Written by Hilary Wardle


Rated or Dated: Labyrinth

Standard Issue writers revisit an album/film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week, Hilary Wardle travels through dangers unknown and hardships unnumbered to take on the mighty Labyrinth.

David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly in an age-old tale of… erm... hold on...

David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly in an age-old tale of… erm… hold on…

What: If you’ve never heard of the 1986 children’s adventure fantasy classic Labyrinth, chances are you’re either a) under 25 b) scared of Jim Henson puppets or c) trapped in an oubliette.

If you’re in one of those categories, here goes: It’s the age old story of girl meets boy, boy turns out to be the King of the Goblins (and also old enough to be her father), boy steals girl’s infant brother, girl meets puppets, girl and puppets attempt to track down said infant by navigating an extremely tricky labyrinth and dealing with unexpected outbreaks of singing fire-people, boy confesses undying love for girl while bounding around an MC Escher painting, girl tells him to stick his love where the sun doesn’t shine.

Like I said: age old.

Why: Funnily enough, that’s actually the first thing that most people say when they see David Bowie prancing about in a Tina Turner mullet wig wearing a pair of high-waisted grey leggings and singing about magic dancing babies.

But there’s so much more to Labyrinth than that. Firstly, it’s a fairy tale that subverts the usual ‘girl wants to marry a handsome prince’ idea by making that handsome prince a strutting, baby-stealing dandy with crazy eye makeup and a lackadaisical approach to labyrinth health and safety. Secondly, the Jim Henson puppet creations are as magical as you’d expect. The soundtrack is cracking too, but most importantly it taught a generation of young girls that blokes don’t actually have any power over them, even if they do have a fantastic head of hair and an excellent singing voice.

Jennifer Connelly gets to play with Jim Henson’s magical puppets. No fair.

Jennifer Connelly gets to play with Jim Henson’s magical puppets. No fair.

Rated or Dated: Although Labyrinth didn’t do particularly well at the box office, the film went on to gain a loyal cult following thanks to the fact it was on TV almost constantly between 1987 and the mid 90s, and also because it’s AMAZING.

However, a couple of things do make the film feel a bit dated, one of which is the whole ‘older bloke trying it on with a 15-year-old’ plot. Would it work if Jareth was a younger, less threatening character? Definitely not, as the film is all about resisting that kind of messy power dynamic, but it still feels a bit ‘hmmm, a man with a very visible wang-bulge is singing love songs to an underage girl on my telly’.

The other thing that dates the film is the CGI owl opening sequence, which makes you feel like you’re trapped inside a Windows 96 screensaver, but that’s slightly less important.

David Bowie, MC Escher and visible wang-bulge.

David Bowie, MC Escher and visible wang-bulge.

All in all, it’s definitely rated. All young women should be made to watch this film as it teaches two key lessons: 1) how to resist powerful, controlling goblin kings and 2) how to rock a medieval shirt and embroidered waistcoat combo.


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Written by Hilary Wardle

Hilary Wardle is a freelance journalist based in Edinburgh. She writes for BuzzFeed, Daily Record, Metro, MSN and has contributed to the Guardian and the Independent in the past.