Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles - Women: 4.5 Stars
Sarah is intrigued with costumes and fairy tales, but thankfully, this fascination isn’t limited to the magic and power of true love. There’s clearly an element of danger and adventure in the stories that inspire her. They feed her imagination and help her believe she’s more than just a plain girl with an uncomfortable home life. She reads and pretends and in doing so, creates a more engaging life for herself. And while we don’t know much about the substance of her dreams, we know that they’re vivid and powerful.
Gender Roles - Men: 3.5 Stars
Labyrinth dances around the idea of a romance between Sarah and Jareth. She seems to be fighting a powerful attraction to him, which is only revealed when she’s dreaming. But despite the power he wields and the promises he makes her, she dismisses him when he refuses to return her baby brother. She easily recognizes that despite his tangled words, he doesn’t care about her or respect her enough to believe that she knows her own mind and her own heart. She sees the cruelty in him, even as he’s pretending to do her a favor.
Instead of falling for Jareth, Sarah finds companionship with three creatures she meets in the Labyrinth, Hoggle, Ludo and Sir Didymus. Hoggle is an ugly and cowardly dwarf. Ludo is a timid, overgrown monster. And Sir Didymus is a miniature fox with more courage than brains. While each of them has their faults, they’re far more courteous and respectful of Sarah than the mighty Goblin King who claims to care for her. And against all odds, Sarah teams up with them to defeat the mysterious stranger who’s taken her brother from her.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
From beginning to end, Sarah shows a lot more mettle than one might expect of such a young girl. She easily accepts Jareth's challenge to find her way through his Labyrinth, never hesitating and never doubting herself. She does get thrown off balance more than once by Jareth's Labyrinth, and at times it starts to look like her steady confidence is more naïve and foolish than admirable - but in the end, her determination takes her to the heart of the Goblin City, where she confronts Jareth face to face.
Unfortunately, the story never really tells us whether it is Sarah's innocent beauty or her spark and imagination that has attracted the Goblin King’s attention. She isn’t given enough history or personality to be truly memorable. And by far the most resonant visuals take place in Sarah’s dream, where she is enveloped in a shimmering gown, mesmerized by the Goblin King and too stunned to say a word. But in spite of her temporary enchantment with this magical ballroom and a mysterious king, Sarah doesn't lose sight of the fact that her primary goal is to fight her way through the Labyrinth, to confront Jareth, and to find her brother. She doesn't find her happy ending in Jareth's arms, but by finding the strength to escape from his poisonous charm.
Character Development: 3 Stars
Sarah is still mired in make-believe and somewhat detached from her family, which includes a new stepmother and baby brother. She appears a bit selfish at the beginning, but we can also tell that she is grasping for love and attention. Unfortunately, we aren’t given more than a fleeting glimpse of her unhappy home life, and her vanilla personality is easily eclipsed by the mesmerizing Goblin King.
When she realizes that she’s caught the attention of the Goblin King however, she quickly understands what her family means to her. She isn’t even tempted by Jareth’s promise to give her her dreams on a silver platter. This would’ve been a stronger plot point if we had more specifics on what Sarah’s dreams entail. Or if the writers had created an actual romance between Sarah and Jareth, rather than simply hinting at the idea. As is, we don’t have a clear idea what she’s giving up, or what she’s gaining by defying Jareth, but we know enough to believe she’s making the right decision and to want her to succeed.
Plot: 3 Stars (Spoilers)
When Jareth refuses to return Toby, Sarah accepts his challenge to conquer the labyrinth. The labyrinth isn’t exceptionally dark or dangerous, but it is mentally and physically exhausting, consisting of numerous tricks and dead ends. Sarah is expected to answer riddles along the way and to recover her bearings each time she makes a mistake. Not all of the Labyrinth’s obstacles are conquered by Sarah herself, as she has some help from Hoggle, Ludo and Sir Didymus. But her ability to find and rely on the right people gives her strength, and helps her reach Jareth in time to rescue her baby brother.
The final confrontation between Sarah and Jareth however, is slightly disappointing. She neither outwits him, nor overpowers him, but simply comes to the conclusion that he has no power over her. While the concept is incredibly appealing, the follow through is a bit watered-down. Sarah never truly seems frightened of Jareth, but she is somewhat powerless in his presence. Labyrinth might have delivered a more striking ending if something along her journey had convinced her that Jareth doesn't control her. Instead, she simply remembers a line from one of her favorite stories and watches him disappear. Had this been tied back to an earlier conversation with Jareth about love or power, it would have meant a great deal more.