No Exit to Kansas

Settle down, everyone. Teacher’s back in the room. I hope there was no messing around while I was gone–I’ll be checking the cupboards later, you know.

I’ve been hamstrung time-wise by (a) two family birthdays, (b) yet another Random Virus, Probably Brought Home By Small Boy, And Which Required Tea, Stroking Of Hair and General Soothing Noises to see it off, and (c) finishing a book.

The latter has seen me spending the last few days getting up at somewhere between 5 and 6 in the morning to work–which thankfully, has paid off. After rattling round in my head on and off for just over a year, it’s done. Well. The first draft is, anyway. I’m not actually going to consider that for a few days.

So. While I was on hiatus, I finally managed to see Red Riding Hood.

Gosh. Now there’s a film that doesn’t know quite what it wants to say with its subtext… and ends up saying something rather icky as a result.

I also watched Labyrinth, for what must have been the hundredth time, because it is wonderful and funny – and if you look closely at the scene where they storm the goblin castle, you’ll see there are two pints of milk sitting on the doorstep. How can you not love a film which does this?

[SPOILERS]

[and seriously, if you need a spoiler warning for Labyrinth, you really do need to sort that out. Go and watch it.]

There’s something about the way these films end that bothers me. I’m not the only one, either: during a recent Twitter conversation, someone pointed out that were she in Sarah’s position at the end of Labyrinth, there’s no way she could go back to the normal, everyday world. A heated discussion ensued in which several of us debated the merits of staying in the Goblin Kingdom as Queen (and which inevitably wound up discussing David Bowie’s costume. As you do) but the sticking point was this: in the midst of Jareth’s little speech, he asks her to “Let me rule you,” – which he promptly follows up with “Fear me. Love me. Do as I say.” That’s Jareth all over for you, isn’t it?

The thing, though, is could you go back? Yes, I know it’s all about Sarah taking responsibility for her actions and discovering her power as a young woman rather than as a girl–but… yeah.

Kingdom. Magic castle. Floating bubbles with ballrooms in them. Would you go back to the real world, or would you stay put and arrange for Jareth to fall off a high tower sometime soon…?

Red Riding Hood has a similar issue, but is much more frustrating. While Labyrinth‘s Sarah is essentially finding her own identity, Red… isn’t. She decides to take on someone else’s, and hole up in her grandmother’s house in the woods.

The problem here is that the narrative is actively set up to discourage this. It literally makes no sense. Everything we have been told in the lead up to those final moments is suddenly chucked out the window, for the sake of… what, exactly? The least satisfying film I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not kidding when I say I actually sat up and shouted at the television at that point. Really shouted at it. I probably would’ve thrown something if I hadn’t known my husband would take a rather dim view me hurling objects at the household electronics…

Here’s the thing (and this is uber, mega, massively spoilery).

We already know that it’s the last night of the blood moon, and that someone bitten will become a werewolf instead of dying. We already know that Peter is the love of Valerie’s life, and they were going to run away together. We already know that Peter has been bitten. We already know that Valerie already has werewolf blood, and that this would make her stronger than previous generations of werewolves were she to be bitten…

So why, why, do we then watch her letting Peter go with the promise he’ll return someday? There’s virtually nothing left for her where she is, and we can’t even assume she’s staying for her mother, because she takes herself off to live outside the village.

Simply put, why doesn’t she go with Peter? We could have had some kind of happy lupine montage: a pair of wolves running through the forest or something. The film’s general attitude to who was a good guy or a bad guy was so cavalier that it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference to a man v. monster debate–they were all as bad as each other.

Aargh. Look at me: I’ve got all cross again just thinking about it.

So, I’m curious. Have you seen Red Riding Hood? If you have, what did you think of the way it ended: did it make sense, or like me, would you really rather have left it with her eating half the village (they bloody well deserve it, if you ask me.)? Why can’t the girl join the monsters?

And what about you: if you were the protagonist in either of these films, would you go home at the end…?

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