Music icons influence geek culture

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Author: Frida Gurewitz

There was something about David Bowie in “Labyrinth” that made my little 10-year-old heart go aflutter. Maybe it was the tight pants, the abundance of glitter everywhere he went or his power over muppets. Whatever it was, I was entranced. To be completely honest, when Bowie passed away on January 12, I cried. He’d been a huge part of my family’s lexicon on top of being the Goblin King.

“Labyrinth,” made in 1986, was Jim Henson’s last film. The movie starred Bowie and a 16-year-old Jennifer Connelly. The rest of the cast consisted mainly of muppets. Henson recruited Bowie for the project in its early stages in 1983, though Bowie only agreed to join the project in 1985 after seeing Henson’s film “The Dark Crystal” and conceptual sketches from Labyrinth. The film resulted in the classic Bowie song, “Magic Dance.” Besides that gem, he wrote and recorded four other original songs for the film, such as “As the World Falls Down.” The combination of the glamour of Bowie’s haunting vocals paired with Jim Henson’s fantastical vision of the Goblin Kingdom resulted in what is now a cult classic and one of my personal favorite films.

Bowie stated in a 1986 interview with Movieline, “I’d always wanted to be involved in the music-writing aspect of a movie that would appeal to children of all ages, as well as everyone else, and I must say that Jim gave me a completely free hand with it.”

Bowie was not the only musical icon to put his stamp on geek culture. With his recent passing, my Facebook feed flooded with my friends’ and my family’s personal reflections on Prince and his body of work. More than any other picture, Prince in his Batman-inspired Batdance video flooded my newsfeed. Perhaps that’s just because I’m friends with lots of nerds.

In the Batdance video, Prince is done up in a half-batman/half-bright-purple Joker suit. His face is half-painted white as he writhes around in a smoky cave with dancers dressed as Batman, The Joker and Batman’s girlfriend Vicky Vale. For Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” film, Prince wrote an entire nine-track album including “Batdance.” The album mixed Prince’s signature experimental pop style and classic Batman into one harmonious mixture. Batman was both the title of the album and the inspiration for the musical content.

Prince and Bowie are maybe not the first people who come to mind when you think of geeky things. However, the impact of these incredibly creative musical icons on geek culture is bigger than one would think. Their innovation, flair and ever-evolving images helped to shape and develop the creative limits we all work within. They were able to acknowledge their geekier, weirder and more creative sides with no shame. But perhaps more importantly, they put new meaning to men in tights.

Frida Gurewitz is an English major. She can be reached at gurewitz@oxy.edu.

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