Escapism is a diversionary tactic we all use to distract ourselves from the mundane and banal aspects of everyday life. Entire industries (the film industry being a prevalent one) have been built around the concept. Losing yourself in a film or a novel for a few hours is a delightful and healthy way of dealing with stress or boredom, but a real problem arises when those fantasy worlds become more important than reality.
In Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Sarah is first seen in a field in fanciful dress, reciting lines from some grand story while her dog, Merlin, watches. Then the clock strikes 7:00 and she must run back home to babysit her baby brother. She’s an hour late and it’s not the first time she’s let her playtime run too long. Her stepmother comments on the fact that Sarah never has dates or plans to go out with friends. Sarah has immersed herself so entirely in the worlds of her imagination that she resents the real world and those who are a part of it. She is so bitter and aggressive toward her family that she wishes the Goblin King from her story would come and take her brother away so that she doesn’t have to fulfill the responsibility of looking after him or even more simply, so she doesn’t have to spend time with him.
Sarah has minimal contact with the other people in her life and desires even less. She is not a part of society. Being social and being a part of a community is vital to a person as the only way to truly learn about humanity, its faults and its strengths, is to interact with people. Finding people that you enjoy interacting with is equally important as those are the people that will help you through the hardest parts of reality, the parts that really make you want to run away on a quest to save an innocent from the claws of some awful antagonist (especially if that antagonist is David Bowie in a pair of fitted leggings).
As Sarah progresses through the Labyrinth, she realizes the importance of friends and outside help when she meets Hoggle and Ludo. This fantasy realm is vast and complex and unfair, just like the real world. The obstacles and lack of any sort of rule system frustrate her to no end, but she sees that it is not impossible to work out a path with Hoggle and Ludo’s help.
Sarah still holds on to the idea of finding security and happiness in a grand romance like that in the novel, but once she sees Jareth in the dream wedding sequence, she realizes that his love and the fictional love like it is not romantic or adoring, but is predacious and violent. She literally shatters the idea as well as the idea that this fictional world is the only one she needs and the only one that matters.
She returns to her home with her little brother and now carries a warmth and admiration for her family and life outside her toys, books and costumes. She does not denounce or reject the fantasy world she loves so dearly, saying that “every once in a while, for no reason at all, I need you,” indicating she now has a much healthier relationship with these forms of escape.