Bellatrys had an awesome post up a while ago (before she got slightly hit by a car, not that there's a connection there. Fortunately feminist bloggers don't die, they just writher in agony a lot) where she shows the awesome subtext of Labyrinth (yes, the david bowie movie, with those scary ass owls that gave me nightmares as a child), and how it is in fact a (sortakinda) retake on the old celtic ballad of Tam Lin (which you can download in celtic/rock form from these guys), and how Tam Lin itself is in fact a feminist version of the old epic Heoric Journey, but where the damsel in distress is in fact a mansel in distress, and only the handsome princess can fight the dragon/outwit the elves and rescue the prince.
...until a couple of years and jobs ago, when it suddenly was revealed to me that despite the widespread media impression of it as a basically unknown and unloved film, one that had been disappointing for the studio as well, after the unexpected critical praise and cult status of Dark Crystal, it had a strong and dedicated and above all, young cult following - and they were all twenty-something girls, who had become rabid David Bowie fans, who could (and did) quote lines from the film and "do the voices" too, when appropriate, the way that most of my fellow Gen-Xers and the Gen-Yers of my acquaintance would break into either Star Wars, Holy Grail, or (belatedly) Princess Bride repertoire at the drop of a hat (or an unladen swallow.)
This piqued my curiosity - clearly there was something there, after all - but not enough for me to go buy a copy of Labyrinth or to try to figure it out. Of the three younger women in the office who were all votaries, one was a Sandman-collecting fellow geek whose SO was also hardcore fannish geek, one was a sort of demi-geek, a little bit into skiffy but mostly into horror, and the third was not fen at all that I ever discovered. They were just all old enough to have not only seen it but to have imprinted on it when it was released on video, and to have worn out their video tapes of it - that seemed to me to be the common factor.
As far as I was concerned, the explanation was simple (if a bit cynical): David Bowie in quasi-Regency Beau Brummel jacket and skin-tight pants with top-boots - enough to make the younger Bennett sisters swoon, and why should humanity have changed in essentials in a mere 180 years?
She then switchs into a good advertisement for The Tiffany Aching novels (and if you haven't read these yet, I'm honor bound to throw the three best of the prior witches novels (Wyrd Sisters, a sarcastic and deeply meta-version of the production of Macbeth, Witches Abroad which is entirely made of awesome, and it's follow up book with the evil elves Lords And Ladies) at you, simply to properly introduce you to Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.
Tiffany isn't a spoiled child of wealth who gets to spend hours off by herself daydreaming (instead of having to do her daydreaming whilst changing the diapers, or rinsing the diapers out in the toilet, or hanging them out on the line, or checking out customers at her after-school-job which is her only refuge, mental and physical, from the separate hells of school and home) but a farm girl who has gotten the short straw of the big-poor-family situation and who has not yet seen Paree (or only through books) but wants something more from life, dammit! and at the same time still wants the Good Parts that there are in her current life, and some way to reconcile all this together with her sense of identity and self-worth and personal need to Make A Difference in the world ("you'll grow out of it," they told me, and I almost did - into an early suicide's grave) and the problem of reconciling the fact that someone needs to take care of the sticky ungrateful toddlers but nobody actually respects the people who take care of the sticky ungrateful (biting!) toddlers (women's work!) and - well, when I was that age I was starting to wring myself against the dull cage, and by the time I was fourteen I had (outwardly) reconciled myself to it being my Xtian duty as an XX person to live behind those bars, exchanging parents' rule and care of sticky siblings for either husband's rule and care of sticky offspring or abbess' rule and care of sticky orphans-always Unselfishly™, of course!
(Inwardly, I was fantasizing about possessing Big Bertha and the coordinates for range and height and altitude to shell everything from my house and its neighborhood to my school and its neighborhood and all between, or a Mark IV the size of a city block to lay waste to the world, starting with my hometown, or a Death Star. But I never let those fantasies out from behind my teeth, so nobody ever guessed that I wasn't the meek, demure, dutiful-if-rather-lazy Good Catholic Girl with nary a thought in my head besides being a Good Catholic Mother or maybe a sister in a teaching or charitable order. Oh, and on the fantastic side? Damn right I wanted the Deplorable Word, or even just the power to manipulate plate tectonics, even if I externalized all these unacceptable desires onto the villains and villainesses of my Dissociative escapes--)
The kicker in the Tiffany saga is the problem of choosing, when the choices are all good and bad in mixed ways, and there aren't any easy answers, except for to let someone/someones else make your choice for you and pretend you're choosing it freely and that it doesn't hurt - which was what I had been doing in my years of Good Catholic Anti-Feminist indoctrination (and yes, there is a certain bovine comfort in just cooking and cleaning and getting six kids out the door clothed and fed and not having to make any decisions harder than which brand of cheese is cheaper when bought in which quanitity, especially when a crumb of praise gets tossed your way by the Man of the House now and then, but it's a sad comedown for someone who wanted to be a Jedi Knight when she was seven...)
Anyway, then Bellatrys explains the background wrt celtic and anglo-saxon epic myth quests, the whole thing with the neccesary beheadings etc...etc... stuff that everyone already knows anyway so I won't quote that (because, yes folks, these huge quotes are not me reposting hte thing in whole, but actually ARE small excerpts from a much larger text, and you are missing stuff from not reading the whole thing).
In Labyrinth Sarah starts out arrogant as the Elder Brothers always are, and like them meets obstacles beyond her power to transcend; only when she begins to transcend her pride and "stoops" to listen, and to ask for help, first from a mere Worm, and then from Hoggle (who is, ironically, miscalled "Hogwart" once in the running gag) and then like Boots to stop on her Quest (despite deadlines) and rescue the monstrous beast who is being tormented, without being certain that it will not turn on her when freed, and then to be merciful and generous as well as clever, in dealing with her motley allies and, ultimately, friends.
Labyrinth, for me, failed, and fails still, as a bildungsroman - that is to say, there is an unevenness in the portrayal of the Heroine's Journey of Spiritual Growth which breaks both the moral promise of the bildungsroman genre (which is not a universal requirement, what is requisite in a Hero's Journey is not mandated in a slice-of-life, or a satire, but the reverse: there is room on the shelves for tales of redemption and The Talented Mr. Ripley) and also of the fairy-tale world, because typically, no matter how bizarre, quirky, surreal and backwards to the sunlit world the customs may be, still the rules of justice are adamant in Faerie. Pledges bind, promises are broken at peril, deeds must be balanced with deeds for good or ill.
And this is forgotten, or ignored, with Sarah's attempt to extort aid from Hoggle - and her justification of it as yet another example of Life's Essential Unfairness, in which she is achieving a powerup stage by being willing to stoop to the same excuse that the adults (both mortal and elfish) use against her. She should have simply held Hoggle to his word - and perhaps justified holding his treasures as guarantee of it, after catching him in betrayal after charging her in advance, and this attempt at showing her growing sophistication and lack of helplessness cheesed me off severely at the time, and grated on me no less now, after twenty-one years. (Thus, also, the fatal narrative flaw in the seventh HP book, imo, comes when Harry & Co. decide to cheat their goblin ally, for the sake of expediency and in full knowledge of their wrongdoing, and pay no fatal price for it in consequence. [urinatingdog, urinatingdog])
Anyway, then she goes on about some woman called poucault or something (who ren probably reads) who got pegged to write some of hte more recent WW stuf (which none of you will care about, you fools! You who do not know of the Etta Candy, and the "Woo Woo!"s and nazi punching and the use of femdom bondage as a nonviolent resolution to any and all problems that punching the crap out of it can't solve! bah!) and then she whips it all into fluffy wholesome wholey, wholey wholey wholey, whole.
Go read it and bask in the glow of your new masters! Or just go read the post by bellatrys, which ever works for you.