Shrek is an ogre living a comic equivalent of our life. His home is a swamp. His routine pleases him & disgusts us. He has deplorable manners. If cleanliness is next to godliness, he is far removed from both. He lives alone & seems quite happy. He is not a reader, but likes to paint likenesses. He only meets people when they try to kill him. He outsmarts them, is stronger & fiercer, & is mildly amused at their silly mob-rule.
In this story, Shrek becomes part of the city. One day, his swamp is invaded by fairytale creatures. The illegitimate & diminutive lord of a citadel throws them out of the kingdom, because they are unconventional. They fit with Shrek, also an unconventional creature. But he is alone by choice, they by accident & force. They no more want to be with him than he wants them there. So he goes to the city to escape the city. He is not exactly alone; for example, he can speak.
The fairy-tale creatures are both made up & real; both of the city & strangers; both animal & something else. Consider the possibilities such a poetic device presents: The princeling has the storied magic mirror for a political advisor. It tries to flatter him, but tell him the truth, too, this mirror of princes. His ignoble nature, however, causes him to fall short of legitimacy. The comic conceit suggests the city depends on this contradiction: marriage to a princess defended by a dragon is the way to legitimacy. But hereditary rule is already quite conventional…
Marriage is necessary, of course, for children. With kings, family good & the good of the city come together. Poetic justice denies this princeling both children & a kingdom. Shrek, however, marries the princess at the end & thus enters the city properly. Nature conquers convention with the approval of the conventions. Shrek surprisingly knows how to work a crowd, although he is given rather to the more private pleasures of the table.
The princess will only marry her champion, believing marriage to be her destiny, her path to happiness. That’s conventional white knight stuff. Shrek wins her by winning several knightly contests: fighting bouts, tests of camaraderie, seeking popularity, & exhibiting self-control. Shrek has courage, but is aloof. When he puts his courage in the service of a city & a princess, he finally comes to learn that it is not good for man to be alone. This is no longer a mere matter of convention, but it appears that without conventions, human nature cannot become visible. This chivalrous convention, for example, teaches Shrek that he is a man of action.
The funniest animation movie