Writer – Justin Howard @Jthnomad
I recently found myself wandering through a park, reciting the opening lines from that cult classic, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, “Through dangers untold and hardship unnumbered, I have fought my way here…”
It was an attempt to recreate the magical moment when I discovered the pleasure of piercing the illusion of what society wanted me to be, and blossoming into the person I was meant to be. All courtesy of the dangerous temptation of Jareth, the Goblin King aka David Bowie as he guided the protagonist, Sarah from the delusions of childhood to reality of her dreams made manifest. “For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great.”
Within The Labyrinth
Unlike most I didn’t discover David Bowie by his music. No my lifelong obsession with David Bowie has much more esoteric roots, it began with his role as Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth. In the role of Jareth, he pranced and sang his way through a film that not only awakened my addiction to muppets (that is a story for another time), he provided me with the wisdom that would shape the person who I was to become.
A Beautiful Illusion
Dressed up as David Bowie was in those eye-catching white tights (you know the ones that capture his trademark bulge, oh so perfect) and that 1980’s dark eye make up that can inspire weak knees in those of us who like that masculine glam rock vibe, it got my mind thinking along the lines that I to could play dress up. The first thought in my mind as I watched Labyrinth was “I can wear make up like him? Where do these people hang out? I want to go there!” David Bowie was my first visual experience with a male being masculine while wearing make up. I can’t express the gratitude I hold for Bowie, simply because he exhibited such confidence on screen. It was this display of confidence that allowed me to pursue my dream of performing a gender illusionist aka the three years I spent as part of a Rocky Horror cast (Minerva & Dr. Frankenfurter) and my time as a cabaret act (a Geisha strip tease).
No One Gets Out Of Here Alive. But They Do
At the very start of the film, the main character Sarah says “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here.” It was this sentiment that is echoed between Sarah and Jareth’s (David Bowie’s character) first conversation, when the Goblins have taken her baby brother. Sarah states she wants her brother back, Jareth offers her untold power and, in return, not to defy him. Yet Sarah pushes back, demanding her brother back until Jareth gives her 13 hours to navigate the Labyrinth to the Goblin City. The lesson that David’s character ends up teaching Sarah and ultimately myself, is that life is unfair at moments and you just have to have keep going and function the best you can. By the end of the film, at Jareth’s pushing, Sarah’s character blossoms into an individual blessed with resourcefulness and resolve. I like to think that at moments that it also rubbed off on me.
The Mask That Spoke To Me
In a world filled to the brim with shapeshifting Goblin Kings, adorable goblin muppets, talking caterpillars, and various beasties, it is essential to learn not to judge individuals at first glance. Ironically, it is that fact that allows Sarah the chance to evaluate how she views the world. Most individuals in the world won’t meet your standards of being physically attractive. You never know where a person is coming from and what their backstory is. A prime example of this is seen in the character of Ludo. Ludo is a huge horned muppet, who appears to be dangerous at first glance.
Yet Sarah takes a real chance that he isn’t when she defends him from the little Goblins that are clearly bullying him. It turns out that Ludo is an intensely gentle creature, who talks to rocks! The narrative leads Sarah to the discovery that bad things happen in life, even to good people, and that friendship can act as a balm to those moments. David Bowie’s character, by pushing so hard, forces Sarah to form unlikely friendships and draw from that hidden reserve we all have within us. It taught me to always try to give individuals the same chances I want them to give me. It helped to train my empathy and allowed me to form the most unlikely of connections.
David Bowie was many things to many different people, but to me he was one of my initiators, and for that I will be forever grateful.
“For My Will Is As Strong As Yours,
And My Kingdom Is As Great!”