Usually, in most of the traditional fairy tales, ogre is used to be the man-eating beast and the prince is used to rescue the princess and then live happily together ever after. However, in the season of the movie Shrek, especially Shrek I, the makers use decipherable devices to reverse this tradition and use three basic elements to show the idea of postmodernism, i.e. ironic interfacing, intertextuality, and self-reflexivity. Let’s begin by explaining the first one, ironic interfacing.
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To begin with, Shrek I includes a lot of ironic interfacing and one is that it’s lack of a narrator. Unlike other tales, it is told in a linear custom, but not from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. The story in fact is told through the interactions and dialogue of the central characters, like in the film Shrek, we need to know what Shrek and Donkey would do by watching their action and conversation. It is non-linear narrative technique. But in those Disney movies, for example in Snow White, there’s always a narrator telling the audience what is going to happen next and he is omniscient. It results the ironic interfacing between the characters and the authors.
Also, at the end of the movie Shrek I, all the audiences see that Shrek, the main character discovers the camera and lots of audiences watching him. Therefore, he turns away the camera and uses his hand to block it before he kisses Fiona. It can be considered as ironic interfacing because it shows the unconventional interaction between the author and Shrek. What Shrek does in the movie lets us recognize that he can look at the audiences and the author through the known camera. So he knows how to maintain his privacy during kissing with Fiona by blocking their view.
Besides, from this scene, we all can see clearly that the animation company makes use of Shrek to mock the traditional Disney stories and genre. Shrek uses the stereotypical way of Disney movies and fairytales, which is used to create the distance between the present and the reality. This acts as inviting the viewers to enter another world, a world that can only exist in the stories but not in real. Thus, the company uses it to mimic Disney by including the stories’ traditional beginning, which Disney always uses. This does not only mock Disney but also helps us to see the unreal world and in the realism of a fairytale.
Another stronger example showing Shrek includes ironic interfacing is at the very first part of the movie. At the beginning of the movie, Shrek starts just as a typical Disney cliche fairytale by opening a book and starts with these few words “Once upon a time, there is an imprisoned princess waiting for her true love” – this kind of old style of tales. However, there’s a green hand suddenly rips a page from the book, uses it to wipe his bottom and Shrek interrupts it and said to the audiences, “Yeah, right!” This scene strongly shows us the ironic situation between the characters and the author. Those are the examples of ironic interfacing in Shrek.
Next, we are going to talk about intertextuality. Intertextuality means that there are countless references to other movies, texts, plays, and even some parts of the other movies. Especially in Shrek III, there are several main animated Disney characters appearing in the film, but not in their usual form. By referring these Disney characters, the film requires us to have a self-conscious awareness of something that is used to be. Like Snow White and the other princess appearing in the movie, normally they are very delicate and used to be rescued. However, this time, they rescue themselves when they are imprisoned.
Also, in Shrek I, Fiona is imprisoned in a castle with a dragon guarding her. In most of the Disney movies, the princesses are used to be so delicate that they can’t leave and rescue themselves. But, we notice that Fiona is different from them, as she knows Karate. And the only reason why she does not leave is that she imagines the traditional fairy tale happening to her so she has to wait for her prince. It mocks the Disney movies that those princesses are not really delicate.
Furthermore, Shrek has also obtained some scenes from other movies, for example: “Fiona freezes in the mid-air like Neo in The Matrix”; “Shrek fights in a beer-covered ring, making reference to Transporter, Gladiator” etc.
Last but not least, let’s talk about self-reflexivity. At the end of the movie, Shrek discovers that there is a camera shooting at him and Fiona and it means that he’s aware of the narrative mechanics or storytelling techniques of traditional fairy tales.
Besides, at the beginning of the movie, when Shrek is hunted and chase by the people, he shouts at them and whispers, “This is the part you should run away.” Although this scene does not directly illustrate that the character does takes notice of the filmmaking process or the camera, it is still a very strong example of self-reflexivity. What he has said does not only remind that group of people how to react, but also reminds the audiences that normally people should run after the ogre yells at them. It shows that Shrek is conscious of the traditional circumstance in fairy tales.
In addition, when we focus on the menu of the movie Shrek, it contains details that recognizes you it’s a movie. Especially when you want to play the movie press the “Play” button, there’s a pig coming out and shouting, “Play the movie.” It does let you acknowledge that it is a movie.
All in all, Shrek is a very excellent example of movies showing postmodernism as the filmmakers has included ironic interfacing, intertextuality, and self-reflexivity. If you want to analyze the cartoon postmodern and feel bored of watching The Simpsons again, Shrek will be a great suggestion for you.
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