10.23.2012

Shrek and Making Evil Good and Good Evil


A reader asked me for my opinion on the "Shrek" films. I only ever saw the first two, and can't say I'm a fan of the franchise. To be sure, they are a source for a fair number of cheap laughs and I enjoy Mike Meyers. Superficially, they're actually pretty enjoyable.

But I don't like the underlying themes, the primary and most blatant being that evil is portrayed as good, good as evil, ugliness as beauty, and beauty as ugliness. Now, I suppose one could argue that the whole princess's true self being a troll is good for young girls in an age when girls as young as 6 are objectifying themselves as sex objects and "want to be sexy", but I still don't like it. I think Shrek takes it too far in its quest to ridicule everything that is good and decent from basic hygiene to chivalry. Also, to any child who actually still has some innocence, this film will serve to help destroy it.

It also is a film that attempts to thoroughly demolish the sense of wonder and the marvelous in children with its cynical attacks on even basic manners and, casting the hideous evil creatures such as ogres and dragons in the role of heroes and casting normal humans and especially knights in the role of villains. It's also pretty cliché, by now, since for at least 50 years it's been in vogue to turn "conventions" on their head thus. It's to the point that, as I believe I said to Sophia's Favourite in his comments box, it would be downright EDGY to write a story these days that features a knight or even (horrors!) a prince in the protagonist role (and not as an anti-hero). Or having a princess who DOESN'T pummel everyone, for that matter, since Shrek's princess is, of course, a Xena Warrior Princess type.

The first Shrek film especially, also has a lot of "adult" humour inserted into it. I suppose the logic is that children will be too young to understand the double entendres and innuendos, but I do not like exposing them to that sort of crass humour. For example, the evil "prince" is a Lord Farquuad, which is a very thinly disguised fark-wad, which is again a very thin disguise for the vile f---wad insult heard in gutter speak today. Or when "Robin Hood" is singing a song he is interrupted by his Merry Men at a strategic point so that he is saying he gets "lots of -- head". There's a lot better stuff out there for children. I personally quite liked the Narnia adaptations and, when they're older, I am one of those rarities who likes both the Lord of the Rings novels AND Peter Jackson's film adaptations (more on that anon).

Further reading: Nourishing an Appetite for the Marvelous by Dr. Marian T. Horvath

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