because, Labyrinth.

If you didn’t see Labyrinth, starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie before the age of five, you missed a thing.

If you were a girl in the 1980s and you didn’t see it, you missed your chance for the best female inspiration in cinema, the most imagination-awakening piece of joyful abandon, and the most…David Bowie in tights.

I did see it though. It was raining, and one of our teachers had a grainy VHS copy of it from who-knows-where, and it was lunchtime and we sat in the school hall and stared at it, silently, in awe and wonder. We were five, so figuring out the riddles was impossible. I was an only child, so I had no conception of ‘having a brother’, step- or otherwise. The puppets were familiar, because Muppets, yet scary, because Jim Henson. And the setting was otherly and glorious and the end of another world.

In my head, it mixes with Knightmare, and Charn (from The Magician’s Nephew) and Cities of Gold, and other things I came to precociously young and enthusiastic.

And then there’s David Bowie, infinitely responsible, it seems, for my unerring adoration of blond, tall, slender men, preferably curiously-clad and able to sing strange and fantastic songs in curious, low tones.

The songs are brilliant, the puppets are incredible, the sets are amazing, everything is perfect. It’s a perfect film.

Watching it back, I wonder how few great heroines we’ve had in cinema since. Certainly, for the age group Labyrinth might have been aimed at. Indeed, was it aimed? Who was it aimed at? Did they worry about that kind of thing then? Labyrinth was an epic flop on its release, yet there aren’t many things I love more in the world of cinema, nor that I’ve watched so consistently, and with such glee.

It made me so, so happy when Jennifer Connelly grew up to be such a successful actress, and to marry a man so attractive and talented as Paul Bettany. She’s never stopped being a woman I admire and hope to, in some way, emulate, and it’s a testament to the strong and wise character she played that she still means so much to a generation of women.

Sarah remains a brilliant character. She makes the best of what she’s got: she takes responsibility for what she’s done, uses her brain and the context to do everything she can to move forwards at every opportunity. She figures out riddles, listens and learns, wants to see the best, isn’t discouraged by the appearance of failure, wants to see the best in people, is loyal and kind and good, and basically always wins, even when it looks like she’s failing.

This film is the gift I’d want to give any girl under twelve; it’s the part of my childhood that I’d defend to the utmost because it’s so strong and inspirational and beautiful. It’s the bit of the eighties I treasure more than anything, and it looked like something I thought I would grow up to see so much more of. Strong female character unashamedly doing her best in the most trying of circumstances. Sensibly dressed, in flat shoes, no superpowers, just loyalty and endeavour. Maybe one day something else will measure up. I look forward to that day.

(This post sparked by the conversation: if they *had* to remake Labyrinth right now: who would be David Bowie? And we thought, Patrick Wolf, for he is the only person who could pull this off. And then we thought, if they *had* to remake this like that, with Patrick, wouldn’t that at least be a bit wonderful?!)

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Geek Girls Unite to Write: 7 Questions for Stewie & Emily of the IGGPPC

I spend time aplenty hanging out on Twitter for various reasons, and, whilst I’m there, I like to keep Amanda Palmer’s @ feed running in a column alongside things, simply because there’s usually a ton of good stuff going on in there. As I was checking something this evening, an @ to Amanda from @frogmellaink and @darlingstewie about the International Geek Girls PenPal Club caught my eye, and nothing makes me click a link faster than geekdom coupled with letter-writing. I had to examine.

iggppc-icon

Obviously, I signed up like lightning (I suggest you do the same if you haven’t and are interested – places in Round 2 are almost gone! – and Round 2 is full up! Follow links at the bottom of the page to get in for Round 3 ) and then I thought, what kind of glorious beings set up this magnificent endeavour, and why? So I asked them. And then I asked them a couple more things. And this is what they said:

1. How did this project start?

Em and I met as most people do these days, via the Interwebz. I think we discovered each other through Twitter and the rest is history. I’m a geek girl blogger, so I’m always posting about science fiction or cartoons or comic book inspired fashion, and I think Em has similar sensibilities in that she likes geek fashion too (I’ve seen her wearing Rebel earrings from Star Wars!!!) Em is the purveyor of a fantastic geek chic Etsy, House of the Fickle Queen.

Re: The IGGPPC origins… Em made a blog post about it (it is long and rambling, that’s how I roll~Em):
On Creating Something Out Of Nothing and the Phenomenal Response to the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club.

And I made a similar but more basic post:
How A Tweet About Curly Wurlies Turned Into An Explosive Internet Phenomenon Overnight.

But the long and short of it is, we had been reminiscing about the days of getting surprises and thoughtful letters in the mail from Pen Pals, which is something we had both done in our younger days, and missed that fun mailbox bond. Also, as an Air Force brat, I’ve got a taste for travel (and love learning about other culutres,) but flights are expensive! Pen Pals are like mini vacations cross-country. And Em and I both hoard stationery (as many geek girls I know do) and wanted a purpose for our Sanrio and Lisa Frank stuff. And I wanted a Curly Wurly. Seriously. Those things are good.

(AES – Those things ARE good. All I can think of are Curly Wurlies right now, and the corner shop is closed. ARGH. Also, wow do I hoard stationery. I am super excited to have a reason to share some of that now 🙂 )

2. What’s the best letter you’ve ever received? Or, the best letter you’ve ever read?

My best friend & I exchange letters fairly regularly (as she lives at the other end of the country from me) but one that stands out isn’t so much the letter as the fact that she sent a cushion with a picture of a stag on it! (It’s hideous and beautiful all at once!) Unexpected presents are the best! ~Em

3. Any good stories to share from Round 1?

When we started, I do not think either of us really saw this blowing up like it did. Once Veronica Belmont tweeted about us and we were featured on GeekSugar.com, we knew it was something big. At one point I was refreshing the submissions for Round 1 and we’d gotten 10 in 1 minute. I pretty much peed myself then. We hit our 1,000 person cap in 3 days, 9 days prematurely, and that’s a pretty sweet thought.

The response from the geek girl community has been overwhelmingly positive. Lots of girls have posted or blogged about the project and everyone is very excited to connect! They practically smashed down the door of our Facebook, chanting “We want our pals!” It’s such a great positive thing to be a part of.

I would like to add that one girl put “animals who look like old men” as a geek love, which was a highlight for me because that is just a legendary thing to say. ~Em

4. Where do you start?

When your email conversation begins with your match, try to have a mini bio prepped. “Hi, I’m Suzy, I’m this old and I live in this state and country. How about you?” The basics are always the best place to start. Then you might try asking your new pal what they listed as their Geek Loves, because chances are we’ve paired you with someone who matched one of your Geek Loves…the conversation should absolutely take off from there.

It’s an intimidating thing, sometimes, writing to someone you don’t know (or even writing to someone you do!). Any tips for first time participants on getting the most out of the experience and not feeling a tidal wave of embarrassment the moment you drop your first letter in the postbox?

I’d say just be yourself and write the letter you’d love to receive. We have paired everyone so they have at least one love in common so you know you have at least one thing in common with your new pen pal ~Em

5. Gandalf IS my homeboy*. Let’s just take a moment to imagine he’s an international geek girl. What would you send him in an envelope? (cannot resist a stupid question, but I think a couple of dinosaur stickers would really set off that cloak)

I feel like I’d send him tea, flavored tobacco, and incense… I mean maybe I’m stereotyping him as like a wizard hippie, but I’m a thoughtful letter sender and I know he’d love all those things!

Dumbledore is my homeboy, I would make him sweets as I have mad confectionery skills ~Em

6. I happened upon your project via a glance at Amanda Palmer’s mentions column: she brings like-minded people and projects together like no-one else, sometimes without even trying! What made you @ her in particular?

We haven’t really tweeted at many ‘big’ name people. I have been a fan of AFP for more years than you can count on one hand, and as she is big on community, asking, art and creativity I thought, what the hell, if there is one person out there who’ll RT us it’s her! Pretty much all the rest is just word of mouth (or word of tweet, I guess would be a better approximation) ~Em

7. Which woman in history would you most like to write to, and what would you like to say to her?

Anyone from the American women’s suffrage or African American civil rights movement is bound to have a spectacular story… so if we’re going for history I’d have to say anyone of these women. I’d be desperate not to say too much so I could listen to their story. Honestly I have no clue what I’d say…I’d be all derpy and scared, but excited…like “Hi…HI HELLO HI UR COOL CAN WE BE FRENZ?”

For me it would be Mae West…she is my idol and she knew how to turn a phrase. I would ask her what it was like to be such a pioneering actress, playwright & screenwriter. She was risque, bold and years ahead of her time. I’d also ask her if I could have the spiderweb dress she wears in ‘I’m No Angel’ (opposite Cary Grant <3) as it is one of the most incredible outfits ever worn on screen! ~Em

And if you’d like to keep up with the International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club (WHY WOULDN’T YOU?!), find them at geekgirlpenpals.com and on Facebook.

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