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How “Shrek” Is One Big Marxism Metaphor

A dive into the deeper meaning of a classic film

By Kayleigh BarbosaPublished 4 years ago 3 min read
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Today I watched the classic movie “Shrek” and wanted to share some thoughts I had while watching.

The movie Shrek is about a right libertarian achieving class consciousness when he tries to be a revolutionary, and Fiona in this film is a class traitor to the bourgeoisie. The length of the film shows Fiona growing disillusionment with the very system that upholds her privilege. At her introduction, Fiona is posh and abides by the same anti-fairytale creatures stereotype as the pleasantry and Lord Farquad. However, her time around Shrek (a politically moderate member of the working class and marginalized fairytale creature) and Donkey (a fairytale revolutionary) helps her to gradually unlearn the propaganda that has been fed to her since birth.

Though cultural programming runs deep and this is why we see Fiona attempt to return to her life of wealth and means by marrying Lord Farquad, she’s under great social pressure to maintain the system she has been raised in and benefits from. She is afraid to lose her status and become marginalized herself, as symbolized by her self loathing regarding her transformation into being an ogre.

The end of the wedding scene marked a turning point for Fiona, she realizes the capitalist system is forgone and finally embraces Shrek and the revolution wholeheartedly, giving up her life of privilege in the process (better late than never). The movie being set in a feudal society rather than a modern one merely uses Farquad (a singular leader) as a metaphorical embodiment of all the rigid systems of oppression that uphold the social order. Revolution therefore DOES occur by the death of Lord Farquad- we are meant to infer this revolution leads to genuine regime change by the fact that Lord Farquad has no heir (as established earlier in the film when explaining his bachelor status) and by the smash musical number at the end of the film showing the fairytale creatures (the most marginalized members of society living harmoniously together) and them delighting in their liberation.

So, within the narrative context of the film a revolution genuinely does take place and the oppressor is overthrown. And it is worth noting that Fiona, although bourgeoisie (in the metaphor of the film: an aristocrat), is one of the elements required for the success of the revolution. It is her peril that galvanizes the otherwise passive and non-revolutionary Shrek to action. This is much like in real life, where many isolated or disenfranchised members of the working class do not have the means to champion their cause untill the mainstream public (including white collar workers and other members of society with more resources and prestige) gets on board.

One of the many messages of the film is that for a swift and successful revolution with minimal casualties, it is not simply the role of the workers to rise up, it is also necessary that members of the elite and petty bourgeoisie act as class traders and willingly choose to step down. Fiona’s favorable treatment after the revolution and her acceptance by the working class as one of their own as an invitation for people of means in our own society to recognize their comparative privileges, question the system, and be unafraid to join the revolution themselves. Her role in the narrative assures the rich and petty bourgeoisie that they can renounce their wealth and be treated as true members of the movement, collectively working to build a brighter and equitable future- A future where they to can be happy and live in camaraderie beside the common people.

[[ I ignore the political allegories of the other films in the Shrek cinematic universe and instead treat the original “Shrek” as a standalone work of art ]]

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About the Creator

Kayleigh Barbosa

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