essentially wants to have her "piece of cake" and eat it too), and thus not only gets to get her ego boosted by his attentions, BUT ALSO by defeating him and appearing both as a martyr AND the noble heroine. The score is Sarah 2, Jareth nothing (or if you prefer, Love). Not that Jareth is perfect, or the unjustly cast tragic antihero. Far from it; he has character flaws aplenty, but since most of them are of Sarah's design (however unintentional), he can be given a certain amount of leeway for most of them--the villainy, the poor communications skills, and the obsession--especially the latter two.
Sarah is quite an obsessive little person herself. She thinks about nothing but Jareth, her personal tin god she has created for her own entertainment, and has become obsessed with him in turn. But Sarah has other things in her life besides Jareth (school, her family, her dog), while Jareth pays little attention to the various goings-on in his kingdom (which explains the generally run-down look of the castle--yeesh!) and can freely devote long periods of time to Sarah-obsession. So he naturally becomes more involved in her subconscious, while she has other things to occupy her time. Thus when she goes through the Labyrinth, his intense nature, and total preoccupation with HER is, in reality, very very freaky (especially when you go back to the age gap). So she pulls back.
Jareth doesn't know how to react to this. Drawing upon his exceptionally poor communications skills and villainous demeanor, he becomes more aggressive (which explains the Cleaners and the oubliette). She eventually gets a backbone and stands up to him (much to his dismay), but she is extremely polite initially.
The politeness (again) stems from her poor communications skills, and her lack of self-esteem. Instead of confidently ordering him to give back her brother, she begs, she pleads, and (much to the annoyance of Labyrinth fans) she whines. She shows frights when he tosses the snake at her head (demonstrating a fear of phallic objects, but that is for another analysis), and she does everything short of peeing on the carpet (going back to the puppy metaphor...). In short, she is initially submissive (in appearance) despite the fact that she has complete control over him! The plot thickens! What does this mean? Well, we could interpret this to mean that while she WANTS to have control, and relishes the idea of it, she is extremely uncertain at the implications of controlling an adult male, but since we've already covered that in previous paragraphs, we won't go down that road again, hmm? Instead, let's take a different approach.
Sarah is surrounded by independent, even dominant women in her life. She resents their control over her, and clearly wants to avoid becoming like them. However, since she doesn't know any other personality, she too desires control. But she feels very guilty over this aspect of her nature, so she covers it up, or attempts to. Jareth is her escape. With him, she can be both controlling and submissive, or at least give the appearance of submission (as she is too strong-willed to actually be submissive). She convinces herself that she is the injured party, the martyr who needs to be rescued, when in fact she controls him with an iron grasp. In the same way, she manipulates her father (more shades of Jareth's parental status...); by convincing him to give into her, and she effectively controls him.
Or at least, she did. Until her stepmother entered the picture. Suddently, there is another person vying for control of her father, and she naturally resents this. She is actually angry at her father for being weak enough to control (am I getting enough Freud in here?), but since he is her only connection to any semblance of stability, she softens her anger towards him, and levels most of the blame at her stepmother, and her brother. And she creates Jareth, a villainous paternal figure, who it is SAFE to feel anger towards, to keep her father from being harmed. So the submission is really an act that allows her to save face, and pretend she really is the innocent victim (even though she probably isn't even aware of her actions), when all the time she is controlling both her family situation and Jareth. She claims to feel out-of-control and neglected, but in fact she has perfect control over her father. It's the stepmother she has issues with, which goes back to the whole issue of the lack of desirable female characters in the Labyrinth, but I won't repeat that again.
Going back to the issue of Jareth as a paternal figure...I believe that he is not only a replacement for Sarah's feelings of anger and jealousy towards her father, but indeed any overwhelming, negative emotion--resentment, guilt, misplaced sexual urges, etc. He is essentially a sounding-board for any feelings she has for her father. Since she is probably reluctant to display negative emotions to her father (whom, we must remember, is her only connection to stability, since her life is in the normal teenage state of upheaval and chaos...she wants to maintain his approval of her), she creates Jareth as a means of releasing her pent-up frustration towards the former. He simulates the role that her father ought to have, and gives her an outlet on which to release the negative feelings she has towards her father.
She is naturally a very emotional person, and this intensity of emotion is funneled into Jareth...ie, she is emotional, so he is too. She is naturally loyal, therefore he is obsessively devoted. She is slightly vain and self-centered, so he is an arrogant, preening peacock. Any character traits she possesses are heightened and magnified to a ludicrous degree. He is a parody of her less admirable personality traits.
I am of two minds concerning Jareth's emotional state. One is that he is indeed cold and distant, and highly intellectual in his thought processes. The other is that he is tempermental and impulsive, frequently engaging in fits of rage, vanity, enthusiasm, and any other passionate emotion. He's almost schizophrenic in that regard...like he switches from one frame of mind (distant) to the other (passionate) in leaps and bounds. There is no halfway with him. This form of bipolarity is perfectly synchronous with the personality of a teenager...they blow hot and cold with no warning. I'm leaning more towards the tempermental, emotional Jareth...while he was in love with Sarah from a distance, I can guarantee you it was not a situation of his own choosing. His poor communications skills made him if anything more overeager and aggressive, not timid or restrained.
The Labyrinth revolves around cycles, many of which are destructive. Sarah creates a place of growth in her mind to relieve herself of the stagnation of her nonproductive real life. The Labyrinth evolves out of need--need for love, power, wisdom, balance, whatever you can think to name, but it is very real. Not that the place itself is real (I'm not THAT much of an obsessive nutcase), but the subconscious void that each aspect of the Labyrinth fills, is real. Sarah's feelings are very real to her, and that is what makes the Labyrinth real. Feelings become solid, and transformed into different aspects of her little fantasy world. And Jareth is at the center of it all. However, since they are both strong-willed, and basically both mirror and enhance each other's worst attributes, her little dream bubble is burst.
It can be observed that in the Escher room, when Jareth is singing, "everything I've done I've done for you," he passes directly through Sarah, seeming to dissipate into air, then is solid again. This can be interpreted as his wish to not only be physically inside of Sarah (ie, intercourse), but inside her mind as well. He appears stern and menacing during the song, but with a tinge of wistfulness as well. He clearly wishes for things to be different, but as long as he is in the villainous role, he will continue to menace Sarah.
When Jareth offers, "Just let me rule you, and you can have everything that you want," suppose Sarah took him up on that offer? Not in the "Great, forget Toby, I'll stay with you" kind of way...more like "Okay, fine...I'd like Toby back safe and sound, and I want us both to go home." I suppose it never occured to her to ask THAT...Sarah is not a very bright individual, is she? I mean, if she took his offer literally (which she certainly could do...he didn't say "Let me rule you, and I'll give you your dreams"...the offer was unquantifiable and theoretically limitless) she could have been home in bed in two shakes of Sir Didymus' tail. Sarah really isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer...things like that simply don't occur to her. Of course, that could also stem back to her poor communications skills. Jareth also phrases his words in a rather cryptic style...these people need debate lessons and some good solid English Lit. behind them!
I've had the question posed over how Hoggle knew Sarah's name ("Oh, it's you.") when she met him, er, relieving himself. If we consider the fact that Sarah created the Labyrinth and its ruler, then she must have created all the other characters as well (given them "personality" and suchlike). This would explain why Sir Didymus is so stereotyped, why Ludo has the verbal sophistication of a parrot, and why the goblins have no personality or character development outside of injuring each other and drinking. She spent most--or all--of her creative energies on Jareth (and may I add, I can hardly blame her). She just didn't bother with characters besides Jareth and Hoggle. Anyway, since Sarah created Jareth to be aware of her, and know her name, it stands to reason the rest of the characters in the Labyrinth do (except Ludo, but then again he's not real bright either).
But again, why spend any time on the development of Hoggle's personality? He's hardly the most appealing character in terms of appearance (no offense meant to dwarfs everywhere, or to the Hoggle Estrogen Brigade that I'm sure at this very moment is out for blood, if--heavens preserve us--such a thing exists. Hey, if they made one for Yoda...); he even is briefly traitorous and deceitful. Hoggle is, as previously stated, the flip side to Jareth...the constructive paternal figure to Jareth's destructive figure. He is a necessary device to balance out Jareth's negative role. And the treachery is taken as a matter of course...perhaps she is accustomed to this sort of behavior from her parents (constant disappointment and the like) so she naturally creates manipulative, deceitful parental characters that reflect this aspect of her life. Rather sad, but "that's the way it is."
Another thing I've noticed is the interpretation of "friends" in the film. Sarah takes the word for basically what it is: platonic comradery. Hoggle and Jareth seem to attach special significance to the word, almost akin to love. They see a "friend" as being a rare, special relationship with one person at a time, and are extremely competitive with each other, fighting for the privilege of being called Sarah's friend. And when Sarah introduces Ludo to Hoggle as being a "friend" as well, Hoggle's reaction is, "What??" He's amazed, indignant, and probably hurt...he thinks he's being replaced.
This would also explain Jareth's intensely jealous reaction to Sarah considering Hoggle a friend...he has the same interpretation as the dwarf, and is incredibly wounded, because he feels he deserves the title far more than Hoggle does. I mean, he went to all the trouble to set up the challenge for her, right? He's the one who's desperately in love with her, right? He's the one with the tight pants, right? Who does this "repulsive little scab" think he is, to have a chance with a girl like Sarah? Granted, she's not exactly Audrey freakin' Hepburn, but he either a) doesn't know this; b) is fully aware, but doesn't care (love is blind); or c) is fully aware, doesn't like being in love with her, but there's not really much for it, because she's calling the shots. I'm going with column C, on a sesame-seed bun.
Something else I have noticed in the film (as doubtless have countless others) is the amount and variety of various fertility symbols displayed with unerring frequency throughout the film: the balls, the snake, the cane, the peach, and Bowie's pants. As the snake and the pants have already been covered in other dissertations (especially the pants), I shall concentrate on the peach and cane, opposite symbols of the feminine and masculine, respectively.
From the moment Jareth tosses the peach to Hoggle, telling him to give Sarah the fruit, the whole scene is immediately transported back to that neopsychological classic, Adam and Eve. Substituting a peach (the Chinese symbol of fertility) for the immortal apple, we are given a modern spin on the oldest story known, with Jareth in the role of seducer. He claims, "It's a present," and indeed it is, for with that peach he means to deliver Sarah to maturity (if you will).
Before browbeating the reluctant Hoggle into being the instrument to Sarah's presumed downfall, he displays jealousy towards the dwarf (for Sarah's love, or at least positive attention), and acts incredibly competitive towards him, much in the same way any male would. He then does what any male competing for the attention of a female would do--intimidates the competition. He physically accosts Hoggle, demeans him, and acts incredulous that Sarah would show any interest in him, thereby attempting to winnow him out. The cane is the method by which he acheives (or attempts to acheive) the threat display. Now in full bluff mode, he thrusts his cane into Hoggle's chest, in a classic male "my cane is bigger than your cane" pose. Methinks our dear Jareth is feeling very insecure, and feels the need to harass weaker creatures to make himself feel superior (as every villain does, and as he's cast in the classic villain role...). This becomes especially obvious if you remember the owl part of Jareth; the term "threat display" takes on a whole new meaning, if you add into all this natural mating instincts of various species of birds.
Another view of the peach could be that, if it is a feminine symbol, and Jareth gives it to Sarah, could it be a way of showing her his softer side? Or perhaps an attempt at a passive form of control? Or perhaps an attempt at a passive form of control? It could also be interpreted as Jareth attempting to give Sarah her femininity and sexuality (after she eats it, she becomes aware of Jareth sexually, and is conscious of the lewd behaviour of the ballroom inhabitants. Compare that with her uncertain reaction to the Wise Man's hat wolf-whistling at her.). Either way, he is attempting to get in touch with his feminine side (I mean, in less obvious ways than the Revlon look).
You may notice, at first he offers her any number of dominant male symbols, but after awhile, he switches to the feminine symbols of the peach and the oubliette. You will please also notice, that the peach is actually a masculine symbol (crystal ball) in disguise, and after the fantasy ballroom is shattered, Sarah wakes up with a masculine symbol (caterpillar, or worm) crawling out of her feminine symbol!
It has also been pointed out that the labyrinth may in fact be yonical (or feminine), a theory which helps to counterbalance the more frequently displayed and more obviously positioned phallic (masculine) symbols prevelant in the film. Jareth's rule over his dominion asserts his sexual status, that he is in control of not only his own sexuality, but that of others (most notably Sarah's), and is a confirmation of the mature role that Sarah has cast him in; it asserts control over femininity (whether his own or others, it is difficult to say).
Another yonical symbol is the oubliette. A dank, dark pit that Sarah falls into with the assistance of the (continued theme) masculine Helping Hands. After falling into her symbolic femininity, she is confused and frightened, and wants to leave. This can be interpreted as Sarah fearing puberty (okay, am I scaring you yet?), which is only abated after the male character Hoggle (another pseudo-father figure) appears and throws some light on the subject.
Assuming that the father-figure is there to assist her in acquiring familiarity with her femininity (or at least not making it quite so frightening), which is socially the role of the father, to introduce their children into a larger cultural whole (i.e., growth, as opposed to the mother-figure, who historically symbolizes the negative aspect of regression), then Hoggle acheives his goal, which unfortunately backfires on him. Using her newfound femininity, Sarah bribes him with a feminine object (bracelet), and shortly afterwards emotionally castrates him by taking his "jewels". It is only when Hoggle proves his nobility (i.e. masculinity) by defeating Humongous, that she returns his "jewels" to him, essentially returning his manhood. Also, you will notice that she does not leave the oubliette the same way she entered; that would be regression.
One can interpret Hoggle and Jareth as representing two sides of the same coin: both the constructive and destructive potential of paternal figures. In this way they directly mirror each other. They both want to take care of Sarah and see that she doesn't come to harm. However, where Hoggle is concerned with external harm (her physical safety and concern for the feelings she displays), Jareth is concerned with internal harm: her subconscious. He knows that, just as he "can't live within" her, she cannot live without him, and he tries repeatedly to make Sarah see it. Unfortunately, since he does not have the greatest communications skills and since he cannot express himself constructively, his message is dismissed. Hoggle, though a cowardly, grumpy little thing, is still preferable to Jareth's glamorous intensity, and she essentially chooses him over Jareth. Or should I say, she chooses the constructive paternal image over the destructive one (because Jareth's love, no matter how sincere, is too constricting, and allows no room for growth).
During the ballroom scene, it can be observed how awestruck Sarah behaves in Jareth's presence. This is most likely due to her absolute shock and astonishment at the situation unfolding before her. She did not fully realize the consequences of her actions; she created a man to have complete power over, a man far older than her, and she is most likely now expecting that man to behave as timid and hesitantly towards her as she would him. Instead, she has a sexually eager adult male responding to her, and she realizes she is far in over her head. All of her myths about love and romance involved a discreet, proper courtship, and they are now being shattered. Jareth is fortunately throughout the film a gentleman (at least outwardly), but for that moment in the ballroom she glimpses how naturally predatory men are capable of being; the femininity she has acquired comes with a price. And so she takes another step towards adulthood: she learns that love does not always have pure intentions, and physical maturity requires emotional and mental maturity as well (if only all teenages could learn what she does).
In the same scene, there is a point where some sort of creature pops out of a trunk and seems to frighten or startle her, after which Jareth appears and promises to always be there for her and love and pprotect her from, essentially, herself. The creature is unusually...phallic in nature (dammit Freud, won't you just die or something?), and she is only soothed and distracted by Jareth's presence. Interesting. One could, if one was so inclined (or if one was bored or perverted enough, heh heh) say that Sarah is afraid of sex, and her own sexual urges, but Jareth's appearance distracts her from the creature (and the laughing crowd, which could represent peer pressure) and she is willing to engage in such an activity with him, because he is a parental figure, and therefore safe. Twisted, I know, but since when are teenagers (and the various mental trappings they contain) sane?
There is also the issue of the ring Sarah drops into the Wise Man's box (and indeed the Wise Man himself). The ring itself is an obvious feminine symbol (not yonical, as it does not have a sexual association with it), and Hoggle expresses dismay at her freely giving away this symbol, because he obviously wished to possess it himself. Hmm. The Wise Man is a character archetype--the Hermit--that is prominent in tarot symbology. The Hermit symbolises wisdom, and is yet another fatherly type...another sign of Sarah's wish for a male figure in her life. This goes back to Sarah's fondness for folklore, while his hat is yet another phallic symbol, and an aggressive one at that; it actively expresses interest in her femininity (if not her sexuality, which has yet to fully develop...the ballroom scene has not yet taken place!), an action she is clearly not comfortable with.
Another theory on the structure of the Labyrinth goes along with the whole "Sarah as God" concept. Remember that three hours in Standard Earth Time equals 12 hours in Labyrinth time...a LOT of years may have gone by in the Labyrinth since Sarah first created it. Assuming that Sarah has created the Labyrinth as her own personal dimension, and that she has created its inhabitants (namely Jareth, of course) to have her own personality traits, it would follow that these inhabitants might have at one point considered her their "creator" and worshiped her, in a way, or at least acknowledged her as their creator. At the very least, they are aware of her existence, since Hoggle and Jareth both recognize her. The former seems to have lost his faith in this "God" long ago. Hoggle is disdainful when he first meets her, in a familiar way. He also seems rather bitter, and has quite a few issues with trust. In other words, he seems to have the attitude of a cynical atheist; a former true believer whose faith has been shattered.
The entire Labyrinth thrives on chaos, which is defined as an absence of a unifying force; in other words, God. Since their God is a very unstable, inconsistent deity, the inhabitants lose their faith in this God. Except for Jareth. Since their changes coincide (they are part of each other), he adapts to the shifting nature of God, and keeps his faith. However, having the free will that his God so generously gave him, the irrational nature of a teenager, and since she also created him to love her and he is thus obsessed with her, he chooses some highly illogical methods of attempting to prove his devotion. I could throw in a few comments about sacrificing babies to appease God, but I believe I shall refrain from doing so. Since his character traits are so similar to her own, it is essentially akin to her worshipping herself!
Sarah created Jareth in her own (internal) image, and placed him on a pedestal. He in turn does the same with her. He is a father figure to her while technically in the role of her child, while she is a romantic figure to him while technically in the role of his mother! Holy Oedipal complex, Batman! He is also an airy, magical figure imbibed with mystery and a hint of the unknown. In essence, Jareth is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all rolled into one!
p>I was just re-reading the original rough draft for Labyrinth. Aside from being excruciatingly painful to read (Jareth Version 1.0 is terribly, eye-rollingly cliched and stereotyped), it does bring up an interesting concept: Hoggle's jealous streak. I earlier mentioned that Hoggle and Jareth seem to regard each other as competitors for Sarah's attention, and all their meetings have them eyeballing each other in a wary way. However, in the rough draft it makes it clear that Hoggle's jealousy is not just limited to Jareth...it's extended to any potential rival for Sarah's attentions; for example, Ludo. Hoggle actually seems to initially view the large, furry monster as competition (and I'm not just talking friendly competition here; I mean, as in the same light that he views Jareth: romantic impediment).
Seems he's getting a wee bit paranoid! I mean, come ON! Does he honestly think she'd dump him--let alone Jareth (who no offense has a LOT more to offer in the looks department!)--for this "walking carpet" (to borrow a Star Wars phrase)?? He must be really desperate here! Jareth even encourages his paranoia in this regard, by telling him that since Sarah has Ludo as a friend, she no longer needs Hoggle (although I REALLY don't think he needs to connect the dots for us; we can figure it out from accompanying dialogue, thank you). Ludo has the emotional and mental capabilities of a three-year old child, and Sarah gives every indication of treating him as such. Where did Hoggle possibly get that far-fetched feather-brained idea? We know Jareth didn't give it to him, since his suspicions are mentioned in first meeting Ludo, with the Goblin King out of the picture (and if Jareth had done it, you'd know...he's got too big an ego not to leave his pawprints all over a piece of manipulation like that) It boggles the mind!
Although it does bring up another interesting point to chew on...I would LOVE to work on an analysis--a detailed analysis--of the differences between the rough draft, novelization and film version; the differences between the three of them, and the implications thereof. Wouldn't that be just fascinating mind candy? I read the rough draft, and although there were occasionally (okay, frequently) parts that made me wince--"My Queen"? Blech!--it was VERY interesting, from a psychological perspective. The smallest twist can create the greatest change of perspective, and there were a LOT of changes between the rough draft and the film version! Really quite an eye-opener to how the whole situation could be perceived.
One thing that I quite did like, and actually wish they'd kept, was the hall of moving pictures (although it would have been absurdly expensive to reproduce, without making it look completely cheesy). I can see why they cut a lot of the original ideas out (although you can see obvious remnants of what WAS left in the film): it simply would have blown their budget! I read someplace that the total Labyrinth budget was $25 million dollars, and although I bet a good chunk of that was David Bowie's salary...that's an awful lot of money for one cheesy kid's film from 1986 (and bear in mind it would have been actually filmed in 1985!).
Also (I know this has nothing to do with the actual analysis; I can't help myself), upon reading the rough draft, my eyebrows shot to my hairline quite a few times. It was a heck of a lot more suggestive than the final version! Frequent mentions of Jareth's lust for Sarah (which thank God was cut from the movie...leaves a lot more to the imagination), blatant groping and phallic imagery in the ballroom scene (granted, tons of phallic imagery is left in the movie, but not as BLATANT as in the rough draft, trust me), dialogue peppered with cursing, and Jareth actually attempting to lead Sarah to his bedchamber at the end!
I wonder if they had decided that the character was going to be a minor at that point, hmm? Because they do have things like, oh, morality clauses in movies (granted, they're practically nonexistent nowadays, but I assume that since this movie was intended to be marketed to kids...), and the stuff I was reading made such frequent use of sexual innuendo, I guarantee that anyone, no matter how young, dumb, or morally chaste, would pick it up in a heartbeat. The rough draft, if left complete and untouched, would have garnered a PG-13, at minimum. The Fieries scene is also a lot more violent and disturbing, with definate (not just imagined or even implied) similarities to gang rape. And I'm not even getting into the theft and use of alcoholic beverages for illicit purposes.
The rough draft also made a good deal more of Jareth's potential romantic status, while at the same time implying that he didn't have a real speck of interest in her, outside of manipulating her. Now that's cold. True, the moral of the story is that life isn't fair, and not to take anything for granted, but...that's an AWFULLY harsh lesson to be hammering into young children. It is, after all, a fairy tale, and by overstating that concept, you just create a feeling of bleakness and despair. Jareth's apparent sincerity in the film makes him a lot more sympathetic; he's a likable villain, goshdarn it!
Whereas Jareth in the rough draft is a lot more one-dimensional...he doesn't have the added depth, the restraint (RD Jareth all but has Sarah sit on his lap), the near-poignancy of Film Jareth. Sure, he's an evil villain who's bent on controlling Sarah through any means possible and is willing to do anything to achieve his goal, but...you can sense the desperation in his motives, the sincerity, and, yes, the genuine love he feels for the object of his twisted affections. You can actually sort of relate to, and feel for him.
Rough Draft Jareth doesn't give a damn either way. He even prostitutes himself to Sarah as a concilitory prize for getting through the Labyrinth, instead of giving back Toby, by offering her his kingdom, her place at his side, and oh yeah, him (*wink wink*). No wonder she punched him in the face; I'd have done the same thing.
The rough draft also makes no mention of the idea that she created Jareth out of her subconscious, an idea which thankfully was injected into the film; it gives him so much added depth and interest, ya know? Rather, he's introduced as "Robin Zakar", and claims to be the author of the terrible hack romance novel masquerading as a "play", that Sarah is fond of (whether his claim is true or not, is never verified). For some reason she lets him in her house (early signs of Sarah's overall stupidity rearing its ugly head), and he immediately gets into her parents' liquor cabinet and starts hitting on her. May I say for all of the general female population out there: Ew, ew, EW! Words cannot express my eternal gratitude to Henson and Co. for deciding to change this particularly yicky premise. And if I were Rough Draft Sarah, I'd have cracked out the Mace soon as he started to set up camp on her sofa with the booze. I am SO glad they decided to retain SOME element of class and dignity to the film. We don't need to see the grim realities of pedophilia laid out in such painstaking detail, thank you very much. Honestly...does any normal healthy female out there believe that THAT version of Jareth would have held the slightest bit of appeal for her, seeing it at the tender, vulnerable age of thirteen or so? I didn't think so (heck, it wouldn't appeal to me, and I didn't see Labyrinth til I was nineteen!). I'd like to think that Jareth is at least a tad more subtle and refined, than to be reduced to filching liquor from a minor's parents' cabinet! He's the King of the Goblins, for crying out loud...doesn't that imply a certain dignity to his manners and behaviour? For shame.
In all, the rough draft struck me as being a lot darker, more sinister, and overly sexualized than the version we now have to cherish. Jareth's motives were far from pure; he didn't have the slightest hint of good intentions in them. I doubt he had a decent bone in his flamboyant little body. He enjoyed manipulating Sarah, but made it pretty clear he had no real regard for her. He was a hollow, cardboard villain...and that says some pretty sad things about Sarah's imagination, doesn't it (true, we're never told that he's from her mind, but still...)? I imagine that the film was intended to be more along the lines of Dark Crystal: The Musical! and a lot of the more comedic elements were added to the later versions.
This must also have been a very rough draft, although it's clear the part is still written for David Bowie (who thankfully adds his own unique flair to the role, so Jareth isn't just The Bad Guy), because a lot of the stuff in it is just shudderingly bad! I cannot thank enough whoever took away all of that sappy, pseudo-romantic crap during the ballroom scene, where Jareth practically proposes on the spot (and it's still all completely hollow and chilling, without an ounce of genuine love or admiration or even respect in his words to her). His only interest in her was based on an all-consuming desire to control and manipulate her, and he's almost fanatic in his quest for power. He's not just misguided, he's downright evil, without any signs of remorse or sorrow for what could have been, or anything indicating something besides calculation and deceit. The only signs of potential humanity in him, is his lecherous attitude towards Sarah and his little drinking problem (which can't really be classified as humanity, only a weakness for human vices). In short, he's The Bad Guy. Period. He has no other facets to his personality, and abject evil is his defining characteristic.
The one essential difference between FilmJareth and RD Jareth, is the control issue. FilmJareth is controlled by Sarah, however indirectly, and all of his actions and feelings are dictated by this control. In contrast, RD Jareth is completely free from Sarah's grasp, and behaves as he pleases, usually with catastrophic results for Sarah. It is never hinted that Sarah has any control over RD Jareth, not even at the end. She is never the master of her destiny; she stumbles into victory, instead of earning it. This makes Sarah even weaker than she appeared in the film. Instead of merely appearing a victim and a martyr, she really is one. She comes off as a bit vain and cocksure at the beginning, but things quickly snowball until they are completely uncontrollable, and she is forced to wring her hands helplessly at the injustice of it all. She even nearly falls prey to an older man's sexual urges--you can't get more victimized than that.
FilmSarah is very different. The mere fact that she possesses control over Jareth gives her a bit more equal footing, and it becomes an actual struggle of wills, as opposed to her simply fighting against the tide. In fact, RD Jareth appears so overwhelmingly powerful, it is seemingly incredible that she has managed to put a single chink in his armor, let alone defeat him utterly. We simply can't believe she has accomplished such a thing, and this lends a sense of ridicule to the whole scenario...it's unrealistic, and therefore, poorly written. Instead of asking, "How will she defeat him?" the question is, "How CAN she defeat him?" She hasn't a single weapon in her arsenal...she doesn't appear especially intelligent or level-headed. She attains emotional and mental maturity at an absurd rate at the end (which means it's probably a good idea for the film to establish that she is indeed still a young girl, and not suddenly a sophisticated adult), to the point where you wonder when on earth she aquired such adept social and verbal skills in her quest. Hanging around Ludo and Hoggle is not the best way to improve your grammatical abilities.
But FilmSarah is more realistic. Since she intially does possess a certain amount of control over Jareth (not complete control, but just enough), it is plausible that she can defeat him eventually. She also is not glamorized at the end, or transformed into InstAdult, with enough maturity and wit for a dozen Lauren Bacalls. She remains what she was at the beginning: a dreamy, idealistic 15-year old girl (albeit a bit disillusioned, and less whiny, thank the gods) who just happens to have an imagination to rival Anne of Green Gables.
The overall style of the book makes me wonder if the author originally penned romance novels; not that everything is overly-sexualized (although that is an issue), but simply that the style is overblown and dramatic and badly done. Adjectives pile atop adverbs, and every detail is breathlessly (and comically) overstated. Aside from the blatant contradictions with the film, this is purely a badly-written book. Even despite the overtness of the text, sentence move at a halting, fractured pace, and frequently consist of examples like, "She waited" or "He bowed". It is repetitive and annoying.
Another example of the poor writing quality is "Blades of clouds sliced across the sky". Dammit, if you're going to write in metaphors, at least don't write contradictions. The style is both simplistic and pompous--unnecessarily long words such as "expostulated" and "vacillating" pepper the text, as though they were added merely to comply with the required reading level. The book is also loaded with such cliches as "wore a look of pained intolerance".
There are also a few frankly bizarre elements not found in the film, such as the "song" of the Helping Hands (what the fuh?), Hoggle describing the "Phony-Warnings" (it was False Alarms! How can the author get that wrong!?), the laughter-inducing forest, and not least the "back-story" involving Linda Williams and Jeremy.
I was especially disappointed with the weakening--and indeed deformation--of Jareth's character. He is transformed from the proud, fiercely independent (yet endearingly devoted) being in the film, to a sadistic one-dimensional pedophile who preys, vampire-like, on Sarah's belief. His dependence on her is not hinted at, nor even indirectly implied, but flat-out stated--we are left in no doubt that Sarah's belief in him is the only thing sustaining him, and without her psychic support he will wither away into nothing. This statement of bald fact directly contradicts the delicious ambiguity present in the film.
BookJareth is also a great deal more sexualized than FilmJareth (if that's possible sans pants); he actively lusts after Sarah, and engages in truly vile behaviour during the ballroom scene--leering and groping at Sarah, and whispering sweet deceptions into her ear. BookSarah is also schizophrenic. One minute she's like, "Oh yay, he's gonna kiss me," then two seconds later she's all, "Ew, get away from me, you creep!" This is especially puzzling when you take in the contradicting messages within the text. Growing up is presented as both a necessary evil (in terms of sexuality) and a positive step in life. In other words, growing up is great! ...Except when it comes to sex. Therefore you should be mature, but not have sexual impulses. That's one big-ass confliction, and will result in a severely warped adult in ten years' time.
That said, there is an interesting parallel made between Jeremy's gold necklace and Jareth's oddly-shaped mystic pendent. Curiouser and curiouser (!), I have read that Bowie wears a gold cross given to him by his father. Shades of real life bleeding over into the film? You be the judge.
When Sarah first meets Jareth, the text notes, "His eyes hypnotized her," and there are several other implications that Jareth has the power to mind-whammy others with his gaze. This is interesting in and of itself, as nothing in the film supports this theory.
I find it interesting that Jareth's statement "One of us" is so emphasized in the novel, implying that he is a kind of goblin. Could this possibly be used as evidence to refute the theory that Jareth is fae or sylph? Also, what are the implications in Sarah's conceptualization of her personal toy? Did she intend for him to be a goblin? Doubtful, when you consider the explicit implication that he is based on her mother's boyfriend. Or is Jareth merely using "one of us" in a general sense, as in "one of th Labyrinth's inhabitants"?
As for its canonical accuracy, I would take the novelization of Labyrinth with a grain--nay, a boulder of salt. I refer particularly to one passage claiming that Jareth sees in himself the affects of aging and so outlaws any mirrors in his kingdom. Umm, if that's the case, what about the mirrors the two women hold up on either side of his face during the ballroom scene?
Many Laby fans bemoan the eventual banishment, with their preferred ending being that Sarah and Jareth should in fact have persued their relationship. Aside from the physical impossibility (being involved with your own subconscious? Would that be psychological masturbation?), there are any number of other, less obvious factors involved, which I shall lay out for the benifit of the unconvinced.
1. Jareth is too old. David Bowie was at the time of shooting, 38. Jennifer Connelly was 15. Jim Henson's ass would have been in a sling for portraying such a relationship, as it would involve statutory rape, not to mention it's just plain icky. Even with the arguement, "But Jareth’s not really human, he's a Faerie/Goblin/other creature, so it wouldn't count!", the character of Sarah would be hesitant (if not in fact repulsed) at the idea of persuing relations with a being who is, for all intents and purposes, a human male in his mid-30s. Even if her fantasies involve this guy, she would be very reluctant toactually carry anything out, as her moral, social, and cultural code dictates such a relationship is immoral, if not in fact illegal. She's effectively jail bait.
2. Jareth is her mom's boyfriend. This is an old theory, supported by the Labyrinth novel, that people have been tossing around for some time. If you look on Sarah’s dressing mirror, you will see pictures of Sarah, the actress playing Sarah's mom, and David Bowie, all lounging around on the grass. In the novel (which I managed to read online, as it's pretty short), they mention a Jeremy (Bowie), who is a "friend" (they're secretly involved) of her mom, an actress. The novel implies that Sarah has a crush on Jeremy, whom she idolizes. So one day she picks up the Labyrinth book, thinks about the Goblin King, and imagines him to look like Jeremy. However, since he's involved with her mom, she feels guilty (albeit jealous of the competition), and locks the unattainable Jareth (read: Jeremy) away in an unsolvable maze. Nice, eh? Although it still doesn't explain the hair.
3. Sarah is too immature. Although she's improved a lot by the end of the film (most notably got less whiny, thank God), she's still not quite ready for a mature relationship. She puts away some, but not all childish things, and is still willing to invite her protagonistic pals from the Labyrinth into her life. She's still got a lot of growing up to do.
4. Jareth is too immature. Hold on, put away your flamethrowers. He is immature because he is created from an immature mind. Not to mention, he's not exactly the Prince Charming Sarah assumes him to be. I pointed out His Majesty's less endearing attributes earlier on, but it is not sufficient. He is emotionally immature, and incapable of initiating (let alone continuing) a mature relationship. He is demanding, selfish, and accustomed to getting his own way. He even throws tantrums (of a sort), and overreacts to situations with undue force (the Bog of Eternal Stench for a single kiss? Really). He bullies weaker creatures into carrying out his orders, and he resorts to bald deceit and manipulation in his dealings with Sarah. In short, not the most stable person, and certainly not someone you'd want with you on a blind date. :)
5. It's not as interesting :) C'mon, would you really want everything wrapped up in a nice, tidy, neat little package? Then it would be like every other movie out there...and we wouldn't want that, would we?
Just because I'm list-happy, I'm going to make another list, pertaining to Jareth's exact powers. We know he is capable of doing magic; we see it in the movie, when he transforms a ball into a snake, and then into a scarf. Later he not only changes another crystal into an enchanted (okay, drugged) peach, in a fit of ambition he creates the snowglobe-esque ballroom. He appears capable of walking straight up walls. What can't this sorceror do? As you will see, evidently a lot:
1. He can leave his domain only when expressly called upon, and even then the wording has to be exact. He CAN appear aboveground in owl form (more on that below), but what self- respecting Goblin King would want to hornk up partially-digested mouse parts aboveground when he can rule (okay, loosely used term) a whole Labyrinth Underground? Apparently Jareth has some sort of established curfew as well (???), because he sure hustles Sarah out of Toby's room, and doesn't waste time hanging around getting to know her ("Hey, a Cats poster! That's where I get the inspiration for my fashions, you know.").
2. He is capable of making objects materialize, and changing their shape. To wit: The ball/snake/scarf transformation, the ball-to-peach, and his constant clothes changing (covered more fully in the next paragraph) are just a few examples of his ability to metamorphasize. Not to mention the ever-present threat to turn Toby into a goblin (although the jury's still out on whether or not he would actually have carried it out...not the way to win that cute girl, Jarrie). He apparently can't, however, change their size; all the things he creates are still relatively hand-held and portable for convenience, and the goblins are all still child-sized.
3. He can change his own form into an owl. He is also, if you would believe the movie, the fastest dresser in the history of the world. Literally two minutes after singing about how he "can’t live within" Sarah, he has changed from a sleek, velveteen burgundy and black body-skimmer, to a hilarious drag-queenish (except that most drag queens take care to hide their fish n chips, if you catch me) frothy white number, that many egrets gave their lives for. I must digress from the topic for a personal comment: The first time I saw Jareth make his dramatic entrance in this costume, I nearly fell off of DC's sofa laughing. I still don't know how Sarah could keep a straight face. Anyway, it's incomprehensible that he could zip in and out of such elaborate ensembles without the aid of some fairly spiffy magic (however grossly misused the magic would be for such a purpose). Firefighters should get suited up so fast.
4. He can change his surroundings quickly, and those of other people. "It keeps changing! What am I supposed to do?" The forever altering landscape of the Labyrinth, and all the trials Sarah stumbles upon--Alph/Ralph and Tim/Jim, the doorknockers, the trap door to the Bog of Eternal Stench, and the doppelganger bedroom following her amnesia in the junkyard, not to mention the ballroom scene--are all testiments to Jareth's concept of interior decorating.
5. He can defy (or give the appearance of defying) gravity. Jareth's apparent ability to walk on water (and walls, ceilings, doors, windows, jet engines, etc) is indeed impressive, if rather flashy. One of his more impressive stunts, and one of the few that cannot be excused as a simple illusion. One wonders how he managed to learn that in the first place. Must have been trial and error ("Look at me! Look at me! Look at meeee...*thud* Ow.").
Summed up, he is capable of creating massive illusions, and that's about it. Even illusions on a grand scale (the ballroom) require his victim to be drugged and therefore vulnerable. Jareth isn't as powerful as he would like his subjects to believe; all bark and very little bite. He won't even fight one-on-one, and the climax consists of her striding confidently towards him, with him begging for his life. His "goblin army" is truly pathetic, and every bit of technology in his realm (including machine guns!) is shown to be utterly useless. The goblins can't aim decently, or even locate Sarah, Hoggle, Sir Didymus and Ludo...which makes NO sense, as Ludo is essentially a huge freakin' walking orange carpet! Wouldn't SOMEONE, even the intelligence- challenged goblins, spot him?? And Jareth is leaning out the bloody window! Surely HE could point out their location! Or does the Goblin King consider it undignified to yell out the window, "Hey guys, they're near the bushes to your right!"? Not that this would help, as I seriously doubt the goblins can tell their left from their right....
If you don't mind, I'll create another list (wow, I'm gonna be full of these soon), of Sarah and Jareth's similarities. Since Jareth was created out of Sarah's mind, it is only natural that he would share many characteristics and personality traits...as well as flaws.
1. Immaturity. Sarah is VERY immature. She whines, she pouts, she collects stuffed animals (and overreacts when one is missing), she has temper tantrums, and she expects to have her own way all the time. Jareth mirrors this, right down to the temper tantrums. His are a tad more genteel, but he still throws around crystal balls, and his own subjects, when it amuses him. He is most definately accustomed to getting his own way--what ruler isn't?--and when things do not conform to his expectations, he takes it out on the defenseless (threatening Hoggle into betraying Sarah, for example). I could give countless more examples of immaturity in both Jareth and Sarah--Sarah breaking curfew at the beginning of the movie, and Jareth's overly enthusiastic "moves" on Sarah (pants much?), but it would frankly be quite dull.
2. Impulsivity. The entire plot is started with Sarah’s impulsive request for the Goblin King to take her baby brother, and she makes quite a few headstrong decisions along the way ("I think I'm getting smarter!"). Jareth's impulsivity stems from competitive feelings towards both Sarah and Hoggle...I mean, I doubt the Cleaners was a carefully thought-out arrangement. And the entire Labyrinth changes with no notice, so...suffice to say, he thrives on variety of environment.
3. Vanity. Jareth's varied wardrobe and constant clothes-changing attests to this aspect of his personality...he must go through at least a half-dozen clothes in thirteen hours (plus accessories!), not to mention the high-maintenance make-up job. He also has a certain arrogance and, yes, flamboyance about his behaviour, that lets everyone know what a fabulous creature he thinks of himself as. Clearly overcompensation. Sarah is slightly more subtle, but she still shows signs of vanity when she creates Jareth for the purpose of being on love with her. It's a terrific boost to the ego, and she develops a bit of a swelled head about it. She is also very rude to Hoggle upon first meeting him, and makes quite a few misguided choices due to her high opinion of herself (again, falling into the oubliette after meeting Alph/Ralph and Tim/Jim), which goes back to the movie's theme of not taking anything for granted, which she does in absolute spades. I mean, the girl lives in upper-middle class suburbia, with a dream bedroom (with a canopy bed even), and she thinks she's being mistreated? Methinks someone has a skewed perception of life.
4. Poor communications skills. Sarah, being a socially backwards 15-year old, is naturally not the greatest at expressing her feelings (let alone at an adult male she has a crush on), so she either refuses to express them, or is simply incapable of it (remember how she receives incomplete directions several times, because she cannot express herself clearly). Jareth has it far worse. His communications skills are SO bad, he resorts to outright bullying tactics with his subjects, and reacts the same way towards Sarah. But Sarah can at least maintain a semblance of social skills; that is, she can't communicate very well, but she at least can relate to others without mistreating them (shown in her behaviour towards Ludo, and her friendship with the reluctant Hoggle). Jareth can't even pretend to be nice...she made him the villain (albeit charming and romantic), and that's what he's going to act like, regardless of consequences.
5. Vengefulness and jealousy. This is actually part of the immaturity, but so distinct it deserves a category of its own. Sarah is, of course, extremely jealous of the attention given to Toby, and mistreats him quite badly, wishing him away to gods know what fate (thank goodness the Goblin King is so sporting...or, maybe not). Jareth's jealousy is aimed at Hoggle, and he mistreats the dwarf, forcing him to betray Sarah with the peach. They can both be rather petty.
6. Loyalty and devotion. After all those negative traits, I'm finally getting to a postitive one...well, sort of. Both Sarah and Jareth possess loyalty and devotion, albeit Jareth's is twisted to near-unrecognition, and inclines toward obsession. Sarah is shown to be extremely loyal to the few friends she has, and refuses to abandon her quest even when offered the chance several times.
7. Great expectations. The entire film revolves around Sarah's "taking things for granted." Her expectations of the Labyrinth (and indeed Jareth himself) turn into facts. She expects him to be a great and terrible ruler, and he is accordingly menacing. She expects him to be a devoted romantic figure, and he behaves in such a fashion. But Sarah is not the only victim of an inflated ego...Jareth's expectations turn out to be his downfall. He expects Sarah will accept his offer of crystal balls (and, in turn, his vision of her life), and she refuses him. He expects her to give up early in her quest, and she perseveres. He expects all manner of impediments will prevent her success, and she marches straight to the gates (well, with a few detours along the way), demands her brother back, and returns home with her prize. Yes, they both have great expectations indeed. The only difference is, Sarah's expectations turn into fact, while Jareth's inevitably fail...they mirror his wishes, but ultimately he really does have no power over her. Sarah is the one with the power, and Jareth can only watch from the window as his little kingdom is destroyed.
List-mania strikes again! This time, it's devoted to the various specific fertility symbols (phallic, yonical, or otherwise) that frequently "pop up" (if you'll excuse the expression) in the film; appropriately enough, they are thirteen in number. For example:
1. The peach. A common Chinese symbol of fertility, and the most obvious symbol in the film, the peach is actually two fertility symbols for the price of one! The peach itself is feminine, but after the dream sequence, Sarah finds the bite in her peach has a worm in it.
2. The worm. Being long and thin, worms and caterpillars are common phallic symbols found in dreams. If you ever dream about a caterpillar, then it's definately Freudian.
3. The snake. Again, an obvious phallic symbol, and delivered in a none-too-subtle way: Jareth actually throws it at Sarah's head! Now that's desperate! The snake is also a throwback to, of course, Adam and Eve.
4. The oubliette. A yonical (feminine) symbol here, and made very obvious from accompanying dialogue; Hoggle even describes it as "the hole". The oubliette is a crucial point in the film...she finally wins Hoggle's friendship and loyalty there.
5. The Wise Man's hat. When the Wise Man notices Sarah, he exclaims with interest, "Oh, a young girl!" and the hat wolf-whistles at her, for crying out loud! Her reaction to this appreciation of her femininity is an uncertain smile...she knows it's flattering, but doesn't feel comfortable with it. She next rewards the Wise Man's advice with:
6. The ring she puts in the box. Rings are not only yonical (feminine) symbols, they’re also fertility symbols. What do people associate with rings? Marriage. And what's the original purpose of marriage? To have children. Dah-dum. The bracelet may also fall into this catagory, being a feminine object (and used to bribe a male character, no less!).
7. Toby. Can't get a more potent example of fertility symbols than a real, live baby. He's even held hostage until Sarah completes her little journey of self-discovery...I suppose he would represent her growing maternal instincts.
8. The thing in the trunk. Let me explain. When Sarah enters the ballroom, she's virtually surrounded by couples (or threesomes, if you will) making out, something she is clearly uncomfortable with. Then this thing (I don't know WHAT it is, but it's blatantly phallic) pops out of a trunk and startles her, and everyone in the ballroom starts laughing, presumably at her inexperience. At this point, the paternal figure that she has created from her mind--Jareth--shows up and starts telling her how he'll protect her and care for her, and never leave her, only this devotion carries a decided romantic tinge. Then the whole scene becomes very sinister, with Jareth becoming no longer the positive, protective paternal figure, but the negative, punishing one, and she realizes that, to put it simply, he's not a nice person. She is immediately rejective of her fantasy--the Electra-esque fantasy of being loved by the paternal figure--and literally breaks the glass of this particular dream. That's the most Freudian five minutes in the history of film.
9. The cane. Jareth carries a cane with him in certain scenes, and what are canes, boys and girls? That's right: long, stiff objects! Need I say more? He even shoves it into Hoggle's chest in an attempt to intimidate the dwarf, and is shown right before the "Dance Magic" sequence tapping his cane and running it through his hands, in a very...familiar gesture for many people (to put it delicately).
10. The crystal balls. The balls themselves are...well, balls (I don't think I have to explain that, do I?), and Jareth appears very enticing and seductive whenever he offers her her "dreams" (which essentially implies her relinquishing complete control to him). The whole set-up is rife with the potential of domination.
11. The Labyrinth itself. Labyrinths are yonical, and Jareth's reign over his own personal labyrinth implies control over Sarah's sexuality, and of persons of the feminine persuasion in general. Keep in mind Sarah has placed him in this role...this goes back to her need of strong male figures in her life. She wants him to control her, subconsciously (much easier than having to make decisions for herself), yet at the same time she knows it's not healthy, and resists all his pretty promises of eternal devotion and undying love. But anyway....
12. Humongous. Just say the name. Yeah, I thought you'd get it. An oversized, foreboding object with a decidedly masculine persona, that corners Sarah and surrounds her with long, sharp spikes. Think about it.
13. Jareth's pants. Well, you knew I'd get around to it. :)
I just realized I had neglected to include one other fertility symbol, the Cleaners (as previously noted, symbolic of violent penetration), but for the sake of consistency, I'll just go up to thirteen and be done. I do need to maintain the theme, after all.
There are two mediums within the context of Labyrinth: fantasy and reality. By necessity, the line between the two is greatly blurred, and it is difficult, if not in fact impossible, to distinguish one from the other. While this is an excellent device in terms of plot conveniences, it is terribly confusing for the target audience of young children and teenagers. In order to fully understand the film, you need to have a basic understanding of myth and psychology. Most adults do possess such an understanding; most children do not. Therefore while you may say that the movie can be appreciated by all ages, it is not strictly a children's film. Rather, it is more along the lines of Star Wars: a film intended for children, but requiring an adult's sensibilities to fully appreciate its depth and subtlety.
It is also the sort of thing that merits repeat viewings (which is probably why it has never received critical acclaim, as critics are too busy to watch the same movie several times over to review it) to fully understand the scope of the whole thing. It is, as I like to say, a deep movie that pretends to be shallow (again, like Star Wars, which is based on the old pulp space serials and classic sci-fi films of the 1950s). Therefore it can be viewed in two ways, with an eye towards two sides: either the fantasy (shallow) side, or the reality (deep) side. This is the secret of its longevity. It can be appreciated on multiple, even countless levels, and endlessly analyzed for meaning. It can also be watched as a silly kid's film; a guilty pleasure for high school and college students who feel they ought to have "grown out of this kinda stuff" years ago. Yet those same college students could easily get a hefty psychology thesis out of the film. Heck, even someone such as myself, with no formal training in psychology, can manage dozens of pages of material based on it.
The line between fantasy and reality is most clearly noticeable in Sarah's room, where the two mediums mesh. While it is nearly impossible to attempt to calculate every item in Sarah's room, while also measuring its impact and influence on her little world, I shall make a fair attempt. From the most obvious to the more subtle, hopefully every detail will be catalogued and remarked on. If I miss any...hey, it is only a movie. Note: I will not be comparing themes in Sarah's life to the Labyrinth...that would take far too much time. I am simply making note of solid objects in her room, and their Labyrinthian counterpart.
1. The Escher poster. Duh. The most obvious thing. A big poster right fair smack on the wall...you notice it right off the bat.
2. The Sir Didymus toy. Sir Didymus.
3. The Ludo toy.
4. The Hoggle bookend. Hoggle. (This is getting fairly repetitive.)
5. Merlin. Ambrosius. (True, he's never exactly in her room, but still...)
6. The Jareth "fashion" doll on her desk. Everyone's favorite villain with flair.
7. The little green toy labyrinth. Duh.
8. Where The Wild Things Are. Ludo, and also Toby's unfortunate wardrobe.
9. The stuffed toy Fierys and goblins. The...well, Fierys and goblins.
10. The tiny dancer in the glass. Sarah's costume in the ballroom scene, and in a larger sense, the ballroom itself.
11. The Wizard of Oz and Alice In Wonderland books. Basically the whole plot.
12. The Cats poster on her wall. This may seem like an odd addition, but note that Jareth's slinky style and general manner are not unfeline in appearance.
13. The Evita poster. Am I the only one to have noticed this? It's never mentioned anywhere else, yet to me it's obvious. Evita starts as a 15-year old girl who dreams of fame and winds up with a very powerful ruler (dictator, even) of an economically backwards country, and is beloved of the citizens. See the similarities? Curiously enough, both it and Cats were written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. They are they only two plays (besides the fictional Labyrinth) referred to in the entire film. I don't know what THAT means within the whole Labyrinth mythos...if you figure something out, tell me.
14. The Disney Robin Hood sticker. I bet this was the original concept for Sir Didymus, only a little more ridiculous. It certainly goes along with Sarah's whole "noble hero" ideal.
15. The wallpaper. Rather reminiscent of the Fiery's forest, eh?
16. The "Cleaners" game. This is only visible on the DVD version.
It was recently brought to my attention, that while I have made a list as to Jareth's specific powers, the exact nature of the extent of Jareth's powers has not been addressed; namely, the question of whether or not Jareth possesses omnipotence.
In order to discuss such a subject, we must first be aware of the exact meaning of the word "omnipotent"; namely: "all-powerful, almighty, godlike, sovereign, supreme, unrestricted, divine, unlimited", and that's just from the computer thesaurus. This doubtlessly tells us that a being which possesses omnipotence is truly without limits, be they physical, mental, or spiritual. In order to be classified as omnipotent, you must have full control, not only over others, but control over the self, and perfect control at that.
Jareth clearly does not possess such control, for a number of reasons. He is created by Sarah...his character traits have been dictated by her. She has created his personality, and in doing so she also indirectly controls his actions.
Besides her initial creation of him (and the automatic control that implies), she also created him for the express purpose of being in love with her. Now, in order to be sincerely in love (which I do believe Jareth was...it was a sick, obsessed kind of love, but it was damned sincere), you have to relinquish power to the object of your affections (which, come to think of it, would explain the mutual-enslavement deal he offered her...love me forever, and I will love you, that sort of thing. Of course, since he's the villain, it's phrased in a rather sinister way...but anyway...). Point being...the very fact that he is in love with her, automatically voids any chance of omnipotence. Love can be a form of weakness, and it ESPECIALLY is in Jareth's case...it's very scary, knowing your well-being is tied to the subconscious of a 15-year old girl!
In order to be omnipotent, you have to be capable of doing quite literally anything, and any sign of weakness would automatically suck the omnipotence from you. Thus you cannot have corrupt omnipotence (which has been suggested). The old axiom, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" is inherantly impossible, for corruption in and of itself is a weakness, and therefore with it, you cannot obtain omnipotence! And Jareth appears to be fairly corrupt...he's very self-absorbed, and is capable of doing immoral things to acheive his goals.
Omnipotent beings are capable of doing quite literally whatever the hell they feel like. I'm not just talking about physical control; raise the dead, reorder the stars, "turn the world upside down", etc. I'm talking about mental and emotional control. They would have perfect control over every aspect of their lives, and would be undefeatable (which technically isn’t possible for villains, as they are inevitably defeated). They would have honed their lives to an art, and made everything in their image (which Jareth tries his damndest to do, but then again, he's not omnipotent). Jareth does not have control over his emotions...he reacts to situations with great intensity. He possesses human feeling, because he was created by an emotionally charged teenage girl, and she has created him with her own personality traits.
In addition to the various technical impossibilites of Jareth's potential omnipotent state, there is also the less imperative question: Why? I mean, is seeing Jareth as this almost-invincible super-being who is equipped with God-like powers more interesting than seeing the fragile, lovesick villain, who is fallible and flawed? *cough* Uh-huh. The problem with omnipotence is, it leaves no room for humanity. And Jareth had humanity by the bucketload (even if he wasn't actually human); he was riddled with character flaws. I mean, obsession, jealousy, immaturity, lack of social skills, controlling nature...the man has problems that could fill a textbook.
It's about getting inside the mind of a completely desperate, emotionally impaired person...if you think about it, Jareth is actually a sociopath who is unable to express his feelings in a constructive manner. Maybe it's just the psychology bit, but a flawed character is much more interesting than a character capable of anything and everything. Nobody's perfect. Perfect is boring. And the perfect, ultimate villain is just as boring as the perfect, infallible hero. I mean, if he's omnipotent, why does he lose?
I will now go into the subject of Jareth and the theoretical potential of immortality. In discussions with other fans, some have formed the opinion that Jareth may be immortal. This is of course not the same as omnipotent. Immortals aren't all-powerful; they simply don't die. They can be injured, or even chopped into a thousand pieces, but each of those pieces are still alive. Gruesome, but it makes sense. Admittedly, Jareth possessing immortality is an appealing concept, especially for a young girl...an immortal being can never leave you, and can thus theoretically be with you forever. However, I do find one basic flaw with the idea of Jareth's theoretical immortality...Sarah. Jareth is out of Sarah's mind, and basically exists while she does. While he could have eternal youth (or at least never age during Sarah's life span) I doubt he could actually be immortal and never die. That would imply that Sarah is immortal as well...and we know that ain't happening.
Then again, it does bring up the idea of "certain powers". What exact powers DID he give her (as she claims)? Perpetual youth? Small amounts of magic? Obviously something was going on, because she had the ability to summon his subjects to take away Toby. However, I don't think that they were in close enough contact for him to have personally granted her wishes...I do believe that she had never set eyes on him until he showed up in her parent's bedroom.
You can theoretically age as an immortal. In one myth, Apollo fell in love with a woman named Sybil, and granted her wish: to live as many years as there were grains in a pile of sand. He then offered her youth (without which the first gift would be merely an affliction), if she accepted him as a lover. She proudly refused, and lived to be a decrepit thousand years old. So we can see that immortality (or even very long life) does not automatically imply eternal youth in the bargain.
Also, to clarify: Immortality is not a transitory situation, controlled by whim or fancy. That is to say, Sarah could not have created him to have temporary immortality, that she could always revoke whenever she liked, simply because it's too convoluted. Why would you create someone to be immortal, just to take it away whenever you feel like? *poof* "You're immortal!" *poof* "Whoops, sorry! Not anymore!" He would be constantly shuttling back and forth between mortality and immortality...he is not under the influence of the most consistent person here. He's being controlled by a teenage girl (I think that reason, if any, is why we should feel sorry for Jareth *g*), a very impulsive, temperamental teenage girl, and to be in such a constant fluxing state of limbo would be a nightmare. Sarah didn't create him for the purpose of torture...she was really quite fond of him, and I hope she would not treat her little creation like that. The whole concept is far-fetched.
I think that Jareth operates by the "Velveteen Rabbit" rule...that she believed in him so much, for so long, he finally became real (sort of...the entire crux of the film is open to interpretation). I don't believe Sarah had any physical control over him...limiting him via magical means, or anything like that. It was more of a subconscious control. She took it for granted, if you'll pardon the expression, that he would behave in the manner that he did, and so he was confined to her expectations. Maybe that was how Hoggle originally served Jareth, by attempting to undermine these expectations, and give him more control over her.
Because they're not equals...she controls him, and he manipulates her. The relationship (if you can call it that) is based on deceit and mutual obsession...hardly the healthiest foundation. In that respect, it's actually quite tragic...she's created this seemingly demonic being who is desperately in love with her, and she's in way, way over her head. In order to fix the situation (and this does need to be fixed), she has to "clean up after herself", so to speak, and banish Jareth from her mind.
I'm not the most emotional person...I tend to function more on an intellectual basis. Therefore, I see no problem or emotional conflict in stating that the idea of Sarah and Jareth "together" is just a bad idea. Sure, it's more romantic or whatever, to think of them potentially living "happily ever after", but it's completely impractical, because such a resolution is impossible. It's an attractive fantasy, but no more than that. Therefore, it's unsatisfactory.
I personally don't think it's a good idea for Sarah and Jareth to "get together", as it were...it's unhealthy in so many ways. They're both emotionally immature and co-dependent, they have a 23-year age gap (I'm officially considering Jareth as 38, at least physically, since that's how old Bowie was during filming), and the whole situation is so incredibly Freudian it's unreal. Not to mention the small fact that he doesn't exist...any actual relationship would be physically impossible. That is, he's real in her subconscious...am I making your head spin? I have lots of complicated theories about this silly kid's movie...I'm sure they'll eventually all make it into the analysis.
I feel rather sorry for Jareth, because really, it's not his fault (it's not really her fault either, but that's for another day). He was created by her out of ego and a subconscious martyrdom, and he is now desperately in love with her, even though he probably doesn't really enjoy the experience, and now he has to further indulge her desire for self-pity by acting as the menacing villain and essentially become sacrificed for the sake of preserving her ego, and the entire time he attempts to gain some semblance of control over her to prevent his own theoretical destruction or potential banishment, and it's not fair. Come to think of it, perhaps that's what they mean by "it's not fair"...the entire situation of Jareth being under her control and all. It's not fair...but she created him that way, so that's what he's going to be like, and act like. He is limited by her mind. Period.
I just got a very interesting idea. Sarah is 15 years old, and creates a fantasy world. When most young children create a fantasy world complete with plot, the villain in the story is decidedly evil, with no other dimension to them. Sarah, being older (if not more mature) makes her villain three-dimensional, and gives him sex appeal and charisma. He has personality. I wonder how long she has been in the process of creating Jareth. Since she was twelve or so? Younger than that? Or has he been in development for literally years, and has grown and changed in character since she was very young? I should think it would be VERY interesting to have seen this character at the beginning of his life (so to speak), when she first created him. He may well have been vastly different, and almost certainly far less sophisticated in personality. And no, I don't mean that he has a sophisticated attitude, or is in fact mature. For once I'm not contradicting myself. I mean that the character must have been not as psychologically complex in his nascence.
Because he really is a fabulous character, isn't he? I think we all agree (or at least most of us) that Jareth is the real reason we all love this movie (for varying reasons, of course...or maybe not). I mean besides appearance, he's a deep and interesting character. He behaves in an evil manner, yet seems truly, sincerely regretful of the antagonistic role he plays. He seems all-powerful, yet a few words from a mere girl rob him of this power in seconds. He's the only human-like creature in a fantasy world (I'm not saying he IS human...I don't know what Sarah's created him to be), yet he rules over a bunch of idiot goblins, a role he seems to simply loathe. He's also by turns aggressive and shy, masculine and feminine, powerful and weak. He's just a mass of paradoxes that can be endlessly examined, and to top it all off Sarah created him for the purpose of being in love with her, so he has that handicap right off the bat. It's not fair. Ooh, I love this movie.
I'm very narrow when it comes to my view of Jareth's character. I see him as a product of Sarah's subconscious, created and controlled by her, for the purpose of boosting her ego. Period. I know it sounds very stifling and limited, but to me, it makes the most sense. I'm not saying it's the ONLY valid viewpoint, just the one that I adhere to. I do, however, see him as being very emotional and temperamental, much as he tries to hide it. I see him as a victim of circumstances who tries his darndest to change his situation, only he doesn't have the necessary skills to actually do anything productive, and so comes out acting like a bully and a tyrant and an all-around Bad Guy. Perhaps I'm a bit overly sympathetic to Jareth, but someone has to be on his side! Sarah is too immature to view him as anything but The Bad Guy, and since the movie is seen filtered through Sarah's sensibilities, he's going to BE the villain, and therefore she's going to keep on seeing him as nothing more than a menace, unless something happens to drastically alter her point of view.
An interesting idea has occured to me: What if, since Sarah controls Jareth, she controlled the amount of power allotted to him? Could she increase his powers, if she wished it? Or is he a complete entity now (something I rather doubt)? Exactly how much power DOES she have over him? I have discussed the limitations and specifics of Jareth's powers, but it has never occured to me before, to consider Sarah's power over him, and the extent of her control in specific areas. Right now I'm "taking it for granted" that she does exhert a certain amount of control over him, so my thoughts will be geared in that direction.
The interesting thing about Labyrinth is the role-reversal. Most movies center around the hero's adventures, search for the key to happiness, and journey into self-discovery. The brave, handsome hero travels through numerous exciting adventures, defeats the evil bad guy, and wins the princess/treasure/fame that he (emphasis on he) deserves. Labyrinth instead focuses on a girl--and a rather unlikeable one at that. She is petulant, self-absorbed, and vengeful, behaving callously to her infant brother. However, when her misplaced wish goes awry, she acquires some semblance of maturity, which grows and progresses throughout the movie, climaxing in a blind leap of faith for that same brother. She also absolves the dark villain Jareth (symbolizing her Electra complex, her inability to relate to men in general and her father in particular, and her own as of yet subconcious burgeoning sexuality), seemingly acheiving the happiness and completeness she sought. But that owl is still flying around outside; there are a few issues she still refuses to address, especially as regards her father, and perhaps she will never be ready to fully face them. One day she may revisit the Labyrinth, which by that time will have changed as much as her own inner landscape has. Until then, she will content herself with the temporary regain of control over her sexuality, and perhaps will understand herself a little better, thus allowing her to relate to others. And maybe then, she will finally start going out on dates.
Author's Note: If you liked this analysis, I have plenty more writings on the rest of my site..
A.N.: I have included a link to Little Magpie's analysis and interpretation of the film, which I find perfectly fascinating, and know you all will too. It will be expanded whenever she sees fit to give me material to add to it.