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Handsome princes and beautiful princess are things you expect to see in a fairytale. Shrek is a huge exception; it is not your average traditional fairytale. The things that make it unlike any other fairytale are its unique characters, the plot, language and music. Shrek includes plenty of familiar fairy tale faces popping up along the way and even more humour. In this essay I will be discussing how the makers of Shrek use presentational devices to reverse and represent the traditional fairytale. Firstly, the main character of this fairytale is an ogre, Shrek. Shrek, however, is not the usual ugly, smelly, cruel, threatening ogre. Although he may be ugly, and even a bit smelly he is kind, sensitive and has a heart of gold. He is simply misunderstood. The makers of Shrek manage to make Shrek sympathetic and easy to warm to.
We see that Shrek is actually lonely and no one will give him a chance because he is ugly and they assume he is this horrendous creature. Another example is Princess Fiona. The usual fairytale princess is beautiful, sweet, kind and gentle. This princess is strong and feisty. She’s assertive and perfectly capable of fighting her own battles. Princesses’ hang around and wait to be saved, and then let things be done for them. Princess Fiona makes it clear that she is perfectly manageable. Lord Farquaad is another example. A conventional Prince/King is tall, handsome, heroic and kind. This is everything Lord Farquaad isn’t, he is lacking in height, scheming and not at all heroic. These characters all go against what a traditional fairy tale would. This is one type of role reversal in the film.
Shrek follows a the story of an large but friendly ogre who only wants to lead a peaceful life except he can’t because his swamp has been filled with fairy tale creatures that have been banished to there by the short and cruel Lord Farquaad. In order to have all the creatures back where they belong, Shrek must rescue a beautiful young princess who shall become Farquaad’s bride; in order for him to own the whole kingdom. Shrek agrees to do so, and pairs up with Donkey, a witty mule who talks too much, to complete the quest. All goes well until Shrek begins to fall in love with Princess Fiona. The princess herself turns out to have many hidden talents and secrets. The narrative in itself tells us that this is different from an ordinary fairy tale but also things like exaggeration, incongruity and role reversal tell us this.
In the opening scene Shrek is brushing his teeth, he smiles into the mirror and it cracks, he farts in the pond and a dead fish floats up, these are examples of exaggeration.. The language used is not suitable for fairytales, modern language is used and even though there are no rude words actually said, you know they were about to before an interruption. For instance in the opening scene where Shrek flushes the toilet at the same time that he says the word. Parodies make fun of another piece of art by mocking it. The parody is an imitation of the original, but exaggerating it, showing cliches which have been used, to make the original look ridiculous.
The scene where Lord Farquaad has to pick which princess he would like to marry via selections put forth by a stolen Magic Mirror is a reference to Dating Game. In one scene, Fiona sings to the birds and accidentally kills one by singing in an extremely high-pitched tone. This is a parody of Disney princesses, who are often shown singing with woodland creatures such as birds. In Shrek’s swamp, when all the fairytale creatures are there, Papa Bear and Baby Bear are present, and later on we see that she has been turned into a rug. Throughout Shrek, the music is modern rock/pop. The songs used are to be easily recognised by most people. All these things help make Shrek unique, but the computer animations contribute towards the freedom of the cartoons. They are able to anything, therefore imagination and creativity is used well to take advantage of this.
In the scene that Shrek, Fiona and Donkey bump into Robin Hood and his men in the woods role reversal is used. Instead of Shrek fighting off the merry men it is Fiona who does all the fighting single-handed. This is also exaggeration, as she takes on all of the men alone. Fiona jumps into the air and freezes in place; the camera hovers around her, giving her time to adjust her hair, before she finishes off two attackers in normal time. This is a reference to the movie The Matrix. This is also an example of incongruity. In this scene, Friar Tuck plays the accordion. When Robin Hood attempts to “rescue” Princess Fiona the background music changes to a fast jig. When Friar Tuck is knocked out the background music stops immediately. The camera looks down on the merry men from above where Fiona is stood, making them seem smaller and weaker.
In conclusion, I think that the makers of Shrek used presentational devises well to reverse the traditional fairytale. Shrek is like the modern day fairytale. It is made unique because the usual stereotypes are reversed; the music is modern, as is the language. Although it is very different from other fairytales it still falls in the category and ends with the familiar ‘happily ever after’.