Shrek (2001)
Commentary by Geoffrey Arnold, June 2001

Shrek is essentially a fairy tale about a large green ogre (who’s name is shared with the title) who loves his privacy. Shrek (Mike Myers) lives in a swamp, which is nearby a prince’s castle. We soon find out that this prince’s name is Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). Unfortunately for the protagonist, all of the fairy tale characters are being thrown out of the kingdom into the swamp in which Shrek inhabits because Lord Farquaad doesn’t want them around. In all the commotion, Shrek meets his companion for the rest of the story, a wisecracking and obnoxious donkey named Donkey (Eddie Murphy). Shrek’s main goal for the rest of the story is to have the prince of the kingdom remove the squatters from ‘his’ swamp. Early on in the movie we see Lord Farquaad for the first time. In the showing that I saw, his introduction warranted considerable laughter from the audience because of his small stature. The camera shows him walking at a fast pace by panning up his body starting from his shoes. The camera suddenly pans out and the audience sees for the first time that the powerful Lord Farquaad, about whom we have heard so much, is actually a diminutive guy. There is then a scene in which he interrogates a gingerbread man on a table that has to be lowered for him to see over. After the interrogation scene, kids watching the movie understand that Lord Farquaad is no doubt a very evil and power hungry short man. He explains in this scene that he needs to marry a princess in order to become king. When Shrek comes to the kingdom to ask the prince to get the fairy tale characters off of his land, the prince tells his guard to attack the ogre. The eight foot tall Shrek then begins to easily beat up all of the smaller guards in WWF fashion. The crowed around the palace love it and start cheering for the ogre. Sadly, kids are learning early that violence is entertaining and bigger is better. Seeing the ogre's strength, the prince offers Shrek a proposition. Shrek is sent to rescue a princess from a tower, which is guarded by a dragon, and then bring her back to Lord Farquaad so that they may wed. If Shrek completes the mission, Farquaad will move the characters away from the swamp.

This quest takes up the majority of the story and so other than a few scenes that emphasize Lord Farquaad’s ‘comical’ size; not much is said about him until Shrek and Donkey rescue the princess. The princess thinks she is to marry the ‘knight’ that saves her, but Shrek is shy and uncomfortable because he sees himself as ugly. I will not give away anymore of the main story but I will say that it looks bad for Farquaad after this point. On the way back to the kingdom, Shrek and Donkey explain to the princess that she will not love Lord Farquaad and that he wouldn’t be compatible with her. In sarcastic tones they make derogatory remarks about Lord Farquaad in relation to his height. They say things to her about Lord Farquaad "not measuring up" and "falling short" of expectations. They also make references to the enormous tower that sticks out over the kingdom; hinting that it is really a penis compensator for Lord Farquaad. They always laugh at these comments but the princess doesn’t understand that Lord Farquaad is short until she meets him. This happens when Lord Farquaad rides up to the princess on horse back and says some kind words to her. There are fake legs on either side of the horse to make him seem taller. Then he jumps out of the fake legs and off of the horse, landing feet first next to the towering princess. This height comparison is intended to initiate laughter, but I personally found it stupid and ill advised. The look on the princess’ face changes to one of borderline disgust when she sees Farquaad’s small stature. The abuse doesn’t stop here. There are also other numerous references to Lord Farquaad’s despicable and undesirable height throughout the rest of the movie from all of the main characters; including the princess and near the end, the gingerbread man from the beginning of the movie.

The movie attempts to put forward a lesson for the kids that it’s ok to be different, unless you are a short male. If you’re a guy, its ok to be horrible ugly, so long as you have height to fall back on and you can push people around. For a movie that is supposed to teach kids not to pre-judge people, it sure fails when it comes to height sensitive issues. This movie is full of insults and jokes about what seems to be a misunderstood main villain, whose only wish is to become king. I ultimately came away from the movie theater feeling hurt, angry, and disgusted. I feel sorry for the next generation of short people who will no doubt be teased by others who were influenced at a young age by this movie. The whole goal of the movie seems to be to coax laughter from children at the expense of a short man. Society starts early teaching kids that heightism is an acceptable form of discrimination. Shrek does an excellent job at completing its goal.

For a movie that is supposed to say that people should be proud to be different, I give Shrek 0 out of 5 stars!