Title

‘‘Happier Than Ever to be Exactly What He Was’’: Reflections on Shrek, Fiona and the Magic Mirrors of Commodity Culture

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Publication Source

Children's Literature in Education

Volume

45

Issue

1

Inclusive pages

1-16

DOI

10.1007/s10583-013-9197-4

Peer Reviewed

yes

Abstract

This article compares the models of subjectivity and identity in William Steig’s 1990 picture book Shrek! and in DreamWorks’ Shrek films. Steig presented his ogre hero as a model of the crises of subjectivity all children must face, and then reassured readers by showing how even a hideous figure such as Shrek can find resolution and be ‘‘happier than ever to be exactly what he was.’’ DreamWorks’ Shrek films, on the other hand, offer up models of identity based on consumption and rooted in commodity culture, tales which seek to transform their viewers into consumers and even into commodities themselves. As texts of commodity culture, the films must create, not resolve, anxiety and self-doubt. Has DreamWorks’ adaptation of Steig’s book merely replaced a self-confident ogre with an anxietyridden consumer? Or, can the films’ humor and absurdity, their parody of familiar commodities and corporate landscapes, and their introduction of boundary-crossing characters such as Fiona offer an alternative critique of commodity culture? This article demonstrates how the films work to uphold and reinforce commodity culture, but also examines how they might also provide moments of potential subversion and critique.

Keywords

Shrek, Fairy tale films, Film adaptations, William Steig, DreamWorks, Commodity culture

Disciplines

English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies

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