I didn't plan on writing more about sex, but after seeing Shrek last month, I knew there was more to discuss. This is a film that critiques superficial beauty. It attempts, like its ancestors Freaks and Terror of Tiny Town, to celebrate the fringe folks of society (e.g. ugly, short, fat, talkative and all-round dysfunctional). Shrek suggests that true beauty is found on the inside far from the exterior scars of the body. This is pretty radical stuff for an animation feature. Unfortunately, Shrek's "treatise" on beauty is as superficial and hollow as the beauty it attempts to define. Hmm...it's all kinda ironic when ya think about it.
"Beauty is skin deep," the film suggests. Really! Well phuk a duck! Never heard that one before. Much pilfered film theorist, Laura Mulvey once noted that the film protagonist is our substitute. He/she represents us during the film. Sounds good to me. In fact, this adds an element of subversion to Shrek because while Hollywood traditionally asks us to identify with the rich, good looking and cool, Shrek gives us a butt ugly, misanthropic ogre. Not since Marty (and recently Julian Donkey Boy and Gummo), has a film asked us to identify with two drink minimums.
But wait a minute, let's look beyond the cinematic surface toward the actors: Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz. Now I dunno 'bout you, but I bring certain expectations to a movie with these actors. We are able to accept this grotesque figure because of Mike Myers. Myers represents a harmless, nostalgic comic style (Wayne Campbell, Dr. Evil and Austin Powers) that relies ironically on false appearances. It's much easier to accept the ugliness of Shrek knowing that nice guy (hey, he's Canadian!) Myers is behind the body. It's the same with the princess. Cameron Diaz is a hottie. Her characters are fun loving, a little quirky and a bit sassy. We KNOW that Myers and Diaz can do no wrong. What's not to like? Consequently, when we glance at the screen we are looking at ugly folks, but seeing our modern day fairy tale heroes.
The film's ending is a cop out. The princess maintains her undesirable appearance. I want to see the ugly guy get the hottie. We all do. I mean...what?...ugly folks are instantly attracted to other uglys? Is the film suggesting that freaks should stay with their own kind?
Herein lies da paradox! While the uglys stick together, the donkey (Eddie Murphy) and the she-dragon are on the verge of getting it on (hmm...didn't Murphy do a transvestite?). That's just fugged up. One minute the film is promoting quarantined love and in the next bestiality.
Okay. Fine. You don't buy this theory. That's fine, even dandy...but there is no denying, lying, ignoring or getting 'round this sad truth: in order to discover her inner beauty, the princess must receive a kiss from her true love. Umm...this sounds like Snow White syndrome all over again. A man is necessary to this woman's existence and identity.The princess is nothing until she gets a peck from the pecker. Seems to me...she'd be better off doing a Lorena.
The sexual politics of Shrek are mighty confusing. Like Toy Story, we've got two fellas who grow to learn, understand and respect each other. Pretty much what love should be, don't ya think? But no, once again, underneath this supposedly liberal surface (and hey, isn't liberal just an active conservative anyway?), we have the uniting of a man and a woman. Viewers just aren't ready for homosexuals yet. But hold on a second! What's this? The dragon is coming on to the donkey!? The donkey, initially uncertain, returns the admiration! Okay...so basically it's better to promote bestiality than homosexuality. It's okay for a donkey and a dragon to mack, but not two men (cartoon characters at that).
I'm NOT on a crusade for homosexuality, what I am on about is this bloody need for a COUPLE to begin with. Why must every film end with a formalized union? It's all marriage propaganda, which in turn is Christian nonsense. People....marriage is not a given fuggin' truth! It's an ideological system. A system of belief. As Philip Roth's character, David Kepesh whines: "Coupled life and family life bring out everything that's childish about everyone involved. Why do they have to sleep night after night in the same bed? Why must they be on the phone to each other five times a day? Why are they always WITH each other? The forced deference is certainly childish. That unnatural deference." So there.
Fukwad had it right. Exiling fairy tales would sure as hell create a lot less chaos in the world. People might even come up with their own dreams. Imagine that.
Hottie Animator of the Month
P.C. for mixing mushrooms and Esther Williams.
Chris Robinson is a writer, festival director, programmer, junky and has been called the John Woo of diplomacy. His hobbies include horseback riding, pudpulling, canoeing and goat thumping.