Shrek: A Retrospective

Is Shrek a good character? Well, I would not consider him to be that, principally, since he is literally a NIMBY. While fairy tales are not about fuedalism, as I have written, including in-universe politics does behoove a story and add to its moral. I have serious problems with Cinderella but not ones feminists tend to notice and I don’t agree with their criticisms since they would apply to any period piece that doesn’t anachronistically make the heroine less domestic than she would realistically be at the time. My problem with Cinderella, the Disney version, is that Prince Charming is a Victorian era politician with no seeming empathy for labor, slaves, or the betterment of their conditions. Certainly, it could hardly be argued that abolitionism or basic labor standards are inappropriate for children and a wealthy politician, portrayed heroically, who demonstrates zero compassion for the less fortunate classes may actually be inappropriate for children.

As superficially progressive as the message seems, if one imagines Shrek and Fiona as physically attractive then the optics of their personalities, ironically, look far less attractive. Not only does Shrek fail to demonstrate superficial nobility but a lack of genuine nobility in his bitterness toward humans. That might be understandable for a normal person but heroes should have more grace than that. Yes, he was horrifically mistreated by society but his perspective is that of MGTOW, a manosphere group, or that of a salty libertarian. In a libertarian sense, it does have some progressive values but which ultimately amount to respecting Rawlsian negative liberties. That individuals have a right to be themselves, free from superficial standards of things like beauty. While the right to be yourself is important, if emphasized too much then it counteracts the duties of civic responsiblity.

There was a scene where, seemingly poisoned by his inner demons, Shrek intentionally and with schadenfreude, rocks a bridge over a lava-filled moat to scare and frighten Donkey who is obviously very anxious. It reminds me of another scene in a 2001 movie: Legally Blonde. In the scene in Legally Blonde, Elle Woods, the Reese Witherspoon character, supposedly aids someone who is obviously a fellow Aspie and is being rudely rebuked by peers by assaulting him in public and lying about a relationship the Aspie had broken up with her in. She could have just stood up for him and defended his dignity outright but she was such a narcassist that she believed suggesting the Aspie had dated her would elevate his status and was such a misayndrist that she believe his penis made him permissible to assault.

Yes, the world of 2001 believed deriving pleasure from inducing mortal fear in a hapless donkey and physically attacking the disabled were good things. I connect the two scenes because something obviously evil: schadenfreude about mortal fear and assaulting the disabled for no good reason were portrayed as good. Neither Elle Woods or Shrek were terribly benevolent people. Returning to Shrek, the teleology of Shrek is that we should live in an atomized society where everyone is free to be themselves so long as they don’t interefere with the rights of others. Except worse, there is some nobility imparted to the bitter libertarian that screams “Get Off My Lawn”, the sentiment which Shrek represents.

His personality is nothing close to socialist or altruistic. It is the American, redneck, cowboy, individualism of someone who wants to live on the prarie alone and tell the world to go fuck itself. While it seems to be a rebellion against the classic Disney fairy tales, at least, to use the most classic example, Ella in Cinderella was meek and gracious, virtues Shrek never came close to exuding. While Prince Charming, being a 19th century politician, could have done more about slavery and sweatshops, him and his bride were personally kind people for all of their lack of social consciousness and seeming callousness to the bottom of their society. Shrek neither had social consciousness or kindness.

Shrek, in the end, as an answer to the classic fairy tales, was not a revokation of patriarchy or anything like that but a celebration of rugged individualism without concern for anyone else. It is the same reason pirates, Vikings, and other horrifically immoral groups of people are remembered fondly. It is dumbfounding that groups famed for murder, larceny, and rape would be celebrated but they are because of rugged individualism. I like a bit of rugged individualism too but the rugged individualism of Indiana Jones or Anthony Bordain who did good things not that which held merchant ships hostage to steal their stuff. I’m not going to put somebody in mortal danger to extort commodities out of them and if I see someone in mortal danger, unlike a pirate, I would do everything in my power to save them. Shrek represents some of the darker characteristics of the American psyche.

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