Ah, Labyrinth. I could wax rhapsodic about this movie--and His Royal Tightness, as the Goblin King is affectionately known in fanfic circles--for hours. Because, in essence, that was "where it all began" for me, in a number of senses.
Let me set the stage for you a bit. It was the summer of 1989, and I was an introverted, bookish 13-year-old--the kind of kid who always sat up front in the classroom and got straight A's almost without trying, but tended to find social interaction problematic. Boys in particular were bewildering; all the other girls my age were just starting to be interested in dating and so forth, and I honestly couldn't fathom any of it. Why on earth would anyone want to associate with creatures who, at least as far as I could tell, were designed chiefly to be crass and obnoxious? In my entire school career, I'd met only a handful of them who acted as though they had more than a couple of brain cells to rub together. They were like a whole different species--and a less-advanced species, at that!
My musical tastes were different then, as well. Oh, I liked music, certainly, but the sorts of things I liked were largely dictated by what I had been exposed to through my parents. I knew about MTV, but what I had heard made it seem a rather dubious form of entertainment, not my sort of thing at all. So I was very, very innocent, in all senses of the word, on that fateful June evening when my brother, who was going to college at the time, brought home a movie from our local video rental store on his way back from class. I remember him sitting me down in front of the TV, popping the tape in the VCR, and saying, "You'll like this"--and boy, was he ever right.
The movie was, of course, Jim Henson's 1986 masterpiece, Labyrinth. For those of you who might not have seen it, the basic premise is that a teenage girl named Sarah (played by a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly) accidentally wishes her baby brother away to the Labyrinth, a mystical realm populated by goblins and ruled by Jareth, the Goblin King (played by David Bowie). If she cannot solve the Labyrinth, reach the Castle at its center, and defeat Jareth himself in 13 hours, her brother will be changed into a goblin and lost to her forever.
On the surface, it's a kid-friendly fantasy film. But if you dig a little deeper, the underlying symbology is surprisingly profound--and it speaks loudest to those who stand, as I did then, just on the cusp of adolesence and adulthood. For at heart, the whole thing is about growing up: Sarah's journey through the Labyrinth is also one of self-discovery, the kind we all must undertake as we mature. Everything and everyone that she encounters along the way is, in some sense, a part of her own psyche. She comes face-to-face with her darkest fears and her deepest desires--and Jareth, I think, springs from the shadowy interface between the two, because he personifies sexuality, the thing that most adolescents want and fear in equal measure.
Now, I don't want to give you the wrong idea--I didn't realize all of this, and certainly not on a conscious level, during that first viewing. It took me a long time and a lot of interaction with other fans before I really managed to get a grip on the movie from a philosophical perspective; on that first summer evening, all I really knew was that this man on the screen was making me feel things that I had never, ever felt before in my life, and that somehow, in his tights, ruffled shirts, spiky hair, and eye-makeup, he was the most essentially male creature I had ever seen. Every time he was in a scene, all I could do was stare, caught up in a yearning that was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before--and it got stronger every time I heard him sing. And the ballroom scene... oh, my. That made a great many different pieces fall into place; this, I suddenly realized, was what everyone got so excited over, this mysterious and intangible thing between a man and a woman. And, now that I had felt it, I understood why people spent so much time and energy seeking it out.
Potent stuff, lust.
Other epiphanies were to follow. Repeated viewings of Labyrinth only reinforced my original impression of the ending, which was that it certainly fit with what one would expect from that kind of story, but nonetheless left a lot of things unresolved. There had been an unmistakable chemistry between Sarah and Jareth in that ballroom, yet it had never been addressed after that--and, of course, such loose ends are prime spawning grounds for plot bunnies. I didn't use that term at the time, naturally, or know that the little stories I began to write to explore all the "what if?" ideas I was having were called "fanfiction"--I think I would have been pretty astounded to learn that there were enough other people doing the exact same thing that it had a name. But that didn't really matter, either; what did matter was that the fires of creativity had been lit, and there was no putting them back out. Writing became a hugely important part of my life--it was my refuge all through junior high and high school, a little corner of the universe where I could retreat when everyday reality got to be too much, and where I could be certain that no matter how much bad stuff happened along the way, everything would still turn out all right in the end. For a long time, I called it a hobby, but it's really much more than that--more even than a career. I suppose you could say it's a calling; whatever else may happen in my life, I will continue to write, because I literally can't stop. The ideas just keep coming, and the plot bunnies continue to spawn, and there's only so much room in my head! Writing is not just something that I do any more; it's become part of who I am.
My obsession (and it was truly an obsession for a while) with Labyrinth also led me to want to know more about this David Bowie person, and the finding out was a definite learning experience. I joke at times that with my luck, I figured he would be either gay or married--and he turned out to be some of both! I still have loads of his music that I collected when I was 14 or so, though everything but the Labyrinth soundtrack has by now been relegated to storage. Don't get me wrong; David Bowie has done some very interesting work over the years, but the themes were often dark or bizarre enough that I could only talk myself into thinking that I liked it for so long. But even if the music itself wasn't much to my taste, I thought the videos might be interesting, and so I started watching MTV--and my world opened up again. I never did see very many David Bowie videos, but I discovered a plethora of other artists that I liked, and the whole thing began to snowball. Alas, my honeymoon with MTV was short... I got into it in 1990, just in time to learn to love 80's music and then watch it die as grunge took over. VH-1 remained tolerable for a time afterward, but even they went bad in the end, substituting inane shows for actual videos, and finally I gave up on them, as well. When we got digital cable and VH-1 Classic a couple of years back, it was like a gift from the Gods!
But the most personal of the revelations which came out of my experience with Labyrinth was the one that, for once in my life, I was perfectly normal. At the time, I was already harboring a secret fear that there might be something wrong with me because I wasn't really interested in boys. It wasn't that I was afraid I was a lesbian--I'm not certain I'd even quite grasped the concept of homosexuality at that point. It was a much more amorphous fear, and probably all the more disturbing for the fact. But my reaction to Jareth made me realize that it was just a difference, not a lack; I had all the same feelings as everyone else, it had just taken an object like him to bring them to the surface. It wasn't, I discovered, that I didn't like men; I liked them just fine. But I liked men, not boys. And the most attractive men were the sort with big hair, musical talent, and a certain special magic all their own--a conclusion which hasn't altered much in the intervening years.
Hence, this website.