I think my obsession with owls originated with the 80s cult classic The Labyrinth. Ever since then, everything from the way they looked to the way they hunted at night fascinated me to no end but whenever I see an owl I think of David Bowie’s eccentric, antihero character Jareth, The Goblin King.
I was actually watching the movie the night I created this piece and reminiscing quite literally about when “the world fell down”. It had only been one year and four months since we’d lost the beloved rock and roll icon and I still remember the day that I heard the news. I was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on my honeymoon eating a burrito when the little television they had on in the quaint beachside Mexican restaurant announced that David Bowie had passed.
First I was shocked, I remember walking back to our hotel that night with the warm Florida breeze caressing my cheek looking up at the moon and thinking ‘how could it be at such a relatively young age, that one of the most beloved rock ‘n’ roll icons has died?’ David Bowie seemed nearly immortal, a myth that seemed valid given his stellar cinema resume. While naturally death is a part of life, as my father used to say ‘Brittany, nobody’s getting out of this world alive‘ , I couldn’t help but wonder was it that his death had affected me so deeply that I begin to think of my own mortality as the cars went rushing by? Could it be as simple as anything could change in the blink of an eye? Or was it deeper than that?
I had seen this meme floating around on the Internet around the time that David Bowie had passed and it made me realize that perhaps it was deeper than just realizing how short life is. I have always been sympathetic to the villains in just about every fairytale I have read, something I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been empathetically able to sense just how lonely David Bowie’s anti-hero, antagonist of a character Jareth in The Labyrinth. Coming across this meme really made my feelings much more pronounced, I wasn’t just sad we lost a rock ‘n’ roll icon, I was sad that I lost someone who actually made me look at villains in a totally different light from that point in time when I saw that movie forward.
From the time I was 10 years old and first watched The Labyrinth (in my friend Kristen’s bedroom on her tiny little TV that was probably only a little bit bigger than the size of my old iPad but bulky all the same) I was able to feel bad for the bad guy and realize villains are sometimes much more multidimensional (which is a lesson a writer that I treasure). In teaching me at such a young age the meaning of empathy for the antagonist Jareth I learned a very valuable lesson about being a writer that sometimes things aren’t so black and white.
One of my favorite authors of all time, JK Rowling, has built a very successful brand for herself with the Harry Potter series, (I myself am an avid fan and also named my fur baby Draco after one of her antagonistic characters) but admittedly she is also a one dimensional writer. The entire series is told from Harry’s point of view which often leads us to have a very negative views of some of the other Hogwarts houses, namely Slytherin (which I always identified as and Pottermore even sorted me into). The downside of Rowling only writing from Harry’s point of view is that we miss things that are important to the plot, that she reveals later on. One of these such things is Snape and his love for Harry’s mother Lily, which led to him becoming a double agent for Dumbledore. In fact, most of the supporting characters around Harry including the beloved half-giant Hagrid often says “there wasn’t a witch or wizard that went bad that wasn’t in Slytherin” of course, we later learn this is NOT the case as they were plenty other characters from other houses that “went bad”. While I will always love the story of Harry Potter from start to finish I must say as a writer myself J. K. Rowling writes from very limited perspectives. As to whether or not it’s done on purpose or not can be argued both ways, I tend to think that it was on purpose that she does this to kind of reveal things towards the end at her own discretion. That said, I also believe that the one dimensional view is limiting the reader on the ability to see things from both sides of the proverbial coin.
David Bowie’s character Jareth taught me as a writer to write from several characters perspectives. In one of my several projects that I have ongoing within ‘My Documents’ each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective so that way the audience can really look at the situation at hand from many different perspectives and can form their own opinion of it. I personally think that makes the writer more well-rounded both as a writer and and empathizer. As a writer, if you can get your audience to sympathize with the antagonist as well as the protagonist you’re bringing a whole new element to your tale that makes it much more memorable. I am forever grateful to David Bowie for that.
The owl in this piece is both symbolic in Harry Potter and The Labyrinth and I sketched it as a reminder that perspective in terms of creating a meaningful and engaging story is always key in keeping your audience involved in the plot.
What are some of your favorite novels? Have you Ever sympathized with the villain? Leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you!
Love you. Mean it.