Don’t shriek its Shrekby Malgorzata Ostrowska

I was wandering for some time with which film to start the series of short-articles written by me. In agreement with my character I was not pushing myself with the answer, I knew that sooner or later the answer will fall on me from God knows where, and it did. It brought with itself the outline of the series of those articles.

“What’s it going to be then, eh?”
Shrek’s genre is primary, just as the stage of this article series. It is a fairy-tale which as a category is the one everyone encounters at the beginning of our film/literature life. My idea so far is to trace this sort of life and follow the development of it with ensuing articles. Two more things before we set off. First this journey will be subjective, filtered through my background, culture, and most importantly, through my preferences. Second thing is the postmodernism leaking from every corner of this world and because of which you should expect pastiche, irony, intertextuality, self-reference rather than a synchronic dissertation.

The fairy-tale in question contains all the “necessary elements” of the category. In case of every element but one there is the second dimension to it. This is taken to such an extent that we end up watching a two-in-one film. The first dimension/film is addressed to children, who watch a conventional story about a princess who is held captive by the dragon, and finally rescued by the strong and brave Shrek. The second level is decoded in full detail by adults (who, in many cases, got to the cinema by chance). It is pure postmodernism with intertextuality, irony, pastiche and some self-reference. I shall concentrate on the second level, naturally.

The point of departure for it is a typical Walt Disney movie with the unbearable sweetness, kitsch, something that I would call the Bambi-syndrome. Every symptom of the disease is neutralized in Shrek. Take the princess for instance. She burps, fights like Trinity in Matrix (those who saw The Scary Movie, make the most of the scene), delights in dining on roasted rats and changes into herself (read: an ogress) after sunset. Do not forget Robin Hood who takes 8% off his charity or ‘the Dragoness’ who falls for the charming Donkey. Parody/irony occurs also when we analyze the deeds of the heroes. Shrek is no altruistic knight fighting for the freedom of a weak, defenseless creature, but a self-centered brute fighting for his own rights. The world shown in the movie is thus somewhat bitter, but more realistic. Besides, I think that it is only for the better, that it teaches children to be themselves, rather than “to do Good at whatever personal cost”.

I wrote that the film has a second dimension to all fairy-tale elements but one. This one stays clear and leaves no doubt as far as its nature is concerned . What we are speaking here about is nothing else but the moral. This article shall not omit so important a feature. The moral goes: “be yourself, and especially, never pretend affection/ Or approach love cynically…You are the child of the Universe no less then/ the trees and the stars, you’ve got a right to be here.” (quote from Desiderata, translation from Polish back into English mine and loose) Shrek, who makes some people shriek, gains our liking because he knows who he is and accepts that, which is a good motto for times of globalization. What is also important is the fact that this motto is the same for both films.


Malgorzata Ostrowska >>email