What Pre-Teen Princesses Can Learn from Shrek as They Become Warrior Women

At one level, it is pure, delicious camp. The fairy tale creatures are really actors, the action essentially takes place in Hollywood, it flaunts one “insider” joke after another — jokes that require both knowledge and a keen appreciation of American pop culture, movies, and music. Shrek is also very gay and transvestite friendly. (Ask your parents what this means although I have a feeling you probably already know — even more than I do!)

The Shrek series has a familiar cast of fairy tale creatures: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel (who turns out to be something of a villain), Pinocchio, the Fairy Godmother, the Three Blind Mice, the Three Pigs, Rumpelstiltskin, the Muffin Man, Prince Charming (played as a vain valley girl), Captain Hook, Hansel and Gretel, Tinkerbell — the whole lovable lot of them. We also have some entirely new characters here: a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy) a talking Puss N’Boots (Antonio Banderas, with his Spanish accent), a huge, non-talking fire-breathing dragon who falls in love with the donkey (!)  as well as the two stars, Shrek (Mike Meyers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz).

This computer animated fantasy shows us a beautiful, thin, young Princess Fiona, who is, in reality, a monster: a large, fat, green, “hideous” ogre to be exact. This goes way beyond her having acne or a “bad hair day.” All night our Barbie Doll Princess is a beast. There is no getting around it. She is ugly. Ugly. Ugly. At least in terms of what our culture considers “beautiful.” Yes, we like her, yes we come to admire her, but still… for most boys and girls and for most women and men, how Fiona looks is indeed a curse. One’s self-esteem plunges, lifelong and painful diets are endured, other children taunt and bully “ugly” children, grownups do not hire or marry them. Plastic surgeons become enriched.

So the first thing I love about Shrek (that’s after the rollicking music and the whimsical “shticks”) is that the heroine is not only an ogre but that when she is given a choice about remaining storybook beautiful or embracing her inner ogre — she chooses to remain a "monster" forever. This is really giving the finger to a Hollywood culture in which women must be, must be, absolutely must be, thin and gorgeous and forever under-30. (Not that Mama Hawk is saying it’s acceptable for YOU to use obscene gestures…)

Then, Fiona rejects Prince Charming (the male eye-candy who dances with a rose in his teeth and keeps tossing his hair) for the large and ugly green ogre, her true love, her rescuer — Shrek, a creature with a decidedly unlovely name.

And there is more. Both Fiona and the ogre she loves choose to live in their beloved swamp and not to reign in the fairytale palace as the King and Queen of Far, Far Away.

Incredibly, they reject this particular happy ending.

Next: The Warrior Woman rises...