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Brian Henson Confirms David Bowie’s Codpiece in Labyrinth Was Intentional (Exclusive)

If there’s anything the modern internet loves, it’s transforming children’s entertainment into something risque for laughs — so it’s no surprise that Gen-X kids who grew up watching Labyrinth almost immediately started a running cultural dialogue about David Bowie’s massive codpiece from that film once the internet came into wide use. That conversation continues to come up from time to time now, and while speaking with, The Jim Henson Company chairman Brian Henson confirmed that the codpiece was very much intentional — but not done for laughs. Henson explains that it was there from the very earliest looks at Labyrinth‘s world.

Speaking with us in support of Shout! Studios’ new 4K remasters of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, Henson explained that the codpiece was part of the subtext Bowie’s Jareth brings to the piece. He is a stand-in for the older, sexually-aggressive men that the movie’s teen hero Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is about to start dealing with in her life.

“It changes sizes,” Henson said with a laugh. “But the scene where it’s most prevalent I think, is the scene where David pretends he’s a beggar, and then pulls off the costume and stands up, and it’s the Goblin King. And that was, I think, maybe David’s first scene that we shot, so the codpiece was particularly big then, and then it got a little bit smaller. But the truth is yes, it’s absolutely deliberate. That’s from Brian Froud’s artwork. The codpiece represents male sexual aggression. Sarah is at a point in her life where she’s a child but she’s becoming a woman, she’s in that cusp period, and the character of Jareth is sort of an aggressive, adult, masculine sexuality, that is both terrifying to her and very attractive to her. So yes, it’s definitely part of the storytelling that he should have this codpiece that’s a masculine, sexual image, but nonetheless, they did shrink it a little bit a few days into the shoot.”

Labyrinth, directed by Jim Henson, was a commercial disappointment when it first hit theaters, but quickly evolved into a beloved cult classic when it came to home video. The movie, along with its predecessor Dark Crystal, changed the public view of Jim Henson, who had always had eccentric artistic impulses but who, until that point, had largely been known exclusively for The Muppets.

Labyrinth was a very significant film in my life,” Cheryl Henson told ComicBook in 2021. “It will always be a significant film in my life. Dark Crystal was really important to me, and so was Labyrinth. Because I was relatively young when both of those were happening, they’re part of the foundation of how I think about my father’s work, and the work that I got to participate in while he was alive.”

The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are now availabel on 4K Digital.

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