When Shrek, directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, first came out in 2001, the movie was viewed as a children’s film. Now that it has been 14 years since the movie was first released, there’s been plenty of time to dig deeper into what Shrek truly stands for: a humorous way of looking at romanticism in the Middle Ages. This movie is more of a parody of the genre of Middle Ages’ romance than anything else. Although Shrek is not anywhere close to being a near-perfect hero, which is usually what the stories of the Middle Ages’ genre has, the movie does have an evil enemy (Lord Farquod), a quest (saving Princess and bringing her back to Dulac), and supernatural elements.
In the genre of Middle Ages’ romance, there is always a big, strong, evil enemy. Lord Farquod goes against expectation by being small and weak, but he is still an evil enemy. When some fairytale creatures were sent to Shrek’s swamp by Lord Farquod, Shrek goes on a journey to ask Farquod to take the fairytale creatures off of his land. When Farquod makes Shrek go on a list of quests, one starts seeing the bad side of Lord Farquod, and he’s anything but nice. No matter how much Shrek tries to convince Farquod that he’s not just an “ugly ogre”, Farquod still doesn’t seem to like Shrek, Donkey, or even Fiona.
In the King Arthur story, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight is the antagonist and enemy in the story. Although the Green Knight turns out to be friendly in the end, for most of of story he is Sir Gawain’s enemy. Sir Gawain dreads meeting the Green Knight the same way Shrek dreads Lord Farquod in the story, mainly because Shrek feels like Farquod is purposely trying to ruin his life. Which he is. Lord Farquod deliberately tries to make Shrek’s life unpleasant. In this story, Shrek is the protagonist and Lord Farquod is the evil enemy; the antagonist.
The genre of Middle Ages’ romance always has a quest. The quest in the movie Shrek is ironically almost exactly like any other fairytale. Shrek is the “Prince Charming” in this case and Fiona is the Damsel in distress. The character Donkey is Shrek’s sidekick, which mainly fits the premise to be, again, humorously mocking yet still fitting the criteria for a Middle Ages’ romance genre. Having a quest in a typical Middle Ages romance has most of those aspects and Shrek very well has the aspects spot-on in the film. For example, when Shrek saves Fiona from the tower, Fiona expects Shrek to be a “near-perfect” hero. Little does Fiona know that Shrek isn’t perfect at all, and once Shrek takes off his helmet, he reveals he’s an “ugly” ogre. Another example is when Fiona asks Shrek, “What are you doing? You know, you should sweep me off my feet out yonder window and down a rope onto your valiant steed.” While Shrek responds, “You’ve had a lot of time to plan this, haven’t you?”. This comedic conversation implies that Fiona was expecting everything to be perfect, mostly how the Middle Ages’ romance would be. Like in most stories in the Middle Ages’ romance genre, the quest eventually works out in the protagonists’ favor but also with the help of supernatural elements embedded into the story.
Supernatural elements are a part of every Middle Ages’ romance story and there is definitely no shortage of that in this film. Not only are there talking animals, but there are also famous fairytale creatures in this film. Donkey is literally a talking donkey, and Shrek is an ogre. When Donkey talks to Princess for the first time, he says, “Hi, Princess!” Fiona responds by saying, “It talks!”. With Shrek chiming in stating, “Yeah, it’s getting him to shut up that’s the trick!”. The fairy tale creatures also add a comedic effect by parodying all of the different types of fairy tales, making the movie enjoyable while also sort of making fun of all of the cheesy Middle Ages’ romance stories.
Shrek has been one of my favorite movies of all time and when I was very young and saw this movie, I never had realized that Shrek had such a deeper meaning while also parodying multiple aspects of romantic literature, which makes the movie hilarious and enjoyable to watch.
All in all, Shrek was the best Middle Ages’ romance movie I have ever seen…