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The THEMATICALLY WRONG ending of Labyrinth

The THEMATICALLY WRONG ending of Labyrinth published on 2 Comments on The THEMATICALLY WRONG ending of Labyrinth

Kinjou and I were talking about Labyrinth in a recent chat tonight and how the ending, in which Sarah parties with the Muppets while Jareth flies away in the form of an owl, seems like a foul misstep, thematically speaking.

Our reasons, in conversational form, below:

me: Har de har har!

9:27 PM Aw man, the ending always makes me sad.

Kinjou: [jesi says that :)]


me: The ending music always sounds so wistful and mournful as she puts away her music box and Jareth goes flying off into the night [to catch mice, one assumes].
9:28 PM Kinjou: It’s the end of girlhood. Some wistfulness is required, certainly.
me: Exactly. Very bittersweet.
Kinjou: *nods* I had objected to the ending, myself, at the time
9:29 PM me: "Sarah! Don’t kick out Jareth like that! He’s the strongest, most compelling part of you!"
Kinjou: I felt that it could be worked out some way LOL eternal optimist
me: "Surely you can find a way to deal with him where he doesn’t have to intimidate and grovel all the time!"
Kinjou: Indeed!
me: It just felt wrong to me that she would accept all the friendly creatures, just because they were her friends, and reject Jareth, primarily because she feared him.
9:30 PM If you accept just what you like and kick out what you fear and do not know, you’re only doing yourself a disservice by denying yourself access to your unknown powers.
Kinjou: But how many people have we encountered that make that choice?
Exactly that choice.
me: How many people accept the innocuous and reject the intimidating/
Kinjou: Indeed.
9:31 PM me: Lots.
But the whole point of Labyrinth was that things are not always what they seem.
Kinjou: Exactly.
Honestly, if you want to know what I think, the end always read like a last minute rewrite to me
me: Sarah tried to read all the other characters and play their game, but she never tried to read and understand Jareth.
9:32 PM The bit with the Labyrinth creatures [except for Jareth] dancing in her room?
Kinjou: *nods*
me: Yeah, that always seemed like someone’s pathetic excuse for a happy ending. "Yeah, we can’t let go of the cutesy comedic Muppets!"
9:33 PM Kinjou: I always felt that the film really ended with her saying goodbye to her girlhood, a really bittersweet ending that test audiences didn’t care for.
So many films have been botched by rewrites from the reactions of test audiences *facepalm* I can almost always see them
9:34 PM me: I do like the owl watching her and then flying into the moon and the end credits, a nice mirror for the beginning of the film, Jareth watching over her as he was at the beginning, always intruding on the edge of her reality, maybe looking for a way in.
Yeah, they’re so FORCED.
Kinjou: Exactly.
me: Cut out the stupid party with the creatures, and end it with Sarah closing away her music box, Jareth the owl watching, then soaring away into the moon.
9:35 PM AND…scene.
Kinjou: The ending seemed a hasty rewrite with the screenwriter trying desperately to preserve the integrity of the story by presenting Jareth as transformed into a guardian figure
me: But, with that stupid party, it just looks not like Jareth’s the watcher, as he is in the beginning, but the pathetic dude who didn’t get invited to the shindig.
9:36 PM [Ref Sir Didymus’ quote at the end: I say, anyone for a game of Scrabble?]
Kinjou: There are a lot of films that I want to give the Kinjou Director’s Cut LOL
me: I agree. I’d take out that stupid party.
9:37 PM It makes no sense.
I mean, Sarah purposely confronted Jareth alone, rejecting the Muppets.
Kinjou: "PERFECT! STOP THE STORY THERE!…..Aw, shit, it’s going to go on for another fifteen minutes for no reason. x.x"
me: She realized that she had to find the strength in herself to stand up to the menacing parts of herself.
9:38 PM So she told the Muppets to go away before she won back Toby all on her very own, but then she brought them back around in a little schmaltzy moment when she admitted, after putting signs of her childhood away, that she needed them "for no reason at all."
Kinjou: It should have ended with her embracing and comforting Jareth. That would have been a much more satisfying (and sane) ending. Then him flying off into the moon, always watchful, no longer menacing, the wise half of herself.
9:39 PM me: Now I acknowledge that one does like to indulge one’s Muppet equivalents sometimes, no matter what one’s age, but that admission from her seemed so sobby and wimpy and not characteristic of the new, strong, caring Sarah, more sure in her power than she was at the beginning.
9:40 PM Kinjou: The thing is, it was all about choice. So by all rights, she could now choose when or when not to interact with Jareth & the other beings.
And on what terms.
me: In my mind, Jareth as he appears in Labyrinth was immature and petulant and demanding and egotistical because Sarah was.
The whole story was about her maturing. When she rejected him, she rejected that overbearing form of him.
Kinjou: Exactly. Which is why I see the owl transformation as Wise Guardian
9:41 PM me: He flew away, OUT OF THAT FORM, but not necessarily out of her life. He’s still there, as the guardian, but now that she has grown, he too has broken from his petulant, childish role.
Kinjou: Exactly.
The whole "muppet party" thing muddies the symbolism
me: He can draw back and take what HE himself has learned, along with what SHE herself has learned, and wait till the time is right to approach her again.
Yes, yes, it muddies the symbolism. Exactly.
9:42 PM It makes Sarah seem retrograde, as if she truly didn’t learn the proper place for her mental Muppets.
Kinjou: *nods vigorously*
9:43 PM me: I think that Hoggle’s offer of "Should you need us…" was fine, along with her response of, "I’ll call."
Kinjou: The thing is, it wasn’t until now that an American audience was ready, cinematically speaking, for the deeper basis of faerieland stories
me: Then CUT TO Jareth flying away, with the connection implicit that Sarah might call him too, if she ever acquired the maturity and brains to approach the deeper meanings of her adventure.
9:44 PM You’re right; there’s a lot of superficial fairyland wankery in the muddled ending that screws up the wild power of Jareth and his land.
Kinjou: Yes. It would also have held the additional symbolism of one’s dark side being everpresent
me: [And the FIREYS? They wanted to kill Sarah by taking off her head. So why are they at the party and Jareth is absent?]
9:45 PM In Legend, speaking of darkness everpresent,
Darkness tells Pantsless Tom Cruise’s character that they are "brothers eternal" and it ends with Darkness superimposed on Tom Cruise, laughing into fade-out, a much broodier and truer ending than Labyrinth was permitted.
9:46 PM Kinjou: *nods* and, like the first two films, "Legend" was also a dismal commercial failure that has achieved cult status
me: But nooooooooooo. With Labyrinth we get a ending in which Sarah
actively chooses only the light, frothy, happy, easy-to-deal-with characters and actively rejects complexity, ambiguity and insight.
9:47 PM She keeps all the Muppets and boots out the only other human, which I always thought was weird.
Kinjou: *nods* which is why I think that it’s a rewrite, otherwise her making a bad choice would have been more indicated.
me: He has the same form as her; he is humanoid, as she is, of the same kind, unlike all the others.
9:48 PM Therefore he is the most like her, which makes me think that he is of the same stuff as her, as part of her.
Kinjou: *nods*! which makes the connection between them much more obvious, btw
me: No shit — to me and you at least.
Kinjou: There is part of Jareth that is quite human, and relatable
me: And she booted out the part of herself that was the most human and powerful and magical and ambiguous and threatening…
Probably BECAUSE she was threatened by his similarity to her.
9:49 PM Kinjou: Well, it makes sense that she’d initially be frightened of him on that basis.


Interesting conversation.

I have always had kind of a hard time understanding what it is Jareth’s motivations are, honestly. He reminds me in a funny way of a boyfriend who was kind of manipulative and so I have a hard time separating him from an image of “controlling boyfriend” which cognitively I don’t think matches quite what Jareth’s character is going for. That’s the more superficial interpretation of Jareth as a character. But I can’t really get past it. He even looks a bit like that boyfriend, albeit more spangly and punk-rock-y.

It was also funny because despite of that mental connection and despite the fact that he’s supposed to be the villain, I find Jareth to be a very sympathetic character. I don’t necessarily dislike him. I wonder what stirs his cosmos on a deeper level. He seemed so discontented to be the ruler of the goblins, despite having every power in his realm. His character struck me as bored and unfulfilled. I always wondered whether he was just profoundly lonely.

Now I am not making any sense, I suppose… but perhaps part of what made the petulant, cranky Jareth sympathetic to me is that I, like nearly all, know the feeling of loneliness. I have felt it keenly before. I feel for him.

Bla bla Labyrinth bla. ^_^

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