'What did you do this weekend, Geekboy?' Well, I watched the Dreamworks animated film 'Shrek' with my family. Because about the only other thing I could muster up the energy to do was watch sword-fighting clips from Errol Flynn swashbucklers on Youtube. That's right. The party never stops when I'm around.
'Shrek' is pretty much beloved by kids and adults across the board. Why is that? What makes it tick? Why is 'Shrek' hailed as the perfect modern fairy-tale for the 21st century?
Is it because there's enough princess stuff for the young girls, enough action and gross-out humor for young boys, and a nostalgic pop soundtrack for the grown-ups? I think appealing to so many demographics is definitely part of the success. As a kid I really dug the actions scenes with the suspension bridge over the pit of lava and the dragon chase through the castle (and still do as an adult). My Dad liked 'Shrek' primarily for the jukebox soundtrack and Donkey's wacky antics.
But jokes and catchy music only go so far. What is it about the story and the characters that resonates with all ages? I think it's because it's a story about oddballs. And let's face it, we're a society of oddballs. Few things are more compelling than three individuals who come together, learn to see past their differences (or differences that are actually similarities in disguise) and become buds.
Let's take a look at the title character Shrek. He's a loner who takes the whole introversion think very seriously. As an introvert I can identify with this character right away. But as the story goes on we learn that a big part of the reason Shrek hates being around people is that people hated being around him first. They started it.
Then we have Donkey. When he crosses paths with Shrek he has that whole 'We oddballs must stick together!' thing going. Shrek, who is so used to being alone, is incredibly annoyed by this. We identify with Shrek here because we all know what unwanted company is like. We introverts will find all living beings to be annoying at some point in our lives. Our family, our friends...no we don't ACTUALLY hate everybody, we just need a little space right now. And the ability to hear ourselves think. But on the flip side of this we also identify with Donkey. Because we all go through that awkward stage where we desperately want someone - ANYONE - to like us. Often this awkward stage is called puberty. And as much as Shrek doesn't really want Donkey around, Donkey does slowly begin to draw Shrek out of his shell.
These characters are all basically three sides of the same socially awkward coin. So the narrative of these three people who don't fit in anywhere become friends - or in Shrek and Fiona's case fall in love - is the sort of story we oddballs need to hear. Because deep down we know that there's nothing so wrong with us that we can't have friends or fall in love, but sometimes we need a reminder.
That may not be why Shrek resonates with everyone - I don't know what you extroverts get out of it - but I think it's why it resonates with me. Leave a comment about why Shrek resonates with you.